For many of us who exercise on a regular basis, drinking water is very often used as a stop gap between sets or a well-earned break to catch our breath. But do we know why we are drinking, and how much?!
Hydration is very much overlooked as an essential part of our exercise preparation and process. Taking on water is something that has been instilled in us from our youth playing days, but for what reason? And are we properly hydrated?
Part of the issue with poor hydration is a lack of understanding regarding the importance of water during exercise, and actually appreciating the reason why we drink it.
Whether you’re a serious athlete or simply exercise for recreation and weight loss, a water break is not just a time for idle chitchat. Efficient hydration simply means getting the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise.
But why do we do it? Well, water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints, it helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its optimal level. As a result you may feel tired, may experience muscle cramps, dizziness, amongst other potentially more serious symptoms.
A simple check to see if you are properly hydrated is to use the bathroom and check your urine. That’s right, have a quick look down and if your urine is colourless or light yellow, then it is highly likely that you are sufficiently hydrated. However, if you are weeing a golden or dark yellow colour then your urine lacks water and is poorly hydrated. This quick check can be done before or after exercise as a marker to ensure you are drinking enough.
If you are one of those people that think “it’s only a quick jog” or “my session only lasts 30mins” and don’t think it’s a big deal, well think again. Dehydration can occur when you neglect your hydration needs, leading to issues such as a loss of coordination, muscle fatigue, cramps and exhaustion. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that checking your urine colour is a great idea to constantly assess your level of hydration by examining output and colour. From here you can manage your own hydration levels and maximise your performance and recovery.
How much is a good question, well the NHS recommends approximately 2 litres of water a day, but do we actually know what that means? 6 to 10 glasses of water a day usually gets you up to the mark. But don’t forget you absorb some water from foods too.
Don’t be afraid to mix up this intake, normal tea and coffee can be included into this daily consumption. However they are both a diuretic, which makes you wee more frequently, although both drinks do contain enough water to make up for this loss.
What about sports drinks, I hear you shouting at your screen? Well usually water is all you need for efficient hydration. But I do understand this isn’t always the case when you’re desperately reaching for something to drink before during or after exercise. Just be aware that a lot of sports drinks are laden with sugar and calories, which can reduce the health benefits of this extra fluid consumption. If you are exercising at a high intensity for longer than an hour, a sports drink may be helpful to support the sustained performance requirement. The sugar, the calories and potassium, as well as other nutrients in sports drinks, can provide enough energy to help you maintain your performance for longer.
Hydration is especially important for those of you who enjoy a morning workout. Although if a morning workout is not your cup of tea, then just remember that you have awoken from an 8 to 10 hour fast, and now require rehydration. Either way hydration during this time of day is key! Proper hydration first thing in the morning improves the quality of your workout, reduces fatigue, reduces recovery time, and increases your level of satisfaction. As the day progresses to mid-morning, good hydration continues to be important to enable you to support your digestive system, maintain your focus and recover from that morning workout you dragged yourself to. Again, keep an eye on your urine to maintain your hydration levels. If it’s looking like apple juice, then go fill up your water bottle and get sipping throughout the day.
Sufficient hydration has always been noted as an essential ingredient to weight loss. Water is inexpensive and easier to come by than many other weight loss diets and fads. The most direct way that water helps increase weight loss results boils down to the way your body absorbs water (excuse the pun). Depending on the temperature of the water, your body works hard to heat it up or cool it down to body temperature, in order for your body to do something with it. This process requires energy in itself and to create this energy, your body burns calories. Over time this can make a huge impact on your body fat levels allowing you to feel better on the inside as well as looking better on the outside. Also, making sure you’re properly hydrated will limit the occurrences where we may be confusing thirst for hunger!