Staying hydrated is quite possibly the most important thing we can do for our health aside from breathing! Without sufficient fluid, we’d be dead in a matter of days.
Our bodies are made up of nearly 60% water so it goes without saying we have to ensure we keep ourselves hydrated to maintain homeostasis.
Every cell in our body is mainly water, therefore in order to function properly our cells need correct hydration.
But how can we be sure we are drinking enough?
Well there are many factors at play here; the temperature, our level of activity, our muscle mass, our overall size, our sex to name but a few. On average, we all need 2-3 litres of water per day but I’m not suggesting you measure it out!
There are several tell-tale signs that you are either near to dehydration or already dehydrated;
- Thirst. If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated however this is usually the first physical sign that our body wants some fluid. It is not critical at this stage but drink as soon as you can.
- Tiredness. The body struggles to function efficiently without the right level of hydration leading to a feeling of sluggishness and fatigue.
- Hunger. People often think they are hungry when they are actually dehydrated. This can cause weight gain, always be sure you are well hydrated before you assume you need food.
- Headache. A lack of water causes the brain to shrink ever so slightly. This stimulates pain receptors (telling you to get a drink) causing a headache. If it has got to this stage an intake of fluid is essential.
- Dry tongue. Dehydration prevents your body from producing sufficient saliva and as a result your tongue may feel dry.
- Colour of urine. This is an excellent indicator of how hydrated you are. Ideally your urine should be a pale yellow almost clear. The darker it is the more dehydrated you are; if it is brown in colour you are extremely dehydrated and fluid is needed urgently.
- Decreased blood pressure. Blood is about 90% water so a lack fluid in the body leads to a decrease in the fluidity of you blood which can cause a drop in blood pressure.
These are just some of the symptoms we should look out for.
We lose moisture every time we breathe, when we perspire and when we pass waste products from our body. Any water that is lost needs replacing to maintain optimum hydration. In today’s society, we have no excuses, drinking water flows straight from our taps and there are thousands of options at nearby convenience stores and supermarkets.
Day to day with minimal exertion it should be easy to keep hydrated but if we are exercising we should pay closer attention.
If we are dehydrated by 5% for example this can impair athletic performance by 30%. That is a massive amount when you are competing or at least trying to achieve personal goals in the gym.
My advice is to always have a bottle of water to hand; leave one in your car, one at your desk, one in your daysack and always take one to the gym.
Add a pinch of salt to your water bottle. When we sweat, we lose essential salts and our body can’t efficiently absorb water without these salts so we need to replace them. Don’t worry you won’t taste it.
For the perfect post workout hydration drink try this;
- 1/3 pint of fresh orange juice (no added sugar)
- 2/3 pint of water
- Pinch of salt
Mix and drink.