Are you sabotaging your workout without even knowing it? Whether it’s a morning yoga class, Smart Group Training session, or training for that half-marathon, a commonly forgotten key to performance is water. That’s right, water can make or break your athletic goals.
Our bodies, on average, are 60% water. Inside the body, that water is broken down into two main compartments: 40% of our body’s water is contained inside our cells, and 60% lives in our blood, joints, and other areas of the body. The water in our cells is vital for nearly all the functions of the cells. The water outside the cells helps transport nutrients throughout the body as our blood and helps lubricate our joints as joint fluid.
When we lose too much water, that’s called dehydration. Dehydration has three very common causes:
- Too much water can be lost through exercise
- Excessive sweat due to heat and humidity
- Simply not drinking enough water to begin with
- Dehydration can also result from a combination of these three causes.
A little water loss is no biggie, right? Wrong! Our bodies and our health pay a price when we are dehydrated – in fact, the symptoms of dehydration might surprise you. They include:
|Poor concentration||Muscle cramping|
|Up to 30% decline in physical capacity|
Did you catch that last one? It’s true – you might be getting 30% less out of your workouts if you’re dehydrated!
So how can we tell if we’re dehydrated? Most people think that if they aren’t thirsty, they must be okay. However, we can lose up to 2% of our body weight through sweating before our body’s thirst mechanism kicks in to alert us. Also, elderly folks start to lose their thirst mechanism as they age – so they must be especially careful. The best indicator of dehydration is to monitor your urine color and quantity. Normal urine should be pale yellow and most adults should urinate about 4-7 times per day. If your urine turns a dark yellow or you notice you are urinating less, you are most likely already dehydrated.
You may have heard that you should drink 6-8 glasses of water each day. That’s a great rule of thumb – but only if you plan on lounging around all day. If you’re going to be exercising, remember all that sweat dripping on the floor is water lost from your body – and it must be replaced in order for you to avoid getting dehydrated. The general rule is to drink 1 liter of water for every 60 minutes of exercise with more required if the temperatures are very high. Some athletes can lose up to 3 liters of water per hour depending on the temperature and the intensity of the exercise.
The best strategies to avoid dehydration:
- Make sure you start your workout well hydrated
- If you work out in the mornings, make sure to get at least 2-4 glasses of water in before you start your workout.
- Don’t forget to replace what you lose through sweat.
- If your workouts are generally in the afternoon or evening, make sure to continue drinking water throughout the day so that you are ready to perform at 100% during your workout.
- And no, that coffee or soda you drank doesn’t count as water.
So there it is: Stay hydrated before your workout, and rehydrate after your workout. Make sure you’re not robbing yourself of 30% of your power.
Next week we’ll talk about the second factor in staying hydrated… electrolytes.