Everybody loves “60% of our bodies are water” statistic when talking about hydration. It’s funny how even though we all know this, a lot of people don’t consider how important it is to keep their water reserve replenished. .
On average, a person should go through around 3 to 4 liters ,a gallon or a little bit less, of water per day, especially when living in a hot environment like the middle east. Water is essential for the proper function of your body because it is needed for these functions:
- facilitating digestion
- transporting oxygen around the body
- regulating body temperature
- lubricating joints
- filtering and eliminating waste through the kidneys
Staying hydrated is important for performance in life and sports. As little as a 2% weight loss due to water can lower your cognitive function, physical performance, and recovery by significant amounts. Drinking enough water is key to stay alert at work, get the most out of every training session, and even get that coveted PB or podium you are behind.
The easiest way to know if you’re properly hydrated is through thirst, your body is really good at letting you know when it needs something. If you still need to check your body’s hydration levels, there is always the “pee test”. Just look at the color of the water coming out of you when you go. If it’s clear with a slight tint of yellow, you’re good. Dark yellow means you need to increase your water intake, absolutely clear could mean you’re drinking too much water, and any other color means you need to go to a doctor.
If consciously staying hydrated is difficult for now, try making a habit by carrying a reusable bottle around and set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a sip every 40 minutes or so. If you want, you can even make your drinks tastier by adding frozen lemon wedges, cucumber, mint, or different herbs to lightly infuse your water to make it a bit more interesting. It is recommended you stick to water or these light infusions and avoid sugary drinks as your main hydration.
ELECTROLYTES, ISOTONICS, AND DRINKING TOO MUCH WATER
We are told we need to drink isotonic (some people call them energy drinks, but don't confuse them with Red Bull) beverages all the time when we're exercising. This is far from the truth, our bodies are made to regulate its functions well enough with electrolytes when good nutrition is present, at least to a certain extent. Dr. Tim Noakes points this out in his book "Waterlogged", where he explores how the human body uses water and debunks some of the shaky claims from companies who live out of of selling these special drinks. If you don't feel like reading the book, he explains his studies in this interesting Ben Greenfield Fitness episode.
The history of sports hydration as a science started with Gatorade, when the Florida Gators US college football team started showing a marked edge over their rivals using a special drink with electrolytes designed by a biochemist. It’s true, if you do hard exercise in the heat, proper hydration will give you an edge in performance, and at high levels 2% can make a difference between winning and losing a game. However, just like anything, the need to sell more, and development of a business can drive a company to making exaggerated promises. Now Gatorade and similar drinks are taken by people who don;t need them at all. Electrolyte drinks will only make a difference at a high level of performance, and not even every time.
So which information should you believe? The truth is that most studies are made on both sides with seasoned or professional athletes, and the growth of endurance sports among the population makes it hard to ensure that everybody will react he way these studies predict one way or the other. No, you don't need to drink Gatorade for every single training session. But it is also true that an average age-grouper who hasn't really adapted to work as efficiently as possible will also need some assistance with electrolytes after some time of exercising. The following chart shows a good rule of thumb on hydration for most athletes:
Consult your coach or nutritionist about proper timings and how to manage nutrition & hydration for endurance events. You’ll need to know which drinks have calories and which don’t and every athlete can have some special needs. Just as a reference, a good rule of thumb is drinking isotonic every 20min-30min and switching to water when having foods or gels.
Did you know that 14 people have died during competitions because they drank too much water and 0 have ever died of dehydration? Hyponatremia is the condition where sodium levels drop dangerously because too much water dilutes the concentration. It can lead to brain inflammation and even death, so it is important to not overdo hydration. This is hard to do, but it does happen.
Understanding we are all to certain extent individual little snowflakes (sorry Mr. Durden) and everyone's body has different requirements is essential to ensure a good performance, prevent injury, and aid recovery. Some good ways to identify what your needs may be are:
1) Getting a sweat test: This will give you an exact and precise report of your individual electrolyte loss and will allow for very precise planning. Most places which carry this study will also have their own electrolyte formulas for athletes to use according to their profile. Here in Dubai we go with Steve Cronin, who's contact is in the beginning of the newsletter, or click here to contact him
2) Check out the Portman Calculator: Which will tell you how much fluid and food you need for your training and competition. It has a profile for triathlon in all distances as well as a couple of other sports. It is a useful tool but it is not as personalized and it doesn't show the splits and timings for the drinks or food
Remember that your body needs water to carry out all the processes to keep you healthy and recover from training. Make sure to keep an eye on the habit of drinking water throughout the day and make a responsible plan for your races and training sessions.
BENEFITS OF PROPER HYDRATION
If you are still not convinced about keeping an eye on your water levels, check out some of the benefits you will get from taking your right amount of water every day.
1. You will think better -Well-hydrated people have shown improved cognitive performance by 30% vs when being dehydrated (less than 6-8 cups of water per day). This may be because your brain depends on proper oxygen transport to think, which water does. Proper hydration also ensures electrolyte stability, which means your brain signals will travel easier through your nervous system.
2. Your breath will be nicer - Nearly all major systems in your body need water, and your vital organs are no different. Drinking substantial amounts of water will flush the bad stuff out of your body, especially from your kidneys, and give them the nutrients and oxygen they need to work. Also, the stinky bacteria in people’s mouth do best in dry areas and use sugars to create energy, sugary drinks will only make them happier and stinkier. Keeping your mouth hydrated with water makes it very difficult for them to survive.
3. Your muscles will get bigger - Your muscles need oxygen to work and repair themselves. Just like with the brain, water is the main element of effective oxygen transport around the body. Drink plenty of water if you want to stay or get jacked.
4. Your allergies will stay in check - Mucus is a substance lining your first lines of defense vs the environment. It is sticky and will capture any foreign objects from getting into your system.
5. You will age slower - Water is necessary for cells to maintain their structural integrity. In your skin, this means that you will get fewer wrinkles and look a lot smoother. Your joints will thank you as well; water is the main ingredient of synovial fluid which lubricates your joints, so good hydration equals less pain and more freedom.
6. You will lose weight easier and have better digestion - Water helps your body dissolve food and absorb nutrients at a good rate, this increases the nutritional value of whatever you eat. Drinking water regularly also helps suppress hunger, retain less of it, and keeps kidneys and liver functioning correctly.
OTHER WAYS TO GET WATER INTO YOUR SYSTEM
You don’t have to rely on carrying a water around all the time. Other god habits that will help you stay hydrated include water-rich foods in your diet such as:
- Cucumbers, celery, tomatoes,
- Melon, watermelon, and cantaloupes (which are also melons)
- Strawberries, kiwis, peaches, apples, and pears
- Oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins
You can also add tea, (naturally) flavored water, and even soups in your diet to keep the hydration up. Just avoid drinks and foods which are high in sugar because of the whole weight gain issue.
So, nice and easy, a few more excuses why drinking water is such a good idea. Remember, water is such a simple substance and we take it for granted, but it is the essence of life, make sure you get enough of it.
If you need help with more detail in this subject, remember you can contact me at email@example.com and I'm always happy to help.
Eat well, train smart. Go Strong