Updated: Apr 19, 2022
As a personal trainer, I thought it was important to educate myself as much as I could and share it. Everyone should do their own research and find the right balance for them. This blog contains information that may be helpful. Please consult your doctor or nutritionist for specific information or questions.
Why is hydration important?
Our bodies are nearly 70 percent water and our brain is about 75% water. If we are what we eat, we need to make sure we keep restoring the water that our bodies use. Water is the most critical nutrient that you need!
Water is important for organ functions, metabolic function, fluid retention alleviation, transmitting nutrients in the body, maintaining blood volume and body temperature regulation. Water is required for performance. Without it, the body will be impaired when performance is needed.
However, it is easy to give into the temptation of a soothing coffee, a sweet and fizzy soda, an alcoholic beverage. Water can, then, seem very boring. Worse, each of these temptations can become addictions that are hard to break.
I grew up with Coca Cola in the house. A Coke on ice was not only a treat, it was a standard drink. Milk, Coke and water were the three main options. Today, I try not drink milk, rarely drink soda and very rarely, almost never, a Coke. It took a couple of months in my twenties to break the negative cycle and not crave it.
Athletes tend to eat better and drink more water than non-athletes. As a result, athletes, tend to be healthier, in general, than non-athletes. The more athletic I have become the more conscious I am about water consumption. My journey down the path of better nutrition has included eating more plant-based, more organic, paying more attention to getting the recommended amount fats, proteins and carbohydrates each day and now water consumption.
As with a lot of things, we can try to get something right, get the A in a course, for example, and still get part of it wrong and get a B instead, or worse. Where do we wind up if we don’t at least try? It takes effort to eat right and it takes effort to get enough hydration. If we waste opportunities with bad choices or do not chose at all, it makes it hard or impossible to get it right.
Below are some explanations on why hydration, mainly from water, is so important and why it should be a conscious effort.
Disease prevention and illness treatment
Water helps prevent diseases and illness by flushing waste and toxins. Hydration reduces the risk of heart disease and cancers.
Since the brain is 75% water, hydration affects the brain as well. The brain stays the proper size with the right amount of hydration and can continue to function as expected.
Drinking sugary drinks often may contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, kidney diseases, tooth cavities, and other ailments.
You should have more water if you are running a fever to replace fluids due to sweating. Also, more hydration is needed if you have diarrhea or vomiting which can lead to dehydration.
Drinking more water can help with weight loss. Your metabolism can be increased by drinking water and, by reducing sugary drinks, you consume fewer calories.
Drinking two cups of water was shown to increase the metabolic rate by 30 percent within a half hour. More calories, about 25, were burned in the following 90 minutes. This was noted to be a much better solution than using a weight loss drug and could be seen as calorie negative, since it causes calories to be burned. Drinking water alone could add up to a significant number of calories burned over time. There are also no negative side effects to drinking water, unlike a weight loss drug, and water is much cheaper.
Avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit drinks, sweetened water, coffees, teas and some sports drinks. They are a leading source of added sugars in the typical American diet. If you do tend to have sugary drinks, make sure you count the calories so that you know how much they are taking from your calorie budget. Even a lemonade with added sugar can be about 100 calories for a 12-ounce drink. A soda might be 150 to 200 calories at the same size. It is a big problem when you think you are getting more for your money by getting a big drink. What this is doing is taking away an opportunity to get nutrients into your body and putting in a lot of unnecessary sugar. Added sugars might include high fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, sugar, syrup, corn syrup, sucrose or dextrose.
Water helps your body maintain temperature control. The body is heated by the external temperature, exercise, and food consumption. The body is cooled through sweating.
Heat stroke, for example, can make someone feel like something is going incredibly wrong. Scott Jurek describes a heat stroke episode in his book Eat & Run. And, Alex Honnold and Corie Townsend, in the short film about riding from Death Valley to Mt Whitney, experience Corie likely getting heat stroke.
Performance and Recovery
Water for increasing performance seems to depend on the duration of the event and the state of hydration. The body does not adapt to dehydration. If the event is short enough, stopping long enough to get a drink or carrying water may make someone slower. In that case, the hydration can be compensated for prior to or after. For longer events or hot events hydration needs to be managed so that dehydration does not impede performance or make the body shutdown. An athlete should weigh themselves to help confirm they are staying properly hydrated. Average body weight is a good indicator. Ultra-long sporting events may require the athlete to weigh-in at stations. Often athletes do not adequately replace their fluid loss.
In general, water is needed to perform well. Drinking water helps nourish cells and muscles and helps with recovery by combating muscles soreness. Water helps improve our mood, since it affects brain function. It improves energy level and alertness. Water helps lubricate and cushion joints. Water protects the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues.
If you are looking for better performance from sport drinks, there is some mixed information. However, most of the time water is the better choice for hydration than sport drinks or approximately the same. Sport drinks with a small percentage of carbohydrate can help replace fluid and glycogen stores for events over an hour long.
There are some misunderstandings regarding sport drink use during exercise. For example, you don’t need to force drinking during exercise using sports drinks. You don’t need to replace electrolytes during exercise. You don’t need to worry about dehydration causing cramping. You don’t need to worry about electrolyte loss causing cramping during exercise. All of which are commonly held beliefs. Some athletes can still perform well even when they are dehydrated during an event. However, the fluids should be replaced when the event is complete. The safest approach seems to be drink water when you are thirsty rather than force fluid intake with either water or sports drinks. Drinking too much causes hyponatremia which is when the sodium level in the body gets too low and mild to severe health problems can result.
Also, be careful, sports and energy drinks may achieve their boosting feeling and performance gain in part from caffeine, sugars, and other ingredients. This raises safety concerns, especially when combined with alcohol, which has at times caused an increase in emergency room visits. Children and young adults should be made aware of the risks as well as older adults and athletes.
A good substitute for a sports drink was thought to be coconut water. However, no significant performance increase was found and coconut water may upset the stomach for some people. I enjoy the taste and have used it. It is a very good source of potassium. But, may be too high for anyone with kidney function concerns.
To keep moving and stay hydrated, using a hydration pack with a straw can help. Another option is to have bottles accessible on a vest or belt. Straws can be especially helpful on a bike ride and less dangerous than trying to reach for a bottle while moving. On one occasion, I dropped and then ran over my water bottle. I ultimately decided to opt for a hydration pack for safety and accessibility.
Drinking water can help prevent dehydration. Dehydration will decrease blood volume, transmission of nutrients, organ functions, performance, metabolic function, blood pressure, sweat rate, increase core temperature, and increase water retention. This will cause increased heart rate, sodium retention, perceived exertion, use of muscle glycogen. Dehydration will decrease cardiac output and blood flow to the skin.
Your brain needs water, since it is 75% water. It will shrink if it experiences dehydration. Brain function may be impaired. Dehydration can cause unclear thinking and confusion. The result could include mood swings, fatigue and sleepiness.
Special attention should be given to children when exercising when it is hot. Exercise duration should be limited and children should be well hydrated.
How much water do we need?
How much water we need to drink can be determined based on average daily weight. The body should be at or slightly above standard weight prior to a sporting event that requires endurance. Eight glasses of water a day was a standard for a long time but was not
based on strong evidence.
While being inactive or sedentary, the following is an average guideline for water consumption.
For inactive men, about 3.0L (about 13 cups.)
For inactive women, about 2.2L (about 9 cups.)
More is needed for weight loss, exercise and hot days.
Additional 8 ounces recommended for every 25 pounds over ideal weight.
The above numbers include intake from fruits and vegetables and can be somewhat less for cups of water by itself. It’s important to note that wine and strong alcohol can dehydrate you.
For athletes, the amount of water needed depends on the size of the person, the weather conditions, the intensity of the exercise and the condition the person is in at the time. Unfortunately, thirst and urine color are not good enough to gauge hydration level.
Some guidelines include:
· 14 to 22 ounces of fluids before exercise
· 6 to 12 ounces for every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise
· Fluids should be cold for faster stomach (gastric) emptying
· For events more than 60 minutes, sports drinks can help
· For activities less than 60 minutes, water is better for hydration
This replaces fluids lost to sweat and urine.
For recovery, fluids should be replaced by consuming 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during exercise.
It takes five minutes or less for water to arrive in the bloodstream and about twenty minutes to peak. Since it is relatively fast, negative affects of dehydration can be turned around relatively quickly depending on how dehydrated a person is. Cold water enters the blood stream about twenty percent faster than warm water. And, water should be cold for more rapid gastric purging.
One way to tell if you are hydrated enough is to consume water and then urinate an hour later. For example, if you drink 3 cups and urinate 3 cups, you may have been fully hydrated. If you drink 3 and urinate approximately 1 cup. You may have been dehydrated.
Larger volumes of water are needed when consuming a lot of protein to prevent problems. Protein needs about seven times more water for metabolism than carbohydrates which can lead to dehydration. Lower carbohydrate consumption due to the higher protein intake can contribute to this. If you are eating less fruits and vegetables, you are getting less water.
Great Hydration Products that I use and recommend. If you like them. Make sure to confirm your colors and sizes:
5 Tips for Increasing Water Consumption
1. Choose wisely
a. Try to stick to drinking water when you are out to eat.
b. Eat more fruits and vegetables to increase the amount of the water consumed.
2. Make water convenient
a. Have a water filtered picture in your refrigerator rather than sodas or juices.
b. Freeze a freezer-safe bottle and take it with you when you will need a cold drink later in the day.
c. Have apples and other fruits on a hike for a great snack.
3. Have water accessible
a. Fill a bottle of water and have it with you.
b. Review drink labels to be sure you know what is in the beverage. Avoid the drinks that lack nutrients and have unnecessary calories.
c. Use hydration packs for hiking, running, and biking to make it fluids more accessible.
d. While hiking in the cold, a straw will freeze. Thermoses are a better option unless the straw can be kept warm, including the very end.
4. Flavor your water
a. Squeeze a lemon or orange into your water for flavor and added Vitamin C.
b. Try adding cucumber to your water for a refreshing taste.
c. Try making your own with a juice or smoothie.
d. Try hot soup in a thermos for winter hikes, it will warm you up, improve hydration, and provide calories.
e. Make hot tea and have it during a cold hike or event.
5. Avoid trouble
a. Remember alcohol has sugar content and is dehydrating.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
United Stated Department of Agriculture, (USDA)
United Stated National Library of Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer Guidelines
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Robert Cheeke, Vanessa Espinoza, Plant-Based Muscle
Adventist Health Study