H2O How-to: Hydration Cheat Sheet for Better Performance

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You can go for weeks (seriously!?!) without food but the human body can only go days without water. That’s because it’s the most prevalent thing in humans, making up about 70 percent of your body. Studies have shown that being just slightly dehydrated (roughly two percent!) has been shown to have adverse effects on athletes.

With summer temperatures starting to heat up, being hydrated isn’t just important for that day’s performance at the gym- it’s critical to your health.

Here’s how to make sure you’re in the clear.

Why water?

Water transports nutrients, lubricates joints, absorbs shock to joints and organs, prevents tissues from sticking, helps the healing process, moistens oxygen for easier breathing and does about a million other critical things for optimal athletic performance.

Signs of dehydration

– Coordination decline
– Muscle cramps
– Decreased energy
– Unusual muscle fatigue

Be on the lookout for these during your workouts! These can all be early signs of dehydration. Advanced warning signs include heart burn, dizziness, joint pain, migraines and constipation.

Easy ways to check your hydration

Your urine. Completely clear urine isn’t really ideal, it’s a bit excessive —you’re essentially just peeing out whatever is going in— and over-hydrated (yes, that’s a real thing.) You’re really aiming for a light yellow, like lemonade or straw color ideally. On the other hand, if your pee is the color of apple juice or darker, or particularly smelly, consider this your warning to drink up.

Weigh yourself before and after workouts. This is an easy way to gauge your fluid levels and see how much you are losing during training. If you do this a couple times, or after a particularly brutal session, you’ll have a good idea of the fluid amount you need to put back into your body to rehydrate. You don’t have to go crazy in replacing every single fraction of an ounce lost, but you do want to put back in pretty close to what you sweat out. Excessive sweaters, we’re looking at you.

Tips to stay hydrated

1. Think beyond water. Yes, coffee counts! While the old premise was that it made you dehydrated, newer studies have debunked that myth. It is a mild diuretic, but you can definitely count your morning cup (or cups) into your daily fluid intake. Fruits and veggies are another easy way to sneak in water.

2. Electrolytes are key. Pure water is great, but it’s not always the best option for athletes as you really need to stay on top of sodium, magnesium and potassium as well. Water intake requires electrolytes to absorb hydrogen into your tissues and cells but strenuous training can easily deplete these three minerals from your organs. So, help your adrenals and other critical organs and make sure your post-workout shake or meal is replenishing these minerals.

Coconut water or sports drinks are a good idea for intra-workout on hot days and sessions that last at or above 60 minutes. Assuming your diet is pretty clean, you may want to look into a good sea salt to cook with or add to your drinks. Salt helps you retain water so you’re less likely to just pee it all out. If you’re taking creatine, hydration is particularly important.

3. Wake up, drink. For real. Most of us are dehydrated after sleeping all night so one of the easiest, and most effective, ways to stay hydrated all day is to add a glass of water to your morning routine. Preferably drink it before you eat breakfast but if you’re in a time crunch, don’t worry so much about that. Just get it in.

4. Take breaks. Bring a water bottle to work and set a daily goal. Maybe it’s to drink two of them by lunch or to hit a certain amount of ounces before you clock out for the day. This helps two-fold: one, you’re hydrating steadily throughout the day. And, two, all of that drinking is forcing you to get up from your office chair and move around as you’re going to have to pee numerous times during the day. You’ve heard it a million times before, but hunger is often mistaken for thirst. So being properly hydrated can also have some positive effects on your diet.

5. 8 glasses a day is BS. That’s sort of the age old rule, but you shouldn’t just blindly follow it. Like nutrition, hydration is different for everyone. Some people are going to need more, others less.

What you DO need to do is recognize that you need a hydration plan for the summer months. What you did in the dead of winter isn’t going to be enough for 100-degree days where you’re doing conditioning outside. Just like you adjust your warmup and preparation for that day’s training, you should be adjusting your fluid levels.