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How Much Water Are You Drinking ...?

Water is a wonderful performance enhancer. Unfortunately, too many athletes overlook the power of this essential nutrient. Perhaps it’s time to give your water intake a second look.
This article offers droplets of information to enhance your water I.Q., optimize your water balance and help you feel and perform better.

Did you Know ?

· Water accounts for about 65% of our body weight and performs crucial roles such as carrying nutrients and waste products between our major organs, helping regulate body temperature, lubricating our moving parts, and acting as a shock absorber.

· Our brains are 73% water; poor hydration can have an adverse effect on how our brains function.

· The European Food Safety Authority’s scientific experts recommend an intake of 2.5 litres of water for men and 2.0 litres of water for women per day, via food and drink consumption. It is expected that 20% of this intake will come from food, meaning that men should be drinking 2.0 litres of fluids a day and women, 1.6 litres of fluids. This is a guideline for people in moderate environmental conditions and doing moderate physical activity and is supported by the Department of Health who recommend that we should drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day.

· Of the 6-8 glasses, water is the only fluid the British Nutrition Foundation says we should be drinking ‘plenty’ of; however, the average Briton drinks less than one glass of water a day.

· A survey by the Natural Hydration Council in April 2012 showed that almost 65% of the adult population are not drinking the minimum amount of water.

· Studies in adults show that even mild dehydration can reduce everyday mental performance and

 

I have to admit i am on of those people who really struggle with water intake, i have to constantly remind myself to drink water adn to keep hydrated. 

I learnt the hard way and my constant dehydration had a direct impact upon my training and my overall health. 

Water is truly the “fluid of life”, critical for the optimal function of all systems in your body. You are made up of over 3 trillion cells, all of which are constantly “talking” to one another to keep your body and brain running on all cylinders. Hydration is crucial to this communication; if your water intake from fluids and foods doesn’t meet your body’s demands, your health and performance will suffer.

How Do You Know If You’re Not Properly Hydrated?

Common symptoms of dehydration include a dry or sticky mouth (especially first thing in the morning), constipation (as your body draws from resources in the gut to make up for sub-optimal hydration), headaches, dry skin, decreased urine output, thirst and light-headedness.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to sub-optimal hydration, however the most common causes include intense exercise, training in hot weather, excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, diarrhea, fever and excessive sweating.  If symptoms of dehydration become severe, they require immediate medical attention. Extreme thirst, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fever, or increased breath rate are all red flags and are most commonly experienced during endurance competitions, in older adults, or when training in hot weather or at high altitudes.

Hydration & Exercise

While thirst may be a reliable indicator for some people to maintain the right level of hydration, the more active you are, the less reliable it becomes. Incredibly, a mere 2% drop in hydration can lead to an 8-10% decrease in your performance. If you wait until you “feel thirsty”, you’ve waited too long. Studies show that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  If maintaining high productivity or achieving a new personal best is your primary goal then it’s crucial to ensure you are getting sufficient water to meet your training demands.

However, the reality is that the optimal intake of water varies significantly from one individual to the next. Depending on your age, sex, body type, level of health and activity, your ideal water intake will vary. The standard general guideline is to consume 8 glasses of water daily, divided throughout the day. While this is a good tip for most people, a Paleo diet is rich in fruits and vegetables which provide you with added hydration, so you may not need the full 8 cups.

How can you tell if you’re getting enough fluids in through water and food? Drink enough water to keep the color of your urine light yellow to clear. The darker your urine becomes, generally the more dehydrated you are (however, if you’re taking B-vitamins, they make your urine bright yellow, so this tip won’t apply).

Are Sports Drinks the Best Option for Refueling During Exercise?

For most people, water is sufficient for rehydration during exercise. However, the more intensely you train or the longer you train (i.e. greater than 90 minutes), it’s important to add electrolytes to your water. If you’re a heavy sweater or train in warm climates, you might even need salt tablets to maintain sodium levels.

Sodium is critical for maintaining optimal cellular function and if your sodium levels fall below normal – a condition called hyponatremia – you may experience symptoms of fatigue, headache, confusion, loss of balance, muscle cramps and in severe cases seizures and coma. The “cleaner” your diet (aka Paleo diet), the more salt you should add to your food or water if exercising. Same goes if you’re a heavy sweater, add more salt to your food.

Coconut water is a great Paleo-friendly choice to maintain electrolyte balance during or after exercise. Alternatively, you can make your own homemade sports drink. Try the following recipe; mix ½ cup of honey with ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and 2-4 pints of water. This will provide you with the simple carbs and electrolytes you need to perform your best. If homemade is not your style, there are gels made from honey that can make a suitable replacement.

Although the body’s primary fuel choice is glucose, it’s important to remember that most sports drink companies use the cheaper form of sugar, sucrose (in order to improve their bottom line). Sucrose is comprised of one glucose molecule linked to one fructose molecule, and it is the fructose that you need to be wary of. If you consume too much fructose from sucrose-laden sports drinks, it delays gastric emptying (the movement of food from your stomach into your gut). This leads to cramps, abdominal discomfort and poor performance. Over-consumption of fruit has the same effect, so while dried fruit can be a nice source of instant fuel, be mindful not to overdo it as this can lead to significant bloating and discomfort!

Coffee, Alcohol and Dehydration

Coffee and alcohol are diuretics, meaning they increase your frequency of urination and can lead to excessive loss of fluids. While the research is clear that coffee and caffeine pills are ergogenic aids – improving performance by increasing work capacity and reducing your perceived exertion (i.e. how hard exercise feels) – it’s important not to overdo it. Excessive intake can lead to sub-optimal hydration and, in the long term, fatigue, poor performance, and adrenal dysfunction. I recommend clients limit coffee consumption to 1-2 cups of coffee, espresso, or Americano per day, and always have it before 1 p.m.

Regular alcohol intake can also deplete hydration and lead to dehydration. A recent study found that the average number of drinks on a night out for adults between the ages of 20-50 was 8-9 drinks, which is double the medical definition of a “binge drinking” night. Excessive alcohol intake leads to increased urination and also depletes important B-vitamins, amino acids, and key nutrients during liver detoxification.

To reduce the dehydrating effects of alcohol, make sure to drink a glass of water for every drink of alcohol, or alternatively mix hard alcohol with water or soda water (rather than soda pop or juice). The classic “hangover” results from dehydration so drinking a pint or two of water at the end of the night can also help prevent dehydration and headaches.

Don't underestimate the effects of drinking water ....