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