Now that you have started to work on Step 1 – Sleep, you are ready to dive head first into Step 2 – Hydration.
I am sure that it will come as no surprise that our bodies need water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work correctly. Water makes up more than half of your body weight. You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe. You lose water even faster when the weather is really hot, when you are physically active, or if you have a fever. Vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to rapid water loss. If you don’t replace the water you lose, you can become dehydrated. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Good old H2O is critical for rehydrating when the body experiences fluid loss, such as when we sweat. However, if you’re working out for longer than an hour or doing a particularly intense exercise, you will probably need to replace electrolytes too—this is where a sports drink or electrolyte-enhanced water comes in handy. Be wary of overhydration: Too much water can lead tohyponatremia, which is when excess water in our bodies dilutes the sodium content of our blood.
Sip on sports drinks and coconut water.
When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, the minerals found in the blood that help to regulate the amount of water in the body. Sports drinks, such as Powerade and Gatorade, can help prolong exercise and rehydrate our bodies because they contain electrolytes, which plain old water does not. Not in to sports drinks, or want a more natural alternative? Water-enhancing electrolyte tablets, coconut water, or a homemade sports drink could be potentially effective substitutes.
Turn to fruit.
Many fruits are a great source of both electrolytes and fluids, though the dose of electrolytes can differ from fruit to fruit. Bananas and dates are known for having high levels of the electrolyte potassium, making them a great option for refueling during an intense workout, for example, a long run. To stay hydrated while keeping up electrolytes, it’s important to drink water while munching on fruit (fruit contains some water, but not as much as your water bottle).
Hop on the scale before and after exercise. For each pound lost during activity, drink an additional 16 ounces of fluid. If your body weight change is three percent or more, you may be experiencing significant to serious dehydration. Losing a few pounds of body weight after exercise can put strain on the body and result in uncomfortable side effects like muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue. To prevent sweating away the water that keeps us hydrated, have a water bottle at the ready.
Check the toilet.
As gross as this may sound, check on the color of your urine to make sure you’re staying hydrated. When properly hydrated, urine should be pale yellow in color. Though it may be tricky to keep an eye on it, try to watch the urine stream, since the color of urine will dilute when it hits the toilet water. Store this handy, dandy urine color test in your phone or wallet to make sure your piddle is up to snuff—dark yellow urine may indicate dehydration.
Pay attention to your muscles.
Lean muscle tissue contains more than 75 percent water, so when the body is short on H2O, muscles are more easily fatigued. When your muscles feel too tired to finish a workout, try drinking some water and resting for a bit before getting back at it.
Whatever you’re drinking, be it water, juice, or sports drinks, make sure to take a sip or two whenever you feel thirsty. Even if you’re not feeling totally parched, mild thirst is still a sign of impending dehydration.
Pinch yourself. (No, really.)
Go ahead, pinch yourself! Skin turgor, which is the skin’s ability to change shape and return to normal, is an easy way to check your hydration. Using your pointer finger and thumb, pinch the skin on the back of your hand (not too hard!) and hold for a few seconds. When you let go, if the skin takes a while to return to its normal position, you may be dehydrated.
Keep dry mouth at bay.
One of the first signs of dehydration is dry mouth. If your mouth starts feeling like the Sahara, head to the water fountain or take a sip from your reusable water bottle. A short water break between sets or during quick breaks from cardio can help stave off exercise-induced dehydration.
Stop if you get the dizzies.
Feeling lightheaded during a workout is a sign of dehydration and a signal to tone it down a notch. Though willpower sometimes makes us want to push ourselves through a few more reps or another mile, feeling dizzy is an indicator that it’s time to hydrate. When there’s not enough water in blood, both blood volume and blood pressure drop, resulting in dizziness.
How do I know if I’m dehydrated?
Symptoms of dehydration include the following:
- Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual
- Dry mouth
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
- No tears when crying
Additional Benefits to Staying Hydrated
Although water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it plays an important role in energy transformation. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated you will become lethargic, may experience cramping, and endurance and strength performance will suffer.
Helps in Weightloss
Water can suppress appetite naturally and increases the body’s ability to metabolize stored fat. Studies have shown that a decrease in water intake will cause fat deposits to increase, while an increase in water intake can actually reduce fat deposits. This is thought to occur because a reduction in water decreases the efficiency of the kidneys, which results in some kidney functions being shunted to the liver. Since one of the liver’s primary functions is to metabolize stored fat into usable energy for the body, it metabolizes less fat while performing functions normally performed by the kidneys. This results in less stored fat burned, and a reduction in weight loss.
Reduces Fluid Retention
The body perceives dehydration as a threat to survival and begins to hold on to every drop. Water is stored in extracellular spaces (outside the cell) which can result in swollen extremities (feet, legs, and hands). Diuretics offer a temporary solution, but may cause more harm than good if abused. Why? Diuretics will cause the elimination of water, along with many essential nutrients. Also the body will perceive this conditioning as a threat and replace the lost water at the first opportunity; this causes bloating and fluid retention once again. Regularly drinking plenty of water will eliminate this problem.
Helps Your Kidneys
Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine, explains Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD. “Your kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding your body of toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate,” he says.
When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.
If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates, Guest warns.
Helps Build Muscle
Water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells and transport waste out of the body. Water helps form the structures of protein and glycogen. In order to move and flex your muscles, you need water. If your body is dehydrated, your muscles will be deprived of electrolytes and cramp. Since muscles are controlled by nerves, without the proper water and electrolyte balance, muscle strength and control will also be impaired. It is essential that you stay hydrated if you want to build muscle and experience optimal performance in the gym.
“SINCE MUSCLES ARE CONTROLLED BY NERVES, WITHOUT THE PROPER WATER AND ELECTROLYTE BALANCE MUSCLE STRENGTH AND CONTROL WILL ALSO BE IMPAIRED.”
Increases Muscle Tone
Muscles are made primarily of water. Dehydration can prevent muscles from properly contracting, reducing muscle tone. Increasing water intake will help prevent muscle cramping, improve the strength of muscle contractions and quicken muscle response. Preventing dehydration will also help prevent sagging skin, since water will fill out the muscles, resulting in clear, healthy, and resilient skin.
Helps Maintain Proper Bowel Function
Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When you don’t get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result isconstipation. “Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because the fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly,” says Joan Koelemay, RD, dietitian for the Beverage Institute.
Reduces Risk of Disease
Studies have shown that increasing daily water intake has shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, reduce the risk of bladder cancer by 50%, and it may potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer. It is also believed that water may prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently. “If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard,” said John Batson, M.D, a sports medicine physician with Lowcountry Spine & Sport in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and an American Heart Association volunteer.
Besides water, what else can I consume to stay hydrated?
Water is the best option for staying hydrated. Other drinks and foods can help you stay hydrated, but some may add extra calories from sugar to your diet.
Drinks like fruit and vegetable juices, milk, and herbal teas can contribute to the amount of water you get each day. Even caffeinated drinks (for example, coffee, tea, and soda) can contribute to your daily water intake. A moderate amount of caffeine (200 to 300 milligrams) is not harmful for most people. This is about the amount in 2 to 4 8-ounce cups of coffee. However, it’s best to limit caffeinated drinks because caffeine may cause some people to urinate more frequently, or feel anxious or jittery. Water can also be found in fruits and vegetables (for example, watermelon, tomatoes, and lettuce) and in soup broths.
Tips for staying hydrated
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. Purchasing bottled water is expensive and creates plastic bottle waste. Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it from the tap instead.
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
- Be sure to drink water before, during, and after a workout.
- When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water. Drinking water may also contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan. Some research suggests that drinking water can help you feel full.
- If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, drink water when you wake up; at breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and when you go to bed. Or drink a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour.
- Drink water when you go to a restaurant. It will keep you hydrated, and it’s free!