Water is essential to life. A few days without it could result in death - it's that important. So considering a hydration strategy, especially when working out in the heat is essential to overall health. We lose water through respiration, sweating as well as urinary and fecal output. Exercise speeds up the rate of water loss making intense exercise, especially in the heat, a possibility of leading to cramping, dizziness and heat exhaustion or heat stroke if adequate fluid intake isn't met. Correct fluid intake is an important priority for exercisers and non-exercisers in the heat. Water makes up 60% of our bodies. So it's incredibly important to for many different roles in the body.
The Role of Hydration In The Body:
Water has many important jobs. From a solvent to a mineral source, water plays a part in in many different functions. Here are some of water's important jobs:
- Water acts as a solvent or a liquid that can dissolve other solids, liquids and gases. It can carry and transport these things in a number of ways. Two of water's most important roles are the fact that water transports nutrients to cells and carries waste products away from cells.
- In the presence of water, chemical reactions can proceed when they might be impossible otherwise. Because of this, water acts as a catalyst to speed up enzymatic interactions with other chemicals.
- Drink up because water acts as a lubricant! That means that water helps lubricate joints and acts as a shock absorber for the eyes and spinal cord.
- Body hydration and fluid exchange help regulate body temperature. Don't be afraid to sweat! It helps regulate your body temperature. When we begin to sweat, we know that body temperature has increased. As sweat stays on the skin, it begins to evaporate which lowers the body temperature.
- Did you know that water contains minerals? Drinking water is important as a source of calcium and magnesium. When drinking water is processed, pollutants are removed and lime or limestone is used to re-mineralize the water adding the calcium and magnesium into the water. Because re-mineralization varies depending on the location of the quarry, the mineral content can also vary.
Which Factors Determine How Much Water We Need:
What factors affect how much water we need? All of the following help determine how much water we need to take in.
Climate - Warmer climates may increase water needs by an additional 500 mL (2 cups) of water per day.
Physical activity demands - More or more intense exercise will require more water - depending on how much exercise is performed, water needs could double.
How much we've sweated - The amount of sweating may increase water needs.
Body size - Larger people will likely require more water and smaller people will require less.
Thirst - Also an indicator of when we need water. Contrary to popular believe that when we are thirsty we need water, thirst isn't usually perceived until 1-2% of bodyweight is lost. At that point, exercise performance decreases and mental focus and clarity may drop off.
We know why water is important but how do we go about hydrating properly? Fluid balance or proper hydration is similar to energy balance (food intake vs output). It is important to avoid fluid imbalance for health.
We get water not only through the beverages we consume but also through some of the food we eat. Fruits and vegetables in their raw form have the highest percentage of water. Cooked or "wet" carbohydrates like rice, lentils and legumes have a fair amount of water where fats like nuts, seeds and oils are very low in water content.
Fluid Needs By Bodyweight:
One of the easiest way to determine how much water you need is by body weight. This would be the basic amount you need daily without exercise. *Yes, you'll need to find a metric converter like this one to do the math.
Water Needs: 30 - 40 mL of water per 1 kg of bodyweight
Example: if you weigh 50 kg (110 lb), you would need 1.5 L - 2 L of water per day.
You should be drinking water consistently (not all at one time) throughout the day. The body can only absorb a certain amount of water at a time. Any overzealous drinking could lead to health issues.
Thirst - As stated above, if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
Urine - The color of your urine is also an indicator of your hydration level.
colorless to slightly yellowish - hydrated
soft yellow - hydrated
pale gold - hydrated
gold, dark gold or light brown - possible light to moderate dehydration
brown - dehydrated
Hydration + Electrolyte Strategy:
These easy steps will help you to hydrate daily plus before and after workouts.
1. Determine how much water you need to drink on a daily basis using the body weight formula above.
2. Pre-hydration - Drinking about 2 cups of water BEFORE intense exercise ensures adequate hydration to start.
3. During Exercise - 1 cup (8 ounces) of water mixed with electrolytes (about 3/4 water to 1/4 electrolyte) every 15 minutes approximately.
4. After Exercise - Fluid intake is required to assist in recovery. Recovering with a mix of water, protein and carbs is a great idea in addition to electrolytes if needed. Formula: Approximately 15g of protein, 30g of carbs, electrolytes and water.