With water making up 60-70% of our body weight, it is no surprise that we utilize water in countless ways. This includes regulating temperature, digestion, urination, lubricating joints, and even breathing. The more active we are, the more water we need to consume.
How the body uses water
As a fitness professional I have found that most people are unaware of how important proper hydration really is. Many have even told me they would reduce their water intake because they didn’t want to gain the weight back that they had lost during their workout. This is a backwards way of thinking, and please know that if you take this approach you will learn quickly that it’s not just your fitness instructor that’s got you hot and bothered. Taking in too little water can result in a high core temperature, night sweats, and even insomnia. Bottom line, your body can’t rest and recover properly when you are constantly dehydrated. Overall performance, both physically and mentally, will suffer.
Common hydration mistakes: Yes, you can drink water the “wrong” way
Over the years I have seen my clients make a lot of hydration mistakes. What follows are the most common ones.
Not drinking enough
Obviously, this leads to dehydration. Mild cases of dehydration can result in thirst, decreased urine output, headaches, constipation, and even dizziness. Severe dehydration can result in irritability and confusion, as well as low blood pressure, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, delirium, and unconsciousness.
Steaming during the winter
A lot of people take in far less water during the winter months than they do over the summer. The thinking behind this seems to be that we sweat far less in the cold. This is a dangerous assumption to make for a couple of reasons. First off, if you work out indoors, you sweat just as much during the winter as during the summer. But even if you take your workouts outside, you might be sweating more than you think. This is due to the fact that in cold weather, our sweat often immediately evaporates, leaving us thinking that we didn’t lose much water when in fact we did.
Drinking too fast
Attempting to stay hydrated by pounding back 8 bottles of water in one sitting is a bad idea. For one, it’s not very pleasant, but more importantly, it flushes electrolytes like sodium and potassium out of your system. These minerals are important to muscle contractions and electrical signals in the body, and we want to make sure we don’t deplete our storages.
The best (albeit slightly unappetizing) way to tell if you’re properly hydrated
There’s no polite way to say this: Check your pee. If your urine is a transparent yellow, you are in the clear. Anything darker than a honey color means you should drink some water. For a handy visual, we recommend this infographic courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic: