Will You Just Hydrate Already

Yup, we're talking about hydration.

As if you haven’t already got the HydroJuggernautasticYetiFlask to lug around, filled to the brim with some calculation of your bodyweight converted to metric tons of water that’s attached to you from your morning workout to your grocery run to your next meeting. (Does this count as part of your fitness regimen? Because it should. Also did you know they make cupholder expanders to hold our ginormous water barrels? What a time to be alive).

Glass? Stainless? BPA-Free Plastic? Does yours have the little reminders or measurements on the side? How about those travel stickers? 

This guy gets it.

And is it working?

It’s ok, it’s not working for us much, either. And, we’re not alone — as early as 1933 scientists looking into the effects of hydration noted that  “Most people need the advice: Drink more water.” And, as the temps rise and we are outside (or inside, sweating it out) this season, we’re burning through even more of our internal water table than before. If the idea of monitoring your fluids replenishment sounds like something out of your 8th grade biology class, you’d be right, but ignoring it can wreak some serious havoc on your workouts… and beyond.

We know you’re already multi-tasking like a boss/entrepreneur/millennial/boomer/superhero already (Great Job, Everyone!). But, as with other aspects of your health and wellness, you’re going to have to consciously wedge this watery element into your day. The good news? We’re also going to give you some ideas to make sticking to your new hydration schedule a little easier.

Water, water, everywhere. And we need a drop to drink.

We're Mostly Water

Everyone’s heard this at least once. And, turns out, it’s actually true. Up to 60% of the human body is water, and, more specifically, according to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, “the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery, coming in at 31%.

To spare you the trip back to middle school biology, here’s a quick breakdown of the most obvious roles water plays for us:

  • Water is a vital nutrient to the life of every cell, acts first as a building material
  • It regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
  • The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream
  • It assists in flushing waste, mainly through urination
  • It acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus (seems important)
  • It lubricates joints
  • Helps in the formation of saliva, which begins the digestive process

Seems pretty clear that hydration isn’t just some annoying thing you have to worry about when you have time, it’s THE ESSENTIAL Annoying Thing you have to worry about and you probably should make time. (This seems like a good time to take a swig, amirite?)

Hypohydration: The fancy way of saying you need to drink more

While we might casually think to drink when we feel thirsty, there’s a growing body of evidence that we’re probably collectively not drinking enough. Or, perhaps more accurately, we’re drinking the wrong things (sorry, alcohol and caffeine). An earlier study by the CDC found that half of Americans weren’t drinking enough water. At the time of that study, some 43% drank less than four cups of water a day. It also found that water intake varied by demographics, of note people over 55 and in the Northeast (**cough**) were less likely to drink even those four cups a day. (Standby, running to Stewarts for some high quality H2O).

Lack of water can mess up a lot of things. Like your heart.

While we can make a good case for drinking things other than water, the bottom line is your body needs plain ol’ boring water, specifically, to function. And to operate at less-than-optimal hydration (called euhydration) has far-reaching and long-term negative effects. Take, for instance, the evidence that hypohydration can cause your heart to work harder: without the proper hydration, your blood thickens, so your ticker has to work that much harder to move things around. This extra effort has been linked to obesity, and a predictor of increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, hypohydration has been linked to a dramatic increase in plasma, which can then lead to heightened blood pressure. Given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among Americans, it might not be such a bad thing to add a few ounces of the drink to your day.

Reduced hydration causes trouble… everywhere

This study goes into greater detail, but we’ll keep it short. Inflammation? Reduced cognitive function? Bad moods? That weird dizzy feeling you get standing up “too quickly”? All related to sub-optimal hydration. And, what’s more, the effects to your workouts are sneaky but intense: accentuated increases in vascular resistance and plasma [norepinephrine], suggest greater activation of the sympathetic nervous system during exercise in the hypohydrated state necessary to compensate for reductions in blood volume and pressure to maintain adequate skeletal muscle perfusion.” Or, in plainer language, your body and nervous system have to work harder to accomplish your workout (or react to any stressor requiring cardiovascular involvement) due to the lack of mobility in your bloodstream. Long story short — don’t be running 10w 30 through your veins. You’re gonna need a tune up.

But hydration opportunities abound

Obviously we’re talking mostly about the presence of actual water in your bloodstream and its effects on your body’s performance. And yeah, it won’t hurt to drink a little more than you usually do. However, you can achieve more optimal hydration through the foods you eat (like fruits and vegetables), which can contribute up to 20% of your daily hydration, and some other surprising drinks that can help rehydrate you and keep your tastebuds from checking out.

Coconut water contains high levels of antioxidants and electrolytes.

Rehydrating

The general objective is to replace the fluids we lose during our day, with special consideration made for increased heat (and hence, sweating) and exertion. 

Electrolytes These electrically charged minerals, (specifically sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and bicarbonate) play a role in conducting nervous impulses, contracting muscles, balancing the presence of water inside and outside your cells, and regulating your body’s pH levels. And, they’re a big player in your sweat game. It’s a good idea to rehydrate after a particularly hot day or sweaty workout with a fluid that contains electrolytes. A word of caution — sports drinks are great at delivering electrolytes, but can also pack unnecessary sugars and food coloring. Coconut water is an option that provides electrolytes and rehydration comparable to a typical sports drink without the extra sugar and artificial colorants. 

Carbohydrates Surprised? Don’t be — carbohydrates are essential as they facilitate sodium and water absorption. And you can chug them down in your favorite sports drinks, and the unexpected dark horse… er, cow…. of the rehydration race, Chocolate Milk.

Protein This is a bonus — and has been shown to be essential to muscle recovery (to the surprise of no one). But what may surprise you is how well a drink like chocolate milk can hit the sweet spot (pun intended) for your workout recovery and rehydration needs. Turns out, the superstar from your kindergarten snack time is a nifty delivery liquid for all of the above — carbs, protein, AND electrolytes. It was shown to aid cyclists with rehydration and subsequent performance, and was proven better at rehydration than water among children in this study (as any parent can attest). As always, just be mindful of the sugar content, a little goes a long way.

The Takeaway

Hydration is a thing and you need to be doing it.

The reality is, everything we do requires water; and while the hard and fast rules for consumption are always in a little bit of debate, one thing is certain: we could all use a reminder to drink a little more. The good news? We have entire coolers devoted to your pre-, mid- and post-workout needs to ensure you’re optimizing your hydration in a way that suits you. (Check out our new 3-L water jugs from Saratoga Water!)

See you in the clubs!