Hydration And Why It’s So Important

Everyone knows hydration is important. This is especially true during the hot summer months. But WHY it’s so important often alludes us. Today, we’re going to explore where to find good sources of hydration and its impact on our health.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “the first formal and widely disseminated guidelines for fluid intake were published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in 1996 (Convertino et al., 1996). In the following two decades, knowledge of how water and electrolyte losses affect human performance has continued to expand.”

So, if you’re like so many other people and relying on hydration data from the 90’s, then perhaps it’s time to upgrade your understanding. Let’s dive in!

What are good sources of hydration?

First and foremost, good ole water! Water constitutes roughly 50-70% of our total body mass. According to Jennifer Klau, Ph.D., as little as a 2% deficit can have a profound impact on our mental and physical well-being.

Whoa!

So, what do we do? Evidence suggests that we consume water “Ad-libitum” which means, “as much or as often as needed or desired.” The general rule of thumb is to drink water as often as you feel the sensation of being thirsty.

Now, remember, this pertains to water. While most drinks do contain water, not all are created equal. Here’s a quick list of drinks to avoid as they often have excess sugar, carbs, and unhealthy additives:

  • Sodas (all)
  • Alcohol (all)
  • Energy drinks (all)
  • Other sugar-sweetened beverages

What does that leave? Well, water, of course! But here’s a list of other beverages that can be easily added to your daily ritual:

  • Water
  • Coffee (unsweetened is preferable)
  • Tea (unsweetened is preferable)

Limit the following:

  • Fruit juices
  • Cow’s milk
  • Sports drinks
  • Sparkling water (unsweetened is preferable)
  • Coconut water (look for raw, organic, and unsweetened)
  • Kombucha (be careful as these can have hidden sugar)

QUICK TIP: remember, hydration is about health, not taste or pleasure. But that doesn’t mean it has to taste bad to be good. Try adding a little lime or lemon to your water.

Remember that many fruits contain water but also contain sugars. So, in moderation, eating a handful-sized quantity can be helpful with your hydration plan and also give you some needed fiber. Not to mention, the act of chewing also burns calories– win!

In fact, a recent study found that drinking as little as .5 liter (or 16 oz) of water increased energy expenditure at rest by 30% for about 90 minutes (Horswill & Janas 2011)! So, get drinking that water!

Wait, what about sports drinks?

Sports drinks have remained mostly unchanged since they were first introduced. Their main purpose is to replenish electrolytes from sweat loss during intense and prolonged training. Their primary ingredients are as follows:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium

The Standard American Diet typically has plenty of sodium making consumption of more sodium generally unnecessary.

However, foods that are rich in potassium and magnesium are bananas and almonds, respectively. So, a medium banana and quick handful of almonds 30-45 minutes before a workout can have a positive impact on naturally replenishing your body’s electrolytes.

But, what if you don’t have time for that? Well, sports drinks could be helpful. That said, read the labels! Many sports drinks now contain excess sugar (not good) at the expense of giving you the electrolytes you need.

QUICK TIP: electrolyte drinks are best consumed DURING intense and prolonged training. Also, consider diluting the drink with water. Lastly, coconut water contains all the essential elements for a natural electrolyte drink (but read the labels!).

So, where do I begin?

According to Jennifer Klau, Ph.D., “adequate fluid intake for male and female adults are 3.7L/day (15 cups) and 2.7L/day (8 cups), respectively.”

Going back to what we discussed earlier, experts agree that a person should consume water as they feel the sensation of being thirsty. This is your body’s natural signal that you need more hydration.

For some people, keeping a hydration log can be very useful especially if they’re an athlete. There are several helpful mobile apps that can with this.

For others, limiting certain beverages (soda, alcohol, energy drinks, etc) is a great first step.

In fact, here are a few suggestions to help you:

  • Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. To reduce your costs, carry a reusable water bottle and refill it.
  • Drink water before, during, and after a workout.
  • When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water. Drinking water may also contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan. Some research suggests that drinking water can help you feel full.
  • If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, drink water when you wake up, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and when you go to bed. Or, drink a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour.
  • Drink water when you go to a restaurant. It will keep you hydrated, and it’s free.
  • Consume 500 ml upon waking and again before bed. Then, as needed throughout the day.

Congratulations! You’re now on your way to living a healthier lifestyle simply by being more mindful of your hydration. Of course, this is only the beginning. Easily support this new habit by surrounding yourself with a community of people who will support your healthy decisions. How? Join a FREE session at Invictus where REAL people like you are getting REAL results for the REAL world!

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