All Hail the Hydration Nation: Drinking Water (and other really bad blog titles)

“Drink more water!” Ahhh, what a wonderful world it would be if we were all given a pound for every time we heard that! But the thing is, they’re absolutely right to be shouting it from the rooftops!

Hydration is critical when it comes to productivity, sports performance and overall health. But how important is it really?

WE ARE NOTHING BUT JELLYFISH

Well, not exactly. But in a way, humans are basically intelligent blobs of water (60%, to be more specific). The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83%. The skin contains 64%, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and bones 31%.

So we’re pretty dependent on it.

The water in our body serves a number of functions, from being a cell’s building material to being a shock absorber for the brain. Unfortunately, it is easy to lose this elixir of life with simple day-to-day activities: going to the bathroom, sweating and even breathing.

It may not be obvious at first, but even a small imbalance can actually put a lot of stress on how we function.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DEHYDRATION

When we lose a lot of water and don’t drink enough to make up for it, the body’s first priority is to make sure the essential cells stay hydrated. So your body “taxes” the other cells and components of the body to make sure these essential cells are constantly hydrated.

This means your cells order the rest of the body to work twice as hard, resulting in us feeling dizzy, tired, or having headaches. It also tells the kidneys to remove less water from the blood, which is why we pee less, which is why dark, strong-smelling urine is an indicator that you need more water (even if you feel fine).

Dehydration will also result in losing concentration and, in a nutshell, making your day to day activities much more difficult to get through.

DEHYDRATION AND SPORTS PERFORMANCE

Dehydration is not ideal for anybody, but if you’re an athlete, it’s particularly detrimental.  

  • Exercising makes your temperature go up, and sweating is the body’s way of cooling down. It’s very easy to get dehydrated and very difficult to recover from that, especially if you’re in the middle of a sporting event. 
  • Fluid helps to regulate blood pressure, and blood pressure normalises heart rate. The easier it is for your heart to get back to its normal pace, the easier it will be for you to recover.

HOW MUCH TO DRINK?

How much an athlete should drink depends on exercise intensity, breaks, age and weight, but the consensus is:

  • Pre-workout
    Drink 17 to 20 fl oz of water two to three hours before exercise
    Drink 8 fl oz of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before exercise
  • During workout
    Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • Post-workout
    Drink an additional 8 ounces of fluid 30 minutes after exercise
    Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise 

For the rest of us lazy folks, it’s again dependant on age, diet, and even the climate we’re in, but as a basic guide, most people need about 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid a day, which is about eight to 10 glasses.

DRINKING MADE EASY

Of course drinking water in its pure form is the best way to go, but there’ many more options to make it less…bland.

  • Add slices of lime, cucumber mint or fruits to give it a subtle taste
  • Coconut water (though be wary as it does contain sugar), and bonus: it’s got potassium, sodium and chloride.
  • Fruit smoothies (again, watch out for sugar). This is a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone type of deal, because you can also include vegetables or even herbal teas
  • Tea and coffee. Because they are caffeinated they also act as diuretics, so be careful not to overindulge.
  • Alcohol: no. I mean not really. Not in excess. Basically, you can’t substitute water with alcohol and claim your £200 as you go pass. It’s more of a diuretic than caffeine, and it will make you pee more often than you actually should.

EATING MADE…EASY

But it’s not just about liquids. Some foods (including savouries) also contain high percentages of water.

  • Hamburgers (the patties)
  • Chicken breast
  • Soups
  • Jell-O
  • Grapefruit, grapes, watermelon
  • Tomato, cucumber and lettuce

So what’s the takeaway? We actually really do need to start valuing the importance of water, and stop rolling our eyes whenever we’re told that we should drink more of it.

Our bodies are pretty smart and will tell us when something is wrong, but the key is to try and avoid reaching that point. So let’s all wake up to the wonderful elixir of life – plain old gorgeous water.