Given the heat waves, I figured it was appropriate to do another article on hydration.
Hydration is one of my favorite topics because even professional athletes are walking into competitions already dehydrated at least half the time. You better believe we’re not doing any better.
The other reason I love hydration? It gives you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of how quickly you can see results. It only takes a couple days for you to alter your hydration status.
Let’s get in to it, shall we?
Is hydration important?
Stupid question. I know you know hydration is important and I know you’ve been told to drink water.
Here’s the thing – when you are dehydrated, every body system gets impaired. Do you care about your health? How about your physical or mental performance? Or what about trying to lose fat or build muscle? Hydration status influences it all.
The human body can be up to 60% water. This is your body’s way of giving you a big hint towards health. It is saying, I need this stuff to function and survive. I place a premium on it. You should too. Can you help me out and give me some water? Please?
How much fluid do I need in a day?
Hard to say. It is impossible to give a truly accurate number short of you living in a metabolic ward for a couple days. Even then, that will only tell you how much fluid you needed while in the metabolic ward.
Your actual fluid needs are going to vary on many factors: temperature, humidity, the clothes you’re wearing, stress levels, your mood, time of the month if you’re female, physical activity patterns, food you’re eating, age, and much more…
What I’m saying is that it is futile to try and determine your exact fluid needs in a day due to the constant fluctuation.
However, here are some quick rules:
- If you’re thirsty, you’re not drinking enough
- If your urine is too concentrated, you’re not drinking enough
- If your urine is too clear, you’re drinking too much
For someone really looking to monitor your fluid needs, you can do pre/post weigh ins around different times of day (like before and after exercise), as well as daily weigh-ins to see how your body fluctuates in response to the different variables. [Sidebar: I’m sorry to say that 3 pounds you lost overnight is NOT fat loss. Any quick changes in weight are purely a result of water weight changes and gut residue from foods ingested.]
If you want a good starting point, use the following:
- Half your bodyweight in fluid ounces per day (a 200 lb. individual would need 100 fluid ounces)
- This won’t work for obese individuals. No need to exceed a gallon.
- Add in sweat losses from activity (you shouldn’t be lighter after exercise – if you are, you didn’t drink enough!)
How do I know if I’m dehydrated?
There are several ways to quantitatively check:
- Get bloodwork
- Get a urine test
- Get a bioelectrical impedance test
Admittedly, those may not be the most practical for day-to-day check ins. For most people, checking urine color can be a good approximation (I’ve been known to throw urine color charts in people’s bathrooms). You want your urine to be a light yellow. Dark colors are bad. Crystal clear urine is also bad.
You can also look at qualitative metrics – things like thirst, mood, alertness, fatigue, stomach issues, headaches, dizziness, or constipation.
It is important to note that waiting on thirst is an amateur move. By the time you are thirsty, your body is ALREADY dehydrated. The damage is done and your body is begging for some help. By the time you ingest fluids, it goes through the stomach, into the intestines, gets absorbed across the intestinal layer, gets picked up in blood, is transported to the tissues that need it, is absorbed by the tissues that need it, and directed to where it needs to go, it’s too late.
Hydration pros say they never get thirsty.
What are your thoughts on sports drinks?
They’re basically soda and generally not recommended.
Sports drinks need to be earned. They are primarily useful for endurance type activities, and specifically in hot/humid environments.
- Mondays are an especially high-risk time for poor hydration status (it’s no surprise to me that people feel crabby on Mondays). People tend to have altered eating and drinking patterns on weekends, which makes them more likely to be dehydrated come Monday.
- Mornings are an especially high-risk time for poor hydration status. Your body is constantly losing fluid as you sleep.
- Don’t backload water. People might read this and decide to drink a gallon of water a day. They’ll be busy throughout the day, then try to cram that whole gallon right before they go to bed. They wake up repeatedly to use the restroom in the middle of the night, then feel terrible the next day, then blame the water. Don’t blame the water, you messed up your sleep. FRONTLOAD your water and drink it continuously throughout the day.
- If you need a reminder, get a refillable water container with time markers on it that tell you to drink to certain levels as the day goes on. You can get them cheap on Amazon.
Hydration for today started yesterday. Hydration for tomorrow starts today. If you care about your health or performance (physical and mental) or body composition, then you MUST take your hydration seriously.
Water is the stuff of life. Take it serious for serious benefits.
As always, thanks for reading. I know you have other time commitments and I truly appreciate you for choosing to spend your time here. If you have any feedback or requests, please feel free to shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you! Seriously.