Are You Drinking Enough Water?
Drinking enough water each day is crucial for a number of reasons. It regulates body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, prevents infections, delivers nutrients to cells, and keeps organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
Our bodies contain muscles, bones, blood and tissue, but most of all, it contains water. Water makes up 55 to 65 percent of adult bodies. Muscles and kidneys contain 79 percent water, and bones and the brain are close behind at 73 percent. This is why it is essential to help the body stay hydrated so it can function at peak performance.
However, we lose water all of the time through breathing, sweating and urinating. Just a 2 percent loss in body weight due to water loss leads to dehydration—a condition that can reduce strength by 2 percent, power by 3 percent and endurance in athletes by 10 percent. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, dehydration can affect cognition, coordination, response time, tracking, short-term memory, attention, focus and fatigue.
A Perfect Balance
It is important to know the right amount of water to drink in order to not overdo it. Chugging gallons of water before exercise will be uncomfortable and result in multiple restroom breaks and can also be bad for your health.
Too much water can result in a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication. This occurs when the amount of water you drink dilutes the sodium that is naturally found in the blood. Sodium is an electrolyte that helps maintain blood pressure and helps nerves, muscles and body tissues to work correctly. When there isn’t enough sodium in the fluids outside cells, water moves into the cells to balance the level, but that causes the cells to swell—this is particularly dangerous when the brain cells swell.
Before a Workout
Before exercise, it is recommended to:
- Drink beverages with meals to enhance fluid replacement.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea or soft drinks.
- Recover 8 to 12 hours after exercise to give your body time to replace fluids.
- Track your weight daily, comparing your weight right before exercising to right after so you know how much fluid has been lost.
During a Workout
During exercise, it is recommended to:
- Drink when you feel thirsty, but don’t force hydration.
- Don’t drink more than 800 mL per hour.
- In very hot weather, you may need to increase your fluid intake and pace.
- If you’re doing a lengthy exercise, you may want to drink a beverage that also contains 6 to 8 percent carbohydrates.
After a Workout
After exercise, it is recommended to:
- Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
- Include drinks in post exercise meals.
Signs of Dehydration
When you’re in the middle of a workout, dehydration can sneak up on you. It is important to know the signs, which can include extreme thirst, less frequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, confusion and nausea. If you have extreme signs of dehydration, such as faintness, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, fever or unconsciousness, contact medical help immediately.
Keep your body healthy and hydrated by listening to it and drinking before, during and after you exercise.