Universal Benefits of Hydration
Hydration affects performance and is one of the basic principles of a healthy lifestyle & nutrition program. As the weather starts to get warmer it’s even more important to focus on hydration.
We’ve all been told at one point to drink more water, and stay hydrated.
Listed below are 10 key benefits of water:
- Prevents constipation and enhances digestion
- Improves the tone of the skin creating a radiant glow
- Lubricates the joints for improved movement
- Hydrates the spinal discs to decrease back pain
- Decreases muscle cramping and fatigue
- Regulates body temperature
- Transports nutrients & oxygen
- Creates a sensation of fullness to prevent overeating
- Better moods and mental clarity
- Hydration affects performance and when done right, you’ll perform better
Varying opinions exist to explain how much water one requires on a daily basis. This variability is partly because each individual is unique. Exercise level, comorbidities, height, weight, and age must be factored into this equation. On average, a typical person will lose about 2-3 liters of water per day. This loss occurs through essential body functions such as breathing and sweating. Generally it is recommended to drink ½ your body weight in ounces. With that, I personally try to drink about eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day based on my body weight.
I have found that the easiest way to assess hydration is to look at the color of your urine. Cloudy or dark colored urine likely means you are not hydrated enough. On the contrary, clear, light colored urine is a sign of proper hydration.
Simple Ways to Increase Water Consumption
- Begin your day with a large glass of water
- Download an app to monitor hydration levels or set an alert on your phone
- Infuse your water with lemon or cucumber if you want more of a taste to your beverage
- Buy a large cup that you love and fill it throughout the day. Below I have linked to my favorite water bottles
My Favorite Water Bottles
1. YETI – I bring this to work because it looks less sporty and is so easy to travel with. I also bring it to the beach or the pool. You can purchase your own Yeti, here.
2. Hydroflask – this water bottle comes with us on bike rides and hikes. It fits well into the water bottle holder on a bike which is great! I also love the sporty feel of this water bottle. It keeps water cold for so long which is great for outdoor sports. You can purchase your own Hydroflask, here.
3. Reminder water bottle – this option is great for those who often forget to drink throughout the day. This water bottle is labeled which keeps you accountable for hydration needs. Purchase your own reminder bottle here.
Please note these are affiliate links and while this will not affect you, by using my link I will receive a very small commission from Amazon which is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance & I hope you enjoy these products as much as I do!
Hydration Needs of Athletes
If you are exercising regularly, please note that your hydration needs will increase as hydration affects performance. These are the hydration suggestions provided by the American Council on Exercise which you can refer to:
Intake 17 to 20 fl oz of water two to three hours before exercise
- During workout
Drink 5 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise (I personally find that drinking while running is not necessary since I only run an hour or less at a time)
Consume 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise
Electrolyte Needs of Athletes
Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride are the major electrolytes. Properly balanced electrolytes prevent muscle cramping, fatigue, and underperformance.
Athletes should be largely concerned with sodium as its function is to help retain water, thus affecting hydration. The mineral is primarily excreted through sweat. Everyone sweats at a different rate and excretes varying amounts of sodium through sweat. Remember too that environmental factors such as humidity and heat affect sweat rate as well as activity length and intensity. The balance between water intake and sweat/sodium excretion is important.
If you are looking for objective data to assess total hydration, weigh yourself before and after the activity. Urinate prior to this measurement and weigh yourself with no clothes on so that this is as accurate as possible. For simplicity purposes, assume that the change from pre to post workout weight is all fluid loss. A heavy sweater who completed a long run might come back 4 lbs lighter. I use the SMART TAKE scale. I love this scale because it connects using bluetooth to the phone so you can easily track your metrics. You can purchase the scale I have by clicking this link.
As mentioned above, the recommended formula is to drink 20-24 oz. for every pound lost. This should be combined with 150-300 mg of sodium replacement.
Instinctively, our bodies will alert us to thirst however signs of hyponatremia, or low sodium levels in the blood are less obvious. The most obvious signs of hyponatremia are feeling nauseous or bloated. It is really important to make sure you manipulate sodium intake to correlate with the amount of sweat lost. Even if you are not using a scale to obtain objective data, simply listen to your body and be aware of the need for electrolyte replenishment.
3 Common Methods to Replenish Electrolytes After an Intense Workout:
- Tablets: Salt sticks may prevent muscle cramping. This can provide the necessary sodium requirements after sweating to help you retain water. Follow the instructions on the bottle for dosing.
- Drinks: Avoid Gatorade type drinks which are filled with chemicals and sugar that does your body no good. Coconut water is a healthy, all natural alternative to electrolyte drinks. When I take hot yoga, coconut water is my “go to” for replenishment. You could also purchase electrolyte packs to put in your water if you don’t like the taste of coconut.
- Whole foods: Electrolytes are literally found in healthy foods and eating a plant based diet is one of the easiest ways to obtain vitamins and minerals. Although a plant based diet is not the sole way to replenish electrolytes, it will certainly help to eat foods like bananas, avocado, spinach, watermelon etc.
Hydration Affects Performance
Through my own trial and error and research, I learned that balancing hydration and electrolytes is key! I had a great interest in this topic because as most of you know, I shifted from practicing yoga everyday to developing a more diverse exercise routine. I now typically run about 20 miles a week but have difficulty sustaining that goal during each successive week, especially over a long period because of cramping. I was really confused as to why I was getting muscle cramping with running but not when I was sweating profusely through a hot yoga class.
It dawned on me during this research that I would drink a full 20oz cup of water during my yoga practice and after class I would drink about 12 oz of coconut water. When I practiced hot yoga, I was cramping less not because it was an easier form of exercise but because I was properly hydrated. Justin came with me to a Bikram yoga class and hours after class he became nauseous and sick. Despite his incredible athleticism and fitness level, he did not properly hydrate and replenish electrolytes for the amount of sweat produced during class.
In short, going forward, I am going to improve my runs by making sure I take electrolyte tablets and monitor my hydration to prevent muscle cramping. Over the course of the next couple months I plan to improve my hydration levels and closely monitor my symptoms.
I hope you found this information helpful and as usual if you have more questions or would like to have a discussion comment below or contact me here.