How Important Is Hydration, Really?

How Important Is Hydration, Really?

When it comes to our overall health, hydration likely sits atop the pyramid of needs.

The benefits of working out, getting enough sleep and eating right can all be derailed if you’re not getting enough water into your system, says Dr. Dana Cohen, author of the book Quench. Simply put, water is the very fuel our bodies require to be active. When we exercise, several areas of our body fight for necessary fluids. The skin tries to cool the body down with sweat. Our muscles need blood to carry them oxygen and nutrients while removing waste products. And the heart requires extra blood to maintain a consistent cardiac output. But if you’re dehydrated and your blood volume is reduced, your body can’t meet all of these demands. Here are five reasons to stay hydrated when you’re training (and even when you’re not).

It's vital before a workout or game

It’s important to hydrate ahead of any physical activity, says Dr. Cohen. You’re taking a protective stance, and getting your tissues prepared for exertion. And while plain water is fine, she’s also a fan of making an ultra-hydrating sports drink by adding sea salt, chia seeds and a little kombucha. Or adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into regular water, for an energizing and nutrient-rich drink.

Next time you think you might be hungry, down a glass of water, wait five minutes and you’ll likely be satiated.

It powers muscle function

Our cells need water to synthesize energy. That’s especially important if you want to get through a tough workout. And it’s water that gives you the “pump” you feel in your muscles after a good lift session. But water also keeps muscles strong: Even a tiny—just 1.5%—decrease in hydration has been found to limit your ability during strength training.

It helps you tolerate more pain

Want to get through a particularly grueling workout? Drink up. According to research published in the journal Psychophysiology, gulping down some H2O can boost your pain tolerance. Researchers found that our perception and sensitivity to pain is significantly higher when deprived of water. Keep that in mind the next time you want to push for a personal record or recover in an ice bath.

It keeps you lean

You’ve heard before that people confuse hunger with dehydration. Next time you think you might be hungry, down a glass of water, wait five minutes and you’ll likely be satiated. Plus, downing a glass can actually kickstart your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces of water increases resting metabolism by 10–30% for about an hour.

It’s not always as easy as chugging water

“Simply drinking more water is not the most effective way to get optimally hydrated,” says Dr. Cohen. “Eating more hydrating foods, like raw fruits and vegetables, along with moving is a much more effective way of hydrating.” The doctor says movement plays a key role in moving water through your fascia—the connective tissue responsible for hydrating our bodies. She likens it to a washcloth. “When you twist, you’re wringing out old waste water, and when you release the twist, you’re sucking up fresh fluids full of oxygen.” Do this, and you’ll have more energy, focus and flexibility.

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