Why and How to Stay Hydrated
You work out hard, so you want to get the most out of your body. You know being properly hydrated can mean the difference between a great gym session or a mediocre one. So, are you properly hydrated?
The human body is composed of up to 70% water. Therefore, as an athlete, staying hydrated is of great importance in order to maximize your performance. Water is involved in so many processes in the body that being just 2% dehydrated can start to hinder your body's ability to perform. Being only slightly dehydrated can slow the activity of enzymes in the body, including ones responsible for the production of energy. This can even lead to a lower metabolism and reduce your ability to exercise efficiently. Every cell in your body needs water to function - your body uses water to maintain temperature, remove waste from the body, and even to help lubricate joints.
Hydration is key to some of the main processes in the body. Stomach health, skin health, kidney and urinary health, and cholesterol regulation are all affected by hydration or the lack thereof. You lose water every day through breathing, sweating, and waste removal, so the need to replace the water lost through bodily functions is quite important.
How to Tell if You Are Dehydrated
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Impaired memory and concentration
How to Tell if You Are Hydrated
There are a few ways to tell if you are properly hydrated and that are quite easy to do:
Color of urine- The color of your urine can be a good indicator. If it is clear, straw-colored then odds are you are properly hydrated. If it is a dark color then this is a sign you are dehydrated. Please note that if you are taking a supplement with vitamin B12 this can affect the color of your urine, making it appear fluorescent yellow to green in color.
Sweat rate- Another way to measure your hydration is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. The difference in weight will give you a reasonable indication to your hydration level. If you have put on or maintained weight, then you could assume you are properly hydrated. If you have lost weight, then you need to drink fluids in order to replace what you have lost.
There are all sorts of recommendations for exactly how much water you should consume on a daily basis. The general consensus is that you should drink around eight glasses of water a day. This is a pretty good goal to attempt to maintain. However, different people have different requirements and will need different amounts of water in order to stay properly hydrated. Most healthy people can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids when they feel thirsty. For some people less than eight glasses a day will be enough and in other people eight glasses a day won't suffice and they will have to drink more.
People who are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated are those who exercise and work out regularly, have certain medical conditions, are sick, and those who just can't maintain adequate fluid consumption throughout the day. Older adults are also at a higher risk of dehydration, as when you age your brain may be unable to sense dehydration and not send the appropriate signal for thirst.
People who will need to drink more water are:
- People with kidney or bladder conditions
- People trying to lose weight
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People who are exercising
- People who are in hot conditions
- People who have been sick with either vomiting or diarrhea
Tips for Staying Healthy & Hydrated
- Keep a bottle of water at your desk so you remember to drink water throughout the day and refill it often.
- Make sure to drink water before, during, and after working out.
- Start and end your day with a glass of water.
- Try to eat two to three servings of fruit and vegetables with every meal. They are loaded with water and are packed with vitamins and minerals needed by the body.
- Set up an alarm in your phone to establish regular water breaks
- Cook with a good quality seas salt, as it is rich in trace elements that are the basis for optimum cell health and hydration.
- Have a glass of water before each meal.
- Drink a glass of water after each trip to the restroom.
- Reduce your caffeine consumption as it can cause you to urinate more often. The same can also be said for alcohol consumption.
- Sports drinks should be limited to use when training for more than 60 minutes of an intense nature. A sports drink can help to replace lost electrolytes, but they are often high in calories from the sugar content, so they should be used sparingly - especially if you are trying to lose weight.
If you find drinking plain water all the time is getting boring, try the following tricks to spice things up:
- Add slices of lemon or lime to your drink to give it a great citrus kick.
- Try drinking coconut water. It's rich in electrolytes, particularly potassium and sodium, and it tastes great.
- Make flavored ice cubes. Add fruits like strawberries, kiwi, or lemon to ice cube trays and fill with water and freeze. If you don’t want to add fruit, try adding mint leaves. Then pop a few cubes in your water to not only chill your drink, but also give it a great subtle flavoring.
Now you know why being and staying hydrated is important and the effects it can have on you. So do you think maybe it’s time to go have a nice, cold glass of H2O?
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.