I’m not talking about alcohol, people. Sheesh! Today’s post is all about water. Why today? Well, I got a rude awakening (literally) last night when my beauty sleep was interrupted by a cramping stomach and back. Because I was half zombie, I rolled over and pretended it would go away. And it did, eventually. I fell back asleep, but this morning I had a headache too. No, I’m not sick – I’m dehydrated. VERY dehydrated. I’m normally pretty good about getting enough water, but yesterday’s sweaty eight-miler, paired with last night’s meal of left-over (fibrous) soup left me a little dried out. I mention the fiber, because when you eat something extra-fibery it’s important to wash it down with an adequate amount of water to aide in digestion (part of the reason my stomach cramped in the middle of the night.)
How much water should you be drinking? How does water effect the body? Is thirst a good indicator of dehydration? What about the color of your … you know, pee?
How much do you need? Popular wisdom says that you need at least 8 cups of water per day. If you get that much, good job but don’t stop there!
Full disclosure: a lot of the following info comes from the latest edition of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) – the credentialing agency from which I received my personal training certification.
The NASM research suggests that for a sedentary individual (which I’m sure you are not) the minimum amount of water that your body needs is 75 ounces (9 cups) – and that’s if you’re a woman! For a man, bump it up to 100 ounces (13 cups) and that’s your set point; this is the amount of H2O needed to keep your body running efficiently. Add elevation, a hot day, or a workout to the mix and your H20 requirement increases. And if you’re goal is weight-loss, add another 8 ounces of water intake for every 25 pounds you’re lugging around above your goal weight.
When exercising less than 60 minutes, pure water is a sufficient replacement drink. Greater than 60 minutes you can grab a sports drink with a little sodium and electrolytes – I like Powerade Zero since it tastes great but isn’t packed with sugar like many popular sports drinks.
What effect does water have? Our bodies are extraordinary! They can adapt to a variety of changes in our environment, like say, elevation or a decrease in caloric intake. But one thing our bodies cannot adjust to is lack of water. You can survive up to a couple weeks without food but will die in a matter of days without water. Water helps to regulate everything from metabolism, to body temperature, to digestion, to gland function … among other things. Interestingly, water is crucial to weight management since it improves liver function, which assists in the metabolization of fat.
Some negative effects of dehydration include: fluid retention (bloating!!), increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, decreased blood volume, increased heart rate … even death
Can you trust thirst? You’ve probably heard that once you start to feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated. That’s likely to be true, but the reverse is not. Just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean you’re fully hydrated.
Yellow urine? Perhaps a little TMI here but if your urine looked anything like mine this morning, then you don’t have to guess if you’re dehydrated. Your urine should be pale yellow to nearly clear urine, not dark yellow.
It is possible, however, to have colored urine without being extremely dehydrated: that’s if you’re taking vitamins (which is a good thing!). A neon colored urine can be the result of your body excreting vitamins in excess of what your body needs or can absorb. You should be aware that there are adverse effects of ingesting too much of certain vitamins, so make sure you check (and abide by) the label or consult with your doctor before adjusting your vitamin intake.
Endurance: Water can make your workout feel easy or extremely difficult depending on your level of hydration. If you normally run 3 miles, but today you feel like you’re dying at 1 mile then assess your water intake. If you’re not sweating … seriously, drink something!
Rectifying the problem: Fortunately, dehydration (to a point) is relatively easy to reverse. What do you have to do? Well, start chugging. If you don’t like plain water, try dropping a propel or a crystal light packet into your water. Soon your headache will go away and you’ll be feeling much more prepared to face the day.
This morning I immediately drank 40 ounces of water (followed by coffee – sorry, I don’t skip my coffee). Two hours later, on our way down to the gym I drank another 20 ounces. So glad I did because I ended up having a great workout, despite a crummy night’s sleep. During my run I had 25 ounces of water, and post run I have had another 25 ounces which isn’t enough – the night is young.
Now that you’re drowning in H2O gospel, you probably need a drink. Do yourself a favor, and make it a tall glass of water!