We all know that proper hydration is vital for everyone regardless of activity levels, but why is it even more essential for those who are physically active? And how can you ensure you are optimizing your hydration? We will explore both of these and more in this week’s blog. Admittedly, I have never been fantastic about keeping up with drinking enough water, but for some weird reason I have been much much better with my hydration ever since the pandemic started. I don’t have an exact answer as to why, but I can tell you exactly what works for me! Do I still have room for improvement? Absolutely. There are still days that I fall back into old habits and consume more iced lattes than water in a day, but it has been a huge improvement from years past. Although water consumption can be tough and feel like a chore, your body and mind will reap the benefits both in and out of your workouts!
For athletes or anyone with an active lifestyle, water is key to health and performance. Without proper hydration, not only will you be physically thirsty, but your body won’t be able to perform at its best. In short, water is an essential driver of proper cellular function. It transports solutes and nutrients (such as salt) and oxygen across semi permeable membranes in our body.
This is not only important for our body’s ability to absorb nutrients, but helps our cells and tissues function properly and maintain a good balance. This proper balance of fluids and electrolytes allows for proper muscular contractions (including your heart!) and optimal aerobic function. When you are active, your body releases sweat and moisture through breathing. Even if you are not a heavy sweater and aren’t breathing heavily during your workouts, your body is still releasing more than you realize. Replenishing hydration levels helps to maintain functions in our body (which allow us to do all the different things we do while working out), as well as prevent feelings of fatigue, lightheadedness, and dizziness during a workout.
Now that we’ve taken a brief look at a few of the reasons why water is so important, how can you ensure you are staying hydrated enough throughout the day? Like I mentioned earlier, for whatever reason, one of the best habits I had picked up during spring quarantine was staying on top of my water consumption. Having extra time on my hands gave me the privilege of experimentation to figure out what would optimize my water intake while being simple enough for me to maintain it once life got back to normal. Keep in mind, most of these are what works for ME; while I hope that this is helpful, I am not expecting all of these tips to work for everyone!
1. Consume the most water on your least busy times of day
This is completely customizable for you and your schedule. If you work a standard 9-5, try having plenty of water before and after work, and sip throughout the day. If you work an overnight job, I suggest drinking plenty before you leave. For those that have crazy all over the place schedules, having a water bottle or anything that can be taken on the go will allow you to drink whenever you find the time. If you have a very open schedule, trying sipping consistently throughout the day!
2. Keep water in your room or where it is easily accessed
This simple step can make all the difference. Keeping fresh water by your bedside gets you into the habit of consuming water by making it as accessible as possible both before and after sleep. When you wake up in the morning, get into the habit of taking some sips from that glass or cup before you get up and do anything else. This will get your day started in the right direction!
3. Bring it with you to gym your workouts
Admittedly I am still not very good about this. I always remember my protein drink, but half the time i forget to bring water, and when I do I usually forget it in my car and wait to drink it on the way home. However, if you are much better at remembering to bring water than I am, you are in great shape! This is super important for staying hydrated during your workouts, especially during warmer weather. However, try to sip instead of chug, the last thing you want is to have all that water come right back up while exercising.
4. Have it with every meal (even if you pair it with another beverage)
Try and have a glass or two of water with each meal throughout the day. Even if you already have a “primary” drink planned with your meal (iced tea, lemonade, milk, wine, beer, the list goes on), have a glass of water with it. This will ensure you are drinking more with your meals and get you into the habit of always having water with your food. It also helps with digestion and can help you avoid filling up on calorically dense foods if you're watching your calories.
5. Give it flavor if that is your thing
I’ll be frank; this is not my thing. The only non-caffeinated flavored drink I will go crazy for is chocolate milk. My blood chocolate milk content is well over the legal drinking limit. When it comes to water, it has to be absolutely plain for me. If the idea of drinking plain water sickens you, then try adding something to give it some flavor! Things like fresh lemon, lime, cucumber, or really whatever you fancy is perfect. If you prefer the powdered flavor packets from the store, just make sure it aligns with your goals nutrient wise.
Whether you are going for a walk, lifting weights, or doing cardio, water is essential to exercise performance and your overall health. Maintaining hydration not only keeps your body functioning properly, but it keeps your energy levels and focus up during your workouts! If you find yourself getting fatigued, experiencing headaches, or just not feeling your best, try one or more of the tips above and see if you feel a difference!