Much like the surface of the earth we live on, our bodies are made up of 70% water. Our body is playing a very delicate balancing act and a tiny drop below our normal hydration levels can have severe implications to our performance, recovery and body composition. Now there are two important elements to hydration that I want to cover and that is exercise hydration and day to day hydration.
During some workouts we sweat. Sweating is not necessarily an indication of a good workout it’s just your body regulating its core temperature, scientists call this thermoregulation. Some people sweat just walking up the stairs, some people don’t sweat in the sahara desert. The amount that you sweat is largely down to genetics but if you’ve ever had the misfortune of sweating so much that your eyebrows don’t work you will get sweat in your eyes. Which stings like hell. This is due to the salt and mineral content of our sweat. These stores of minerals are raided during intense exercise as they’re needed to help contract your muscles and thus become depleted. It is essential that we restock this post workout in order to help with our recovery. Unfortunately just drinking water isn’t enough; in fact drinking sterilized bottled water can have the opposite effect and further wash away our mineral stores. Ever felt like no matter how much water you drink your thirst can’t be quenched? Well this very well might be the reason. If the water does not contain its natural minerals (which have been eradicated during sterilization) then we are just further washing away our mineral stores.
So what do I do? Well, it might be as simple as adding salt to your water. Sodium is one of a few different electrolytes that our body uses for r a variety of different uses. Try adding a quarter teaspoon to begin with. However, if you’re not a fan of salt water, a good electrolyte tablet or powder, I recommend Supplement Needs Electrolyte powder to my clients (https://www.supplementneeds.co.uk/products/supplement-needs-electrolyte-180g?_pos=1&_sid=8db5ad27f&_ss=r) Coconut water has a pretty similar effect and is more regularly available in shops. It’s full of potassium and even a small amount can replenish your mineral stores post workout. Stick to the smaller cartons as they are quite calorific and drinking a litre of coconut water is a bit excessive in my opinion. These are great at hydrating you fast and effectively due to its electrolyte content.
Now unless you’ve been living under a rock you have probably seen electrolytes knocking around on sports recovery drinks, most notably Lucozade. Now if you’re training for a marathon and exercising at a high intensity well past the 60 minute mark then these highly sugar laden recovery drinks may be of some use. However, If you’re looking to reduce body fat levels and fit into that dress you’ve always dreamed of then these drinks do come with added calories which you’ll have to take into account if you’re dieting.
Day to Day Hydration
Right back to fluids. Try and stay consistent with your intake of water throughout the day, tapering off in the evening. If you’re attempting to drink the recommended 1 litre of water per 25kg of bodyweight you might be drinking a lot (that’s 3.5liters a day for me). If you consume large quantities at random intervals you will be going to the toilet 100 times a day which could start vicious rumours at work and annoy friend and family due to your child sized bladder. For those of you who do begin to increase your fluid intake the regularity with which you will need to go to the loo will subside I promise, your body just isn’t used to having so much water. Your kidneys will thank you.
As best you can stick to water. I know it’s not very glamourous. If you don’t like the taste (which I understand completely) at least make sure it’s cold. Other fluids that are good for body composition and contain anti-oxidants are Black Coffee and Teas. Black coffee is everywhere and if you’re like me you might have a mild/crippling caffeine dependency, so if you want a low calorie caffeine boost you can’t go wrong with a black coffee. Teas are wonderful as well. Green Tea, Mint Tea, Chilli Chocolate tea, peach ice tea whatever you’re looking for. Check for calorie content in some teas at Starbucks for example, they love to throw in extra sugar, if you can ask for sweetener instead.
We can become dehydrated in a number of ways. Our stores of water are always being used but the rate at which they diminish depends on a few things. The hotter our surroundings the more we’ll sweat and our water stores start to plummet. The foods we eat can have a dehydrating effect on us depending upon their salt content. A large pizza or a pack of crisps has high salt content and this can dehydrate us. Now salt can be good and bad. As I mentioned earlier coloured salt has low sodium content and can help replenish our mineral stores. I also hope that most people realise that your urine should be straw coloured. Clear is too hydrated, the darker it is the more dehydrated you are and if it’s luminescent then you’re either ill or hungover and you’ve probably slipped a Beroca into your drink and this is completely natural.
n.b. when you have hunger cravings, even soon after eating a meal just make sure that you’re not dehydrated. Our body can get confused by the signals it sends and sometimes dehydration can be misinterpreted as hunger. Have a large glass of cold water and see if you’re still hungry after that.
The better hydrated you stay the more energy you will have, the faster your body can recover, you’ll have better concentration, will sleep better and be able to perform at a greater level. The vast majority of our mass is made up of water, why would you not want to keep these levels optimal?
Things to take away from this blog:
- Drink 1 litre per 25kg of bodyweight.
- Drink electrolytes upon waking, pre or post workout.
- Be mindful of the calorie content of sugary recovery drinks.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day.
- The darker your urine the more dehydrated you are.