|By Dr. Christine Davis|
Proper hydration is imperative for optimal health, superior body composition and maximum athletic performance. Without proper hydration, your body will become dehydrated, limiting your ability to function at peak capacity. You lose water throughout the day when you breathe, sweat and go to the bathroom. The water content in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink combine to hydrate your body. Drinking 8 cups of water each day is usually sufficient for the average person, but if you’re a hard training athlete, you are most likely going to need more for peak performance.
Without proper hydration, your body will become dehydrated, limiting your ability to function at peak capacity.
Drinking water keeps your body tissues moist, flushes out harmful toxins and makes nutrients more readily available. It is also involved in getting oxygen to cells throughout the body and regulating body temperature. This is why staying hydrated is so vital when training hard or competing in your sport. Your body’s demand for oxygen increases during physical activity and your internal temperature rises. In fact, even a minimal fluid loss can affect aerobic performance and reduce your level of physical endurance. Inadequate hydration can fatigue your muscles, reduce your coordination, make you dizzy and cause muscle cramps. The goal during exercise is to drink before signs of dehydration occur. Ideally, try to drink 2 cups of water two hours before training and continue to drink 1 cup of water every 20 minutes while you’re training hard. Other common benefits of proper hydration include:
- Helps to control cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause excessive weight gain and oxidative stress to the brain. High cortisol levels also impair your ability to build muscle.
- Helps to detoxify your kidneys and liver, especially from environmental pollution and the poisons we unknowingly eat
- Helps with the absorption of your vitamins and minerals
- Helps to protect your body from injury by lubricating the joints (will help your knee heal faster)
Fatigue is the most common symptom of dehydration. Other common dehydration symptoms include; muscle cramps, fogginess, dizziness, light-headedness, headache, thirst and dry mouth/skin/lips. If you are unsure about whether you are currently drinking enough fluids each day, the color of your urine can be a good guideline. If you’re well-hydrated, it should be light yellow in color. The darker in color it gets, the more dehydrated you may be. Keep in mind, other variables may alter this including high supplement usage or medical conditions (such as kidney disease). Another test is to pinch the skin on the outer part of your hand or forearm. If the skin tents, meaning it stays in place and doesn’t quickly bounce back then this is a warning sign that you are dehydrated.
Drink 2 cups of water two hours before training and continue to drink 1 cup of water every 20 minutes while you’re training hard.
When choosing fluids to help you meet your daily hydration requirements, water is the ideal choice first and foremost. Water will help keep you properly hydrated without the unwanted calories, dyes and sugars found in sports drinks, sodas or juices. However, very vigorous activities can warrant the use of carbohydrates and electrolyte replacements drinks. To keep it interesting and add some zest, use slices of lemon or lime in your water. Herbal teas, such as peppermint, berry or chamomile can “count” towards your daily fluid intake but rely on them solely. Sipping water throughout the day is the best strategy as drinking too quickly can reduce absorbability. Furthermore, drinking water at meals might not be ideal. It can be beneficial for weight loss as it can make you fuller, however, it will also dilute your digestive juices. Drinking in-between meals is a better strategy.
To determine your optimal water intake, a simple guideline you can follow is 0.6 ounces of water per every pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 180 pounds, your goal will be to drink about 14 eight ounce glasses of water a day.
Use strategies to help increase your fluid intake. Carry a stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go and make sure you finish it by the end of the day. Set reminders on your phone to drink water, or use post-it-note reminders. If you’re feeling groggy during the day, try drinking a glass of water instead of reaching for coffee or tea. Coffee and tea are diuretics, meaning they increase water loss from the body, and can actually be more dehydrating. For every caffeinated cup of tea or coffee, make sure you add an extra cup of water. Try drinking at least 2 cups of water first thing when you wake up to get the day started and you will be well on your way to staying hydrated and peforming at your best!
Dr. Christine Davis is a Naturopathic Doctor currently practicing in Aurora at the Magna Health Centre. Dr. Christine Davis obtained an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto. Upon graduation, she completed a four-year program in Naturopathic Medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Naturopaths emphasize an individualized approach using a variety of different modalities including acupuncture, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, nutritional supplementation, counselling and cutting-edge western medical research.
Christine has a special interest in athletics, weight management, detoxification and fitness. Christine is an avid fitness enthusiast who also enjoys skiing, snowboarding and swimming. She loves spending time outdoors and believes in practicing what you preach. She is passionate about food and emphasizes natural sources when designing nutrition plans that optimizes your wellbeing and addresses your individual health and performance needs. Christine is excited about health and she encourages and empowers each individual with new skills to achieve their personal fitness goals.