I have been meaning to write a post on the importance of hydration for a while as it is a major piece of the health and fitness jigsaw.
So, when I saw this week was Nutrition and Hydration Week, I thought there was no better time.
I personally think that the importance of proper hydration cannot and shouldn’t be overlooked. The effects of dehydration on athletic performance, concentration and mood levels are massive. But I don’t think they are properly known by people outside the health and fitness professions.
So, with that in mind, buckle in as I explain just how important hydration is.
As we are made up of about 60-65% water so the human body cannot survive without it.
We need water to digest our food, flush toxins from our systems and our cells are made almost entirely from it. Along with air to breathe and food to eat it is the most important substance to our survival.
According to the National Hydration Council we lose about 4% of our body mass every day and that’s without taking into account the water lost through perspiration.
For a 70kg adult we should be trying to drink between 2 and 3 litres of water every day though that total is different for each individual and should be tailored to suit.
Approximately 83% of the brain is made up of water. So, if you were dehydrated by as little as 4-5% you could experience a decline of around 20-30% in your cognitive brain function. Meaning that you may feel tired, experience a lack of focus or motivation and experience a general “brain fuzz” where everything is too difficult and you can’t be bothered.
It isn’t just the brain that is affected by dehydration as a drop of around 2% of your body weight can also reduce your athletic performance by 10-20%!
This drop in performance is a huge amount. No wonder that a gym session after a long day at work with little water consumption seems more difficult than ever.
How to spot the signs of dehydration
Wouldn’t it be easy if we had a little alarm that sounded in our head every time we were in danger of becoming dehydrated?
In reality it is much more difficult to spot the signs and so it’s important that we know what they are.
If we wait until we are feeling thirsty then we are already dehydrated. However, it’s still important that we still drink in response to this feeling.
Better late than never, right?
I personally experience headaches whenever I am dehydrated. The onset of headaches definitely prompts me to get guzzling the water.
Another way to check if you are dehydrated is by looking at the colour of your urine. The darker the colour, the more dehydrated you are.
When I was a police officer, this chart (along with other things) was on the back of every toilet door in the station. Looking at it every time I had to go, allowed me to easily check on my state of dehydration.
But the easiest way to stop dehydration is to ensure you are properly hydrated in the first place. To ensure that you don’t experience any of the mental and performance dips, keep drinking throughout the day.
I would also recommend that you drink water an hour or so before you exercise. You want to be in tip top condition, don’t you?
Single Use Bottles
I couldn’t just leave this here without chipping in on the issues of single use bottles and the damage they are currently doing to our environment and our health.
It’s estimated that the UK uses 38.5 million plastic bottles every day. 16 million of these end up in landfill or being burnt.
It doesn’t end there as a vast amount of plastic from these bottles ends up in our oceans and a study in Plymouth in 2016 showed that one third of fish caught around the UK contained plastic.
Whilst plastic bottles can be ok to store water at room temperature, when exposed to heat and a lot of sunlight, toxins can leech from the bottle into the water. So, beware of that bottle of water that has been rolling around the foot well or your car for months. It may be time to get rid of it.
The safest container to store your water would be a BPA (toxic chemicals) free water bottle that you wash with warm soapy water each time you use it. Or even better, if you are lazy like me, a bottle that will go in the dishwasher. These are inexpensive and widely available.
As you can see, making sure you are properly hydrated has a wide range of benefits to your health and performance. You would be surprised at large numbers of people that don’t give it the amount of thought that it deserves.
Next time you are feeling hungry and reach for those biscuits, why not have a glass of water instead?
Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think.
Be all you can be
Since I wrote this article, a study carried out by a journalistic company called Orb Media showed that in many major brands of bottled water large particles of plastic about the width of a human hair had been found.
The plastic that had been found was of the sort that was used in the manufacture of lids and that the action of “snapping” open the cap may shed plastic into the water.
The World Health Organisation has called for more research into this as the effects on the human body are unknown.