As we established in the first post of our ‘Exercise AND’ series, there is more to living a healthy life than just exercise. While it’s absolutely a significant part of it, it’s not the only part. Things like nutrition, hydration, sleep, self care/stress management, social support, stretching, and rest all together are some of the big areas that can make up our overall health. It’s important to not neglect any of these areas, but it can also feel daunting to take it all on at once. At Worth the Work Fitness, we’re all about making small, sustainable changes for our health and wellness so we can build habits that stick, so we’re spending time breaking down each of these big areas to remind you of their significance, and guide you in ways that you can put in the work to live a well-rounded, healthy life. Today we are focusing on hydration. Strap in folks - we’ve got a lot of great science-y information for you, as well as some great tips for staying more hydrated.
Importance of Hydration
Considering our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, water is the most important thing for us to intake in order to not just thrive, but to function (apart from oxygen, of course). We have to intake it, because we have to replenish the fluids we constantly lose on a day to day basis through things like skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool. And if you are exercising regularly, you are losing even more. When we work out, our bodies shed water at an even quicker pace because of our faster, deeper breathing and increased sweat production. Therefore, when we are engaging in consistent physical activity, it’s all the more important to replenish ourselves with both nutrition AND hydration. Here’s why:
Does that seem like enough reasons to consume an adequate amount of water? And that's not even covering all of the other not-so-fun symptoms that result from dehydration such as dizziness, headaches, rapid heart rate, and more. It’s obvious from this that whether we keep a healthy level of hydration or not, we can severely impact our overall well being one way or another, especially when we are regularly exercising.
Exercise and Water
As mentioned above, your body loses more water than usual when you exercise, and just how much you lose is dependent on a few things. Your sweat rate, the heat and humidity of your workout environment, what clothes you are wearing, and how intense or how long you are exercising can all impact how much you sweat, and therefore how much water your body is losing. And if your body uses up its store of water it will be unable to cool itself through sweat, and could lead to dehydration and overheating. So if you are engaging in regular, strenuous, physical activity without increasing your fluid intake, you’re headed towards trouble. Therefore it is important to prepare your body by hydrating an hour or two before a workout, maintaining levels by drinking water every 10-20 minutes (or as needed) throughout a workout, and replenishing after a workout.
How Much to Drink
There are a lot of varied recommendations on what is the right amount of water to consume in a day, so it may be best to speak to your doctor to determine exactly how much is right for you, but a good rule of thumb is to cut your weight in half to determine how many ounces you should drink. For example, if you are 180 lbs, you should aim to drink at least 90 oz of water a day. Then if you exercise or exert yourself physically, you should add onto that amount to replenish what you likely lost. Other factors should also be taken into consideration, such as how heavily you sweat, if you are on any medications that act as diuretics, or if you have any medical conditions that require higher levels of hydration such as diabetes, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis.
Also, probably the best indicator of if you are getting enough to drink is paying attention to your urine. Dark, yellow color, and often more odored urine signifies dehydration, while pale, clear, and odorless urine means you’re doing well.
What To Drink
There are of course a variety of ways to consume fluids for hydration, but it is imperative to realize that not all varieties are the same. We’ve talked a lot about water, because it is hands down the best thing for you to drink in order to stay hydrated, and obtain the many benefits listed above. While we’re not going to tell you to swear off any particular drinks, we at least want you to be informed about the effects some can have on your body so that you make the best decision for you.
In some cases, it can be beneficial to hydrate after a workout with a sports drink to replace electrolytes that are also lost through sweat. This is especially beneficial for those who are doing high intensity exercise in very hot weather. But this is a category of fluids that should still be handled with caution as many sports drinks are high in calories because of added sugar or high levels of sodium. Some also contain caffeine, which has a diuretic effect on the body and can lead you to urinate more, which defeats the purpose of trying to hydrate. So pay attention to nutrition labels, serving sizes, and ingredients if you choose to hydrate with these kinds of drinks.
We also encourage you to be weary that fruit juices or sugary drinks, like soda, can be hard on your stomach - especially if you are dehydrated. And it’s also important to recognize that alcohol consumption can interfere with muscle recovery from exercise and negatively affect a variety of aspects of your performance, so be mindful of these things when choosing what to pair with your meals. Or, if you’d like to indulge yourself, be sure you’ve gotten enough water in throughout your day and consider these drinks as a treat, not a form of hydration.
Tips for Drinking More
So with this information overload of all things hydration and water, let’s make this a bit more practical. Because it goes beyond just knowing WHY hydration is important. It’s also a matter of making proper water consumption a habit in your life, which is where many people tend to struggle. Contrary to popular belief, simply feeling thirsty is not the best indicator for your need for water, because typically that's a sign that you are already dehydrated, so don't wait around just to drink when you feel thirsty. You want to be proactive about staying hydrated all throughout the day, so here are a few tips to help you do just that:
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Written by Kelly Pruim
If I’m being completely honest, my main motivation to exercise used to be so I could eat whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. I believed the “logic” that if I put in more effort at the gym, then I wouldn’t have to change my eating habits, and could enjoy a nice big bowl of ice cream whenever I wanted without any shame. Anyone else follow that same line of thinking?
While there are a variety of unhealthy perspectives laced in that logic that we can perhaps unpack another day, today I want to specifically discuss why focusing only on exercise, and trying to forgo nutrition, isn’t going to help you achieve your physical goals.
First and foremost, I think it’s significant to point out what feels like the obvious, but is often overlooked: there are multiple aspects of living a healthy life. Exercise is an important part of it. But it is not the only part. Exercise, nutrition, hydration, sleep, self care/stress management, social support, stretching, and rest all together make up our overall health. So when we overvalue just one or two aspects, we could still be living unhealthily if the rest are left by the wayside. For example, you could work out consistently every single day of the week, but still be unhealthy if all you eat is innutritious junk. Or you could be eating whole, real foods every meal of the day, but if you are overwhelmed with stress and only getting 4 hours of sleep a night, would you really consider yourself at your peak level of health?
Each of these aspects takes ongoing effort and attention, which can feel daunting to a lot of us. So we can try to focus on just one aspect at a time, and ignore the rest, because that’s all we can manage. But then we risk the others suffering. However, jumping headfirst into changing every single one of these areas all at once is not typically the most sustainable approach either. We’re all about small steps in order to make sustainable changes to work towards the healthiest versions of ourselves. So we are going to spend the next few weeks talking about each of these aspects of health to help encourage us all to do so.
Now, exercise on its own has incredible benefits. It’s imperative for keeping your body functioning well, giving you stamina, strength, flexibility, and more. But in order to effectively exercise, our body also needs to be fueled well - and that’s where nutrition comes in. In fact, nutrition is often considered to be far more significant for our health (and for weight loss) than exercise even is.
This example adapted from verywellfit.com spells it out best: Let’s say Susan exercises consistently with 3-4 weight training sessions and 3-4 cardio workouts per week, totaling a max of 8 sessions per week. That gives her 8 opportunities to make a positive change in her body through exercise in a week. Now Susan also eats 3 meals per day, meaning she has 21 opportunities per week to directly and positively impact her body through nutrition. You don’t have to be a mathematician to recognize that 21 opportunities is going to hold more weight than 8. It’s not to say that those 8 don’t matter, but it is important to accept that our nutrition has far more influence on our overall well-being than some give it credit for.
A common misconception is that exercise and nutrition can be a trade off. For example, if I went for a 20 minute run today then I earned the pizza I plan to have for dinner tonight. Or, since I exercised every weekday this week, I earned a “cheat day” over the weekend on my nutrition. It all balances out, right? But the truth is, in general the calories we burn in a workout usually do not zero out the calories we consume with a not-so-good diet, especially because it’s far easier to consume a large number of calories very quickly, and much harder to “burn them off.”
Our nutrition and exercise habits have a much more intimate relationship beyond using each other as an excuse to negate the other. They go hand in hand in a few different ways.
Food as Fuel
Having a well balanced approach to nutrition is what can help you get the calories and nutrients your body needs to fuel and replenish throughout your daily activities (including exercise). The nutrients we take in help determine the kind of output we are able to give. And if we are exercising regularly, it makes it all the more important that we are fueling ourselves well so we can sustain our routine. A good way to look at it is to eat to support your training, because if you don’t, you risk lower levels of energy, performance, and motivation for your workout. And if you can’t put as much into the output of your calories, then it debunks the calories in vs. calories out cycle even further because you aren’t effectively burning as much. In order to get the most out of your workouts, you need to feed your body the kind of foods that will help you endure and get stronger.
Food as Replenishment
Just like we need food to prepare for exercising, we also need food to recover from it. We use up a lot of our bodies’ resources when we exercise, so it is important to replenish them so we can get the most benefit from the work we put in. Also, when we exercise, our brain triggers a signal in our bodies that tells them to eat more in order to recover - so really you are going to find a way to replenish yourself one way or another. But if you end up replenishing with a stop at the first drive-thru you see on your way home from the gym, you are going to consume more calories than necessary, which will lead to weight gain. You want to refuel with nutrient dense food, otherwise you could end up feeling constantly hungry, leading you to consume even more excess calories.
Food as Health
Ultimately, what we eat affects our everyday health - whether we exercise or not. It affects how we feel today, tomorrow, and the rest of our lives. Think of how you feel after you eat a more-than-indulgent meal full of processed food. It can lead to bloating, sluggishness, and overall digestive issues that in some way or another affect your day-to-day well being. Not to mention how regularly engaging with a poor diet is linked with major health risks that lead to illnesses like heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer - no matter if you are at a healthy weight or not. On the flip side, think of how you feel after eating a nutritious meal - possibly more energized, more clear-headed, more stabilized hunger levels, more stabilized mood, and more. When you choose smarter, more nutritious foods for your body (especially combined with physical activity) you can more attainably reach and maintain a healthy weight, protect yourself from those risky health problems, and increase your overall health.
It’s a shame how many people can overemphasize the importance of exercise, while underemphasizing the importance of good nutrition. Doing so can lead to an unhealthy relationship with both. But instead, we want to help people be freed up to enjoy both. This post said it well: “exercise is what sustains weight loss, but a supportive nutrition plan is what drives it.” In order to work towards our health goals, and in order to live all-around healthy lives, we must place a level of importance on all aspects of our health, and that includes both exercise AND nutrition. It may feel like a lot to take on, but at Worth the Work Fitness we can help simplify the process and support you through it. Just head on over here to find out more about both the exercise and nutrition services we offer.
Written by Kelly Pruim
With so many options of workout formats out there in the world, and even more opinions on which ones are the best, it might be overwhelming to know which one(s) really are the best for YOU. While we encourage people to move their bodies in ways they enjoy and that make them feel good to increase the odds of sustainability, we have a fondness for one particular workout format that we base the majority of our workouts around. That workout format is High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT for short). While HIIT has become increasingly popular (it’s ranked among the top 5 fitness trends since 2014), there are still many people that are unfamiliar with what it is and how it benefits the body, so we thought we’d take the time to break that down today and explain a little more why we focus so much on these types of workouts for our clients at Worth the Work Fitness.
WHAT IS HIIT?
High-Intensity Interval Training is a format of exercise that involves alternating short bursts of higher-intensity work with short periods of rest, or less-intense active rest. Here’s a simple example of how HIIT works: When running, you sprint at an “all-out” pace for 1 minute, and then do a slower, more relaxed paced jog for 30 seconds to a minute. Then you repeat that cycle 4-6 times. It can be as simple as that. But there are a variety of approaches to HIIT workouts and how you can incorporate them into different types of training, especially beyond running. Here at Worth the Work Fitness, we like to mix both aerobic and resistance based exercises to not only get your heart rate up, but also build muscle. Plus, we like to incorporate exercises that work multiple parts of the body at once, so you get to use more muscles and benefit further from the work you are putting in.
WHY WE LIKE HIIT
Probably the most beloved part of HIIT is it’s time efficiency. With this type of workout you can get the most bang for your buck, because you can experience the same (or better) health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time. While there is no set amount of time that a HIIT workout must last, you can typically get significant health benefits from 10-30 minutes of work. That sounds like a much more reasonable time frame to fit into your busy life, doesn’t it?
Another commonly favored aspect of HIIT is what is often referred to as the Afterburn Effect. Basically it means that because of the higher intensity nature of the workouts, your body’s metabolism is elevated and is therefore able to stay in a fat-burning state long after your workout is over.
And we can’t go on without mentioning that you are much less likely to get bored when participating in HIIT workouts because of the way they stimulate your brain to be more engaged in the process. Plus, it helps the already short workout time seem to pass by faster. And we all know that the more we enjoy something, the more likely we are to keep doing it.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HIIT
So we’ve mentioned that HIIT can lead to the same, if not better, health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time, but what specific health benefits are we talking about? There is a great deal of evidence based research on the benefits of HIIT, and this article outlines some of them in more in detail, but here is a quick run through a few of the big ones:
Not a bad list of things to benefit from, am I right?
Just like any more intense exercise regimen, there are always some levels of risk of injury, so it’s important to recognize what some of those risks are. And it’s equally important to know how to mitigate those risks.
First and foremost, if you have any concern about whether or not HIIT is an appropriate method of exercise for you, the most important place to start is talking to your doctor before engaging in it. This is especially relevant if you have any pre-existing health concerns (especially heart related) or previous injuries. While there are many health benefits in this form of exercise, you want to be sure that it’s an appropriate place for you to start.
To ensure that your body is prepared for a more intense activity, it is always best to take the time to warm up and wake up your body first. We always start off our workouts with a warm up of exercises to raise the heart rate and get your muscles ready for more work.
A key factor in fitness that many people overlook is that it is more important to do an exercise properly than it is to do it quickly. We take a few measures to increase the chances that you are doing things right, even from home. First off, Brett (the founder and trainer at WTWF) is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer with years of experience in the fitness industry under his belt to guide you. In every workout he demonstrates each exercise and talks through what proper form should look and feel like, as well as cues you throughout the workout to help you stay focused on it, even when you are growing tired. We also provide instruction and demonstration of exercise modifications to accommodate for different skill and comfort levels. And lastly, as a benefit of being a WTWF member, you can have access to your personal accountability coach that you can talk with if you have concerns about any specific exercises.
While it may be tempting to maximize the highly effective nature of these workouts by doing them more often, it is because of that effective nature that we don’t have to workout as often. Because of the higher intensity, it is all the more important to allow our bodies time to rest and recover. In fact, doing so is an important part of the effectiveness of HIIT. That’s why our workout calendar only includes 4 workouts a week. So be sure to include rest days and lower intensity exercises throughout the week as well.
I hope this helps give you a better idea of not only what kind of workouts we focus on here at Worth the Work Fitness, but also WHY we love them and do them. We wouldn’t offer you access to something if we didn’t believe in what we’re putting out there.
So if we’ve convinced you to give this workout format a try, we’d love for you to experience these benefits firsthand with a FREE WEEK of our Worth the Work Fitness workouts - no strings attached. Just click here to enter your information and get started!
Written by Kelly Pruim