by Matt Weik
Drinking water may feel like a chore sometimes, right? But let’s be honest, you can’t survive without it. Water is a building block of new cells in the body. Every single chemical reaction that takes place in your body requires water. And that’s just one reason why you need to be focusing on your hydration levels.
Water makes up around 60% of an adult human body. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. Apart from that, the skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and bones are 31%. To put it bluntly, without water, your body will shut down, and you’ll die.
“But what’s the big deal?” many people say. Well, let’s dive a little deeper into the topic of water to get a better understanding of hydration levels and what you should truly understand.
How Much Water is Too Much Water?
“You should drink around eight glasses of water each day” is one of the biggest myths we have been used to hearing. Think about it… what exactly is your ideal size for a glass? You could have an extremely tall glass or a very small glass. Which is right? Or how frequently do you need to consume water in order to maintain proper hydration levels? Can you drink it all at once? Must it be spread out throughout the day? And do you really need to drink that much water to see the benefits? All good questions to be asking.
Well, the amount of water consumption per day completely depends upon various factors like age, gender, medications, workouts and training regimens, and many more aspects. As per The Institute of Medicine, it is recommended that men should consume around 3.7 liters of water and women should consume around 2.7 liters of water per day. Again, this is a recommendation. You may require much more based on where you live and your activity level.
What is Dehydration?
As per a survey of 3,003 Americans, 75% are likely to have chronic dehydration.
Dehydration is when your body loses more fluid than it gains. Sweating and urination are a part of the body’s natural process. And when the water is not replaced, it leads to dehydration.
The common symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, dry skin, headache, less tear production, and several other symptoms. In addition to that, the symptoms of severe dehydration include excessive thirst, low blood pressure, rapid breathing, dark urine, unable to think clearly, and more.
If you show any of these symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a doctor as soon as possible. Dehydration, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening issues like heat cramps, heatstroke, kidney failure, coma, and even death.
The Importance of Hydration Levels for Athletes
Hydration is the key driving factor of an athlete’s performance. Their fluid intake (or lack thereof) can directly affect their overall performance not only in the gym but also during competition — especially in the summer months when temperatures are high, and sweat production is elevated. You can very quickly notice a decline in the performance with as little as a 2-3% deficit of total body weight in fluid.
If you’re an athlete, hydration levels are of utmost importance to you as:
● It helps to improve muscle function.
● It helps to regulate blood pressure.
● It improves blood flow and circulation.
● It reduces the risk of injury and improves performance.
● It helps to replenish the lost nutrients during exercise and competition.
As an athlete, it is extremely important to focus on hydration levels before, during, and after the training session or competition if you want to maximize your overall performance.
You Need to Replace Lost Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium that are specifically designed to help improve hydration levels and are needed to replenish what was lost from sweat. During exercise and competitions, you tend to lose a lot of fluids, and drinking a beverage that includes electrolytes can help you maintain proper hydration levels and electrolyte balance.
So, now that you are aware of the importance of water, here are a few tips to improve hydration levels:
● Don’t wait to drink water until you feel thirsty — consume water at regular intervals throughout the day and during workouts/competitions.
● If you feel drinking plain water is boring, add a few flavor shots such as Mio or toss in some fruit to infuse the water with flavor.
● Add water-rich fruits and vegetables to your nutrition plan, like watermelon, strawberries, oranges, berries, etc.
● Avoid too much sun exposure and try to plan outdoor activities in the evening or morning when the temperatures aren’t as high.
● Keep a check on the signs of dehydration.
● Check the color of your urine and consult with your doctor if it gets too dark.
Is Too Much Water Harmful?
The answer may shock you, but yes, too much water can lead to water intoxication — a condition where electrolytes become diluted. In the case where sodium levels fall too low, it can lead to serious health issues. Certain medical conditions like kidney disease and poorly managed diabetes can put you at a higher risk of water intoxication. So, yes! You need to stay hydrated but also keep a check on how much water to consume at one time.
Drink to Your Health (and Performance)
Staying hydrated is one of the simplest and best things you can do for your body. Simply sipping water throughout the day can help manage hydration levels and allow your performance to stay optimized. But again, should you forget to drink throughout the day, or you find yourself starting to get dehydrated, look for the symptoms of dehydration right away and drink water as soon as you can. Should the symptoms progress and worsen, seek medical attention immediately.