The Rules of Hydration

The Rules of Hydration

You know that image of a person staggering through the desert, barely able to speak and hallucinating a mirage in the distance? That's the extreme way dehydration affects the mind. After all, drinking fluids is crucial to maintaining every system in your body, including your heart, brain and muscles. And just being somewhat parched—after a workout, a walk in the summer sun or some weekend yard work—can take a serious toll on your body and reflexes.

Cognitive function wilts as water departs the body, a study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found. The data pointed to functions like attention, coordination and complex problem solving suffering the most. It turns out, our neurons are largely made up of water. When the body is deprived of water, it affects how well signals are transmitted and received in the brain and your concentration takes a hit. 

You start to feel sluggish, and both your mood and energy drops. “There's already a lot of quantitative documentation that dehydration affects physical abilities like muscle endurance or sports tasks and your ability to regulate your body temperature," says Mindy Millard-Stafford, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biological Sciences and the study's principal investigator. Now, it's clear that it's inhibiting your concentration as well.

Plain and simple: Hydration matters, says sports nutritionist Will Girling. He quoted research that points to the drop in performance caused by just losing just two percent of the water in your bodyweight. And that’s all too common—especially this time of year. As the mercury rises, hydration is more important than ever. 

The upside is that all this sunny weather means more of us are happy to be outside, working out, doing chores or just having fun. The danger is that it puts us at risk of dehydration, which increases cardiovascular strain, glycogen utilization and muscle lactate to make things like simple movements feel much harder than they should. The key, of course, is drinking more water. To help you hydrate, these are the rules our experts advise us to follow.



Always Pre-Hydrate

Whether you’re going for a run or an outdoor bike ride, or simply a sweaty indoor gym session, an athlete’s hydration plan should kick in early. Girling says he always reminds his clients to hydrate before a workout. He recommends aiming for about 20 ounces of water two hours beforehand. Especially if you plan to workout in the morning. Sleep is inherently dehydrating, as your body loses fluids during the night and doesn’t take in any. As a result, Marni Sumbal, nutritionist and author of Essential Sports Nutrition, stresses that it’s key to start hydrating first thing in the morning.

Take Your Exercise and Environment into Account

If you’re doing any activity that makes you sweat, then you need to drink extra water to cover the resulting fluid loss. Remember, it’s vital to drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout. Especially when the weather is hot or humid—this will make you sweat even more and so it requires additional fluid to rehydrate. Keep in mind that dehydration also can occur at higher altitudes.

Don’t Sleep on Electrolytes

Sweating is basically your body’s natural defense system against overheating. The only downside is that when you sweat, you lose electrolytes. And those are important minerals (including sodium and potassium). Your electrolytes support a number of bodily functions, including energy production. Girling says you need to replace those lost electrolytes immediately after a sweat session. If not, you could see a decline in your performance. Or worst, you can get hyponatremia (low blood sodium) which can be very serious. So down a sports drink or a powdered supplement like LMNT to revive your electrolyte stores.

Make Meal Time Water Time

A simple way to hit your hydration goals—whatever they may be— is to make a habit of drinking at least one glass of water with every meal. If you eat three meals per day, this adds around 24 ounces to your daily water intake. And if you don’t like plain water, you could always flavor it with zero-calorie drops like Mio. During other times of day, schedule water break reminders on your phone. These will help you establish a more regular rhythm of drinking water and soon, you'll be drinking more without even thinking about it.

Check Your Body’s Barometer

Your urine should always be pale yellow. If you're not peeing regularly or if the color is darker in color, it's a sign you need to drink more. Keep in mind that some multivitamins and supplements can turn it a bright yellow, and your first pee of the day is usually darker than the rest.

* Double-walled and vacuum-sealed, this stainless steel water bottle is the go-to for the Olivers team, since it’s easy to handle and maintains your beverage temperature.

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