How much fluid should you be consuming and when are optimal hydration times?
Make sure you know the signs of dehydration. Your urine should always be clear and copious. Sports drinks may help with fueling you - but there is little to no performance benefits when compared to just having water.
If you live an active lifestyle, it’s essential to stay well fueled and hydrated. We’ve all heard the old saying that we should be drinking 2,000ml (8 cups) of water per day, but if we are taking our health and fitness seriously, then we need to start by looking at the basics of hydration.
First of all, let's take things a step back. There is something even more important than keeping your body fuelled by staying well hydrated. We have to make sure we don’t let ourselves slip into the dangerous territory of dehydration. We need to be especially vigilant of this when we are active.
The harder you workout and the hotter the environment, the more fluid you will lose. During an hour of vigorous exercise, an average person can expect to lose around one litre of fluid – possibly two litres in very humid conditions, like Hong Kong in the summer. Headaches and muscle cramping can be early indicators of dehydration. At just a 2% loss of fluid, movement can begin to be impaired and we see a spike in body temperature. At a 4% loss of fluid, you can start to see some seriously scary effects such as altered judgement, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Anything above 5% (depending on the individual) can be seriously life threatening.
Even at the highest level of activity and fitness it is extremely important to stay aware of these signs of dehydration. It’s common to want to push yourself harder and harder when it comes to fitness, but if you start seeing these signs, you need to take things down a notch and get a hold of some water.
Now when it comes to properly fueling your body by staying hydrated, there are a few easy tricks to make sure you have enough water flowing through you. The first of these is P=C². This is just an easy way for you to remember that your Pee should always be Clear and Copious.
Another easy rule of thumb is to take your body weight in kg, multiply it by 30 and drink that amount in millilitres per day (or if you’re weighing yourself in pounds, divide your weight by 2 and drink that much in ounces per day).
However this is only the beginning. As active, health-inspired, people the time of day we drink water can significantly impact our performance. The following are the key times to hydrate:
First thing in the morning, before your cup of coffee, smoothies or breakfast food, drink a glass of water. Water is your body’s most efficient jump start. It gives all of your vital organs a kick, encourages blood flow, and revs up your metabolism.
After your waking glass of water, here are the most important times for you to get some more:
Now, let's move into the water vs. “sports drinks” debate. Basically, water provides ample replenishment for fluids lost during activities lasting less than an hour. Studies suggest we will gain more from hypotonic (small amounts of added electrolytes and sugars) or isotonic (no added salt or sugar) sports drinks if an activity lasts for over two hours. Most sports drinks are moderately isotonic, having about 4-5g of sugar per 175ml serving.
Even though there are some sports drinks with a very high sodium content, a recent study conducted by the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine in the UK suggests that there are no real performance benefits gained from a drink containing high amounts of sodium. The high sodium levels, at best, are there to combat hyponatremia, a debilitating condition achieved by heavy sweat loss. But we should maintain some level of doubt about that, it's much more likely that the sodium helps do what the real use is in sports drinks: flavor.
Sports drinks will lure you in with advertising that makes you think it will help you to perform like a top level athlete, when in truth, you are more often than not better off just having some normal drinking water instead. But after they lure you in with those advertisements, they will hook you with the taste. The sugar and sodium may have some small positive effect, but the much more likely outcome is that they will have little to no positive effect for you, and you will crave the drinks each time you work out.
Unless you are being active for more than 2 hours, stay away from sports drinks, and treat your body to some filtered drinking water instead.
To wrap all of this up, there are only 3 simple things you need to remember when it comes to proper hydration.