Hello friends! It is time to think more seriously about hydration. Hydrating is more than just something you should “try,” but “it isn’t really a big deal if you don’t.” It is more than just getting 8 glasses a day which, let’s be honest, you don’t count your individual glasses or actual consumption. Hydrating is one of the MOST important components of human performance, recovery, and overall health and wellness! So, I am writing to hopefully inform and inspire you to take hydrating a little more seriously and improve your performance and your life!
Let’s start by knocking out some excuses:
- My favorite… “I don’t like the taste.”
- Next… “I get so busy during the day that I forget.”
- Classic denial… “I do drink enough.”
If you have ever said or thought these excuses before, or are currently saying them under your breath as you read this, it is ok. I am going to open your eyes to how and why hydration is so important. Afterward, you can reevaluate your excuses and see if you are a part of the 3/4 who don’t consume enough or the 1/4 who does.
Ok, so why should we pay more attention to hydration? Why do health care professionals, including coaches and trainers, make such a big deal about hydrating? I’ll start with some facts. You have probably heard or read somewhere in your past time: your body is made up of ~ 60% water, good ol’ H20; there is water in your cells, in between your cells, and surrounding all of your organs and all of your muscles; electrolytes help you perform and are used for muscle contractions, INCLUDING YOUR HEART (which hopefully everyone knows is a muscle). You need water to maintain homeostasis. Have you heard these before? Hopefully so! Let’s dive a little deeper into why.
I’ll simplify it with an analogy. Imagine you are sitting on the edge of a traditional Olympic sized pool. You represent a much needed nutrient, the side of the pool you are sitting on represents a cell you are in, and the other side is a cell that needs you to grow, heal, or continue its function. Now, if you are fully hydrated, your pool is filled with water at a very pleasant temperature and nothing is in your way, so your swim to the other side will be efficient and smooth. If you are approaching dehydration, your pool is filled only waste high with water and has mud at the bottom; you have to pull your feet out of it every step of the way to get to the other side. You are still able to get where you need to go but you are going to take longer and you will lose some energy fighting through the mud and waste high water. Lastly, if you are dehydrated, your pool is filled with sludge; black tar as thick as quicksand that you can barely move through. You may or may not make it to the other side. You might see some things you can’t un-see and will need to see a therapist to get back to being a functional member of society. You may even just disappear. You get the point. If your cells and nutrients have to fight to get where they need to be, you can expect some wear and tear on that nutrient and in turn on your body. This is why chronic dehydration leads to high blood pressure, joint pain, fatigue and more.
Now, those examples are specific to health and wellness, but how do you think your performance will be if you are in that sludge state? If electrolytes cannot get where they need to be or you simply lack the amount needed, you won’t be able to perform at your peak. You won’t recover properly if protein, carbs, amino acids, and even your hormones cannot get where they need to go efficiently. Everything that you do to be at your best (eat the proper amount of macros, get the proper amount of sleep, etc.) won’t work efficiently if you don’t have the appropriate water channel needed for transportation. Hopefully I have driven home the point here for you to reevaluate your “pool”. To move forward, I want to help you solve this issue.
Phase One: Assessment
How do we know if we are dehydrated or approaching dehydration? Obviously if you are thirsty, you are dehydrated. However, be aware this means you have been dehydrated for a little while if you are thirsty. Our body does not release the hormonal response of thirst until after ~2% of our total body water has be depleted. This is why maintaining fluid consumption throughout the day, and even when you are not thirsty, is important. If you start to feel fatigued, joints do not seem to move smoothly, get headaches, skin feels drier than normal (not elastic), and/or your training is not going well (i.e. fatiguing earlier than usual, more winded, heart feels like it is working harder than usual) then you are potentially approaching or are in a state of dehydration. Yes, there are other components that could cause similar symptoms; however, in my 9 years of experience, dehydration has been the answer. Plus, hydrating is an easy and practically cheap solution worth trying to see if it cures your symptoms.
Phase Two: Create and Perform the Solution
Create and perform the solution. How do we maximize our hydration? To start, let’s learn what hydrates us best in both the fluid and food departments (yes you can eat your fluids, awesome right!?). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition created a Beverage Hydration Index that shows which of our normal everyday beverages hydrate us most efficiently. Take a look:
Don’t worry I will explain briefly as to not bore you with too much science. Some very smart people at the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences in Loughborough University,
Bangor University, and the University of Stirling (all located in the United Kingdom) came together and did a study by measuring water values in urine post-beverage consumption and compared them to water. The volume and make-up of urine determined the results. The higher the bar in the graph, the better the beverage is for short term rehydration. For the article click here and you can dig deeper into the study! Anyway, you can see that you don’t have to be limited to just water! You can implement other beverages such as orange juice, milk, and even a nice cold lager to help hydrate. Now, it should go without saying that these beverages should be consumed in moderation and be appropriate for your diet, and please drink responsibly.
You should also know these basic facts on fluid consumption:
- Drinking too much at once will only make you flush it out and retain it less; drink throughout the day;
- The more nutrients contained in the beverage, the less likely it will make you need to #1 which, in turn, helps hydrate you more quickly;
- You should consume double the amount of fluid lost post activity; you can check your body weight pre/post training to figure it out;
- Consuming beverages with natural sugars can promote muscle recover (killing two birds with one stone);
- Consuming beverages with electrolytes and antioxidants can help with inflammation, muscle recovery, and hydration (3 birds: 1 stone).
ATHLETES – if you are only doing massage, myofascial release techniques, or mobilization for your training day, I recommend antioxidant heavy beverages and making sure you are well hydrated BEFORE training; dry muscles do not stretch or move as well as wet muscles do.
Finally, if you like food as much as I do, let me wrap this up with how you can EAT your hydration needs. It is obvious that foods such as melons or berries can help with hydration because they have a lot of water content, but there are some others you wouldn’t think about that can help as well. One much overlooked meal that can help a lot is soup! Most soups contain a lot of water, sodium (which is an electrolyte), and vitamins and minerals. Some even have carbs and proteins! So, you can make a lunch or a snack be something that can help with muscle recovery, muscle fuel, and hydration. Please consume responsibly and in regard to your diet. Next, we have pickles! If you are an older athlete, I am sure you were made or at least heard of consuming pickle juice during sporting events, especially if you were getting cramps. A friend of mine even said that some parks she had gone to sold “pickle-sickles” (frozen pickle juice); which I find very hilarious but clever. This is because of the high sodium content within the juice! But, not everyone is a pickle fan so if not, sorry. Along with pickles we have celery, cucumber, lemons, and even iceberg lettuce. Now, I’m sure as you are reading this you are saying duh, those foods are filled with water. But, if you are like me, you forget the obvious sometimes so I am just reminding you. If you want to add a little more to these foods, you simply dash some salt onto your melons or cucumbers or whatever may fit your fancy. Just remember to add salt in moderation.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope it has enlightened you and made you a little more conscious of your hydration. I would like to ask that you monitor your fluid consumption for a couple days and see where you are and if it is where you need to be. If you have any questions at all or would like to schedule a consultation either in person or online feel free to find me on Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owner: Bowling Green Power House
USAW Advanced Sports Performance Coach
CSCS, FMS, FF