The last time we talked about water, I left you with this advice: DRINK UP!
Did you? Let’s expand that theme.
What do you consider before deciding what to drink during the course of the day? Is it tasty? Is it convenient? Is it hot or cold? Is it carbonated? Is it fashionable? Is it sugar-free? Is it sugar-added? Is it enough to help your body run at optimal levels?
And there it is: the last question can be the least considered, even for some of us who are diligent about a healthy diet. Getting enough fluids throughout the day might be the least of your worries, but should be at the top of your list for healthful living.
One of the most common reasons you should pay attention to hydrating your body sufficiently is increased activity, or exercise. Dr. Mike McDonald, D.O. of Bryan, Texas, advises us that, “It’s always better to hydrate before exercise.”
Why before, you ask?
Muscles are comprised mostly of water, so it makes sense that if they’re fully hydrated before a workout, you’ll benefit from increased performance. If you wait to fully hydrate as you are exercising, your workouts will be diminished. Who wants to go to the trouble of working out if you aren’t going to reap the full benefits? Not to mention, if you are dehydrated before a workout, your performance can be diminished as much as 45%!
As a lifelong runner, I know the importance of constantly hydrating, especially on the days prior to a workout, but it doesn’t mean I always accomplish my goal. I can tell you that when I haven’t consumed enough, I pay for it during my workouts with a lack of energy and endurance. Even a small amount of dehydration is noticeable.
Oh Doctor Mike, how I could have used your sage wisdom in my reckless youth!
Speaking of dehydration, Dr. Mike thought he’d be hard-pressed to find a soul in South Texas (where the interview took place) that wasn’t in some state of dehydration. “Most people just don’t drink enough water.” Whoa. When he offered that tidbit I’ll be honest, I felt smug, as if I was that one soul that wasn’t in a state of dehydration, then I thought of my own consumption up to that moment and realized that I’d been outside for the last hour and a half, in high temps and humidity and hadn’t had anything to drink. Not one drop. “When you are outdoors, you need to drink more water.”
I was busted. The smuggity smug gal that drinks water all day long was most likely in need of a long cool drink. I immediately knew that if a natural water drinker was probably in a state of dehydration, then reluctant hydrators weren’t getting what they needed either.
Most people are well-informed enough to know that when you’re exerting yourself or live in a hot or high humidity climate you should drink more fluids. It’s a no-brainer. But that’s merely a start. Your body can benefit from more than the usual amount of 8 glasses of water a day (some of this amount can and should come from the foods you eat) in many other cases. Situations that can rapidly lead to dehydration, i.e. causing your body, mind or spirit to suffer, are as follows:
In the first three examples, your body will need more than just straight water replacement.
Dr. Mike weighs in: “When people are dehydrated, I recommend a solution mixture of ½ Gatorade (or any electrolyte replacement drink) and ½ water. The sodium in this mixture shouldn’t pose a problem because you need salt. But to just drink straight Gatorade would be too heavy.”
The fourth on the list, high altitude, forces your body to burn through its available liquid stash with heavier-than-usual breathing and more trips to the bathroom (who knew?!).
Last on our list is pregnancy. Making another human-being requires a higher intake of fluids needed to support extra blood volume and general baby building, not to mention Momma needs something liquid to swallow those horse vitamins. Add breastfeeding afterwards, and you have an increased need for extra fluids.
Those who focus on healthful living, yet haven’t given a well-hydrated body much thought, would do well to reevaluate. The benefits are too many to ignore; it’s one of the easiest, inexpensive, and reciprocal gifts we can give ourselves.
Depleting your body is easy. Ignoring your body’s constant need of replenishment is easy. Even Dr. Mike, a health professional, and myself, a known water-guzzler, have, at times, admitted to not paying as much attention to our hydration needs as we should.
Being properly hydrated shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be the one healthful thing you do that all others build upon.
So, weigh the information, consider your options, then…