It’s summertime, hot as HECK in Texas, and overlooking the potent benefits (and consequences!) of something as simple as proper hydration happens to people every year.
Yes, of course we want to look at our H2O intake. But especially at this time of year, more factors go into staying hydrated than just chugging plain H20.
Wait, what? Drinking more water doesn’t solve everything?
Stay with me. Let’s chat water importance first just so you have some cute sound bytes for your co-workers tomorrow.
So, why is water so important?
On average, the human body is 60 percent water by weight, depending on certain factors such as age, gender, and bodyweight (no wonder we feel at home next to water!). It performs numerous important biological functions in the body. First, at the cellular level, it provides structural firmness (1). Second, water makes up blood, lymph, gastric secretions, and urine. It helps lubricate our joints (synovial fluid), which allows bones to move freely against each other (1).
It also forms blood plasma, which transports oxygen, glucose, and amino acids to active muscle and tissue while carrying away carbon dioxide and lactic acid. During exercise, muscles produce lactic acid (plus other acids), and too much lactic acid can impair muscle contractility and performance (2). Third, water helps maintain core body temperature (thermoregulation). Your body uses water as a cooling mechanism (through sweating) to adequately control its temperature. Even in moderately warm weather, significant amounts of water are lost through sweat (1). Under more arduous training conditions, it’s estimated that sweat losses in endurance athletes exercising in heat and humidity can be nearly 3 liters per hour (1).
Even a mild deficit of water can have a substantial impact on well-being, exercise performance, and attentiveness. Defined, dehydration is the loss of body water and important ions (blood salts like potassium and magnesium). It simply means your body doesn’t have as much water and electrolytes as it should have, which interferes with normal body processes.
I keep hearing about electrolytes. Is this just another buzz word to waste money on?
In a word – no. Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. Aka – uhh kinda freakin’ important. They include…
A balance of ALL electrolytes is necessary to maintain optimal hydration and endurance. Not only do you lose sodium in sweat, but you also lose other critical electrolytes like magnesium, and since most people don’t get enough magnesium, serious deficits can be occurring (which is why so many of you are recommended to supplement with magnesium).
Ok, but I’m not a marathon or endurance runner or anything. How likely is it that I could become dehydrated?
Pretty easily, actually. Each day you lose approximately two to two-and-a-half cups (450 to 600 ml) of water just going about your usual activities, so it is important to replace fluid losses throughout the day. Coffee, tea, and sodas are not an ideal choice. These beverages have a diuretic effect (i.e., trigger water loss) and actually increase your daily fluid requirement.
What are some things I should understand about hydration?
Ironically, when we are chronically dehydrated, we HOLD onto water — our body is very efficient at it. If we are constantly and consistently hydrated, then our body will NOT hold water — giving the appearance of better muscle tone and a leaner look. A higher intake is going to be completely necessary to help metabolize and handle the higher protein you take in, as well as clear the metabolic waste from the volume of your training and help with recovery.
While on one hand it would be beneficial to increase or maintain your water intake, I do want to point out a potential concern: large amounts during meals can cause inefficient digestion by diluted gastric acids and enzymes. Try not to take in too much 30 minutes after meals to optimize digestion. We can eat all the salmon and broccoli we want, but it doesn’t do a damn bit of good if it’s poorly digested and absorbed. Conversely, drinking 8-10oz about 20-30 minutes PRIOR can increase saliva content and therefore increase digestion quality. If you currently have no issues with digestion, you can loosen up on this. SOME fluid intake with meals is fine, so don’t overstress!
What other factors impact hydration?
Interestingly enough, cellular hydration has more to do with factors outside of liquids such as sleep, energy,
reaction to stress, and hormonal profile. So, if you’re a stressed out hamster with crappy sleep habits, guess where you should direct your efforts to maximise those gains? Yup, what else is new.
What stinks the most about dehydration? It keeps you from operating at high efficiency including lack of mental acuity in late afternoon, it increases in your heart rate during simple tasks, and can even cause you to wake up groggy. I can’t tell you how often I’ve suggested adding salting a few meals or adding an Electro-mix to a drink and heard it impact a client almost immediately.
NOTE: Waking up too much in the middle of the night usually has more to do with stress and hormonal profile than being over-hydrated as we often think. Hit me up if you have questions about this.
~ Water upon waking is a great start to the day, including a pinch of sea salt for those with adrenal issues.
~ Milk is good for babies and weight gain in absence of autoimmune sensitivities.
~ Juices are liquid sugar, void of nutrients that should go with it as fruit
~ Alcohol is not for hydration, and should not be used to calm down as it has adverse effects on cortisol and actually IMPAIRS sleep quality.
~ Coffee has some good antioxidants, but if you NEED coffee for energy we’ve got a problem
~ Sports drinks are basically adult Kool-Aid with some sodium and, in some instances, potassium added. They’re loaded with sugar and their electrolytes contents kind of suck.
1. Drink water consistently.
The most common (and easiest) formula is to aim for half your bodyweight in ounces every single day. THEN add 10-15oz for every hour of exercise. Drink CONSISTENTLY versus throwing back a ton all at once (in which case you’ll excrete more than your use). Pro Tip: Obtain a reusable, large water container (like a Yeti Rambler) and just keep it with you. This has been a game changer for me an many others.
Calculation Example = Someone who weighs 200lbs that does CrossFit every day would aim for 115oz minimum.
.5*200 = 100 oz + 15oz = 115 oz
2. Make sure you’re replacing your electrolytes.
- Supplement with Magnesium – somewhere around 3x your bodyweight is generally a safe rule of thumb. Make sure you use an absorbable form such as Citrate or Glycinate. Take it in the evening more a ton of benefits including better sleep.
- Use coconut water for a great source of workout carbs and electrolytes
- Salt your food – unless you eat a lot of processed food sources and/or a ton of salt in your cooking, it’s unlikely you’re getting enough sodium (low sodium is so 1990 and has been debunked for awhile now).
3. Supplement your nutrition.
If you struggle bus with drinking water, a great place to start is your food sources. You can opt for higher water content foods such as cucumbers, tomatoes, jicama, carrots, watermelon (also a source of electrolytes!), cauliflower, red cabbage, broccoli, and spinach – a great way to nail your fiber and micronutrient content at the same time.