Hello from Nutrition Central. I hope you have been enjoying the wonderful warm up in the weather we’ve been experiencing lately. This week, I’d like to tackle the topic of proper hydration. As the weather is warming, and more workouts are moved outdoors, it is especially important to pay close attention to how much water you are consuming before, during, and after workouts.
Personally I have already been caught out twice during a workout without enough water. Both times I headed out the door armed with either my hydration belt or backpack, and both times I ran out of water. Argh, the agony! Given the recent increase in temperatures, I was underprepared for how much I’d be sweating or how thirsty the heat (and sun) would make me. The result of my short sightedness was mild dehydration, a sharp headache, and unnecessarily sore and stiff muscles after my workout.
Water is the most important nutrient in the body, and ironically, water is also the most commonly deficient nutrient in the American population. Most of the volume of our cells and fluids is comprised of water and it makes up 55-60% of our total body mass. Water cannot be stored within the body, and therefore daily adequate consumption is critical for maintaining health.
Before addressing how much water you should be consuming, let’s take a look at the sheer number of functions and variety of important roles water plays within the body. Water :
- Improves oxygen delivery to cells
- Transports nutrients
- Moistens oxygen for easier breathing
- Cushions and absorbs shock within joints and bones
- Lubricates joints
- Improves cell-to-cell communication and maintains the normal electrical properties of cells
- Regulates body temperature
- Removes wastes and flushes toxins
- Is critical for proper digestion
To find the minimum amount of water you should be consuming, use the simple formula of taking your body weight and dividing it in half. The resulting number represents the minimum number of ounces you should drink each day. Ie: A person weighing 150 lbs should be consuming at least 75 oz of water daily. This number gives you a good baseline before taking into account any activity you are doing, or any diuretics you are consuming. (coffee, caffeinated teas, soda, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages). To compensate for diuretics, take the amount of diuretic consumed and double its weight in water. So, if you drink an 8 oz cup of coffee or fruit juice, you need to drink 16 oz of water to “make up for” the diuretic effect of the coffee or juice. There are a number of guidelines when considering how much water to take during exercise, but generally speaking:
- 1-2 hrs before your workout drink 15-20 oz of water
- 15 minutes before you begin, drink another 8-10 oz of water
- If exercise lasts longer than 1 hour (yes please ;) ) you should be consuming an electrolyte solution containing a balanced mix of potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium.
- Be sure to replenish your body with plenty of fluids after your workout. Most often, if you’re thirsty after a workout, you’re playing catch up with your hydration.
As the weather continues to warm and more and more workouts are moved outdoors, it is going to be crucial to pay attention to your hydration. If you experience any of these early signs of dehydration, you should hydrate yourself adequately before pursuing any athletic endeavors. The early signs of dehydration include: fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, cravings, cramps, headaches, and hunger. Furthermore, if you start a workout dehydrated, you could likely experience dizziness, lethargy, early muscle fatigue, and cramping.
If your body is operating in a deficit of just 2% of its water needs, it will cause fatigue! Operating in a 2-10% will cause digestive, cardiovascular, immune, and musculoskeletal problems. And, operating in a deficit of greater than 10% can cause death. While we can live for ~8 weeks without food, we can live only 2 days without water! Continued, prolonged dehydration will seriously hamper your efforts at maintaining total health, and will lead to serious issues such as heartburn, joint pain, back pain, migraines, constipation, fibromyalgia, and colitis. If you are experiencing any of the long term signs of dehydration, you need to hydrate adequately before pursuing exercise of any sort.
So, drink up my fellow athletes. Pre-hydrate, hydrate, and rehydrate, it is one of the easiest ways to ensure a successful athletic pursuit.