As we finish up a gruelling workout session and inspect the pool of sweat we’ve now produced at our feet, or less dramatically soaked our workout attire in, and wondering if we should have brought a second sweat towel with us, do we stop to think about what we are gaining by this drenching? Or in fact, what we are losing because of it?
Sweat is a strong physiological response to working out and exercise. It helps cool our bodies in the throes of exertion and all that perspiration is ridding our bodies of toxins, and actually helps improve our moods! However, what we gain we also lose. We lose water from our bodies, and if we don’t replenish what we lose we run the risk of another physiological response- dehydration!
The Function of Water in the Body
The human body is made up of around 60% water- similar to that of a kidney bean! A fact that is either stand-alone or rather spooky considering they are shaped like kidneys and the kidney holds such a vital role in our fluid system.
- Regulating body temperature
- Moistens tissues in the eyes, nose and mouth
- Protects body organs and tissues
- Carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Lubricates joints which help to make physical movement and exercising more comfortable
- Lessens burden on the kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products
- Helps dissolve minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body
How Much Water Should We Be Consuming?
It’s indicated that the daily recommended intake of water for a male is 10 cups and for a female, it is 8. This should be increased by at least an extra cup for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Children should look to be having 4-6 cups a day depending on their age ( 3, 4 ).
During physical exertion and in warmer weather, such as our recent heatwave here in the UK, the need to up our fluid intake increases.
How Do I Know I’m Drinking Enough?
If your urine is pale or light in colour, this is a sign that you are getting adequate fluid intake, are well hydrated, and the amount of fluid that you are taking on board is sufficient.
If the urine becomes darker, then you need to up your fluid intake by at least a couple more cups.
And at the other end of the scale, should your urine appear very dark in colour, you’re unable to produce a lot of it, and it has developed a strong odour then this is a sign that you are very dehydrated and you must act quickly to replace the lost fluid.
What are the Signs of Dehydration?
Dehydration is often spoken about, but what do we really know about it, and what is happening inside our bodies when we become dehydrated? Dehydration can be defined as, “a decrease in total body water content due to fluid loss, diminished fluid intake, or both”( 8 ). Basically, dehydration means your body is losing more fluid than it’s taking in.
When our body’s balance between water intake and fluid loss is disrupted then dehydration can set in, and if left untreated severe issues can develop such as impairment to the kidneys, seizures and a serious type of shock known as ‘hypovolemic shock’ resulting from a drop in blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in your body ( 9 ).
- Feeling thirsty
- Dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling tired
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day
You are more prone to dehydration if:
- You’ve drunken too much alcohol
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Been in the sun too long (heatstroke)
- Sweated too much after exercising
- A high temperature of 38C or more
- Taking medicines that make you pee more (diuretics)
Anyone could run the risk of dehydration if they are not conscious about replacing the fluid they are losing in the body. Some individuals however are more at risk than others, particularly young children, commonly following illness with vomiting and diarrhoea, those with kidney disease or untreated diabetes and the elderly.
Tips on Avoiding Dehydration
The best way to avoid dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids. Every day, we lose water through breathing, sweating, urinating and bowel movements, which is why it’s important to continue to take in water throughout the day. For your body to function at its best, you must replenish the water supply with beverages and food that contain water. Some tips on preventing dehydration and upping your water game include the following:
Drink Water Before, During, and After a Workout
Before we start a workout, we should drink at least 16-24 ounces of fluid about 2 hours beforehand, then around 20 minutes before we start we should be aiming for another 8 ounces, during the workout, 8 ounces every 15 minutes and once we finish, we should be taking on board another 16-24 ounces of fluid ( 12 ).
Eat More Fruit & Vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content, including:
They also contain good amounts of salt and vitamins which can help prevent dehydration.
Drink Water out of Habit
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. Make sure you’re drinking fluids all day whether you’re thirsty or not.
Have a Water Bottle
Sometimes just having a water bottle can be the visual reminder you need to prompt you to drink more water. And with most water bottles coming in certain measurements, you can be aware of how much water you are taking in, and therefore aware of how much more you need to take in for the rest of the day. Make sure water is within easy reach day and night.
Don’t Skip Meals
You typically get much of your fluids from regular meals.
Limit Alcoholic Beverages
Drink fruit juices, sports drinks, milk, and broth, but avoid high-protein drinks and alcoholic beverages as they can dehydrate you.
Drink Tea & Coffee
Drinking tea and coffee in moderate amounts is a great way of hydrating. Be careful not to drink too much though as they contain caffeine which can be dehydrating in excessive amounts. For caffeine, dehydration occurs when consuming around 250-300mg- which is about 2-3 cups of coffee, and 5-8 cups of tea ( 13).
Add Flavour to Your Water
Add fruit to your water, such as oranges, limes and lemons. Cucumber, watermelon, strawberries and herbs are great options, too. Nowadays there are several options of adding water flavour drops to your drinks for convenience which can be just as delicious!
Dehydration is when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, and drinking more fluids is the best way to stay hydrated and rehydrate.
So now is the time to up your drinking! Take the time throughout the day to consider if you’ve had enough water, or if your body is giving you signs that it needs more. And never leave home for the gym without your hand sanitiser and your water bottle!
For those of us who hit the gym or undertake strenuous exercise and workouts, we run the risk of not staying adequately hydrated. As we dress in our designer workout gears, sort our playlists to give us the much-needed motivation or distraction and make sure our phone is fully charged to capture our best workout angles to keep our social media presence alive and kicking, we must remember the most important workout accessory- our water bottle!
Author - Paulo Vaa