After a record breaking heat wave, you can now think about exercising again as the cooler temperatures return. However, even with weather change, we should all give extra attention to hydration. So why is water so important? And how much should you drink every day? Here we take a look at the role water plays in our health. We also examine which drinks are the best hydrators and list some simple tips for reaching your daily water goals.
Water is life
We all know that water is essential to our health. But it is also something we couldn’t survive without, as 60% of our bodies are made up of it.
- H2O is responsible for a range of bodily functions including digestion and blood flow, helping to regulate our body temperature and overall cell health.
- It helps to eliminate toxins from the body and provides natural lubrication for our joints.
- We continually lose water throughout the day via breathing, sweating and removals. And this water must be replaced to maintain proper bodily function.
Exercise. Sweat. Drink. Repeat.
When you’re working out hard it leads to a loss of water and electrolytes through heavy sweating. And studies have shown that a lot of people underestimate how much fluid they lose through sweat when exercising. Leaving yourself short can affect your workout, your weight and even your mental ability.
When you sip water it can take anywhere between 5 minutes to 120 minutes to fully absorb into the body’s bloodstream. Water and nutrients are absorbed in the small intestines and goes directly into the bloodstream to be processed by the various organs. The exact time of absorption can vary depending on the type and duration of exercise and electrolyte levels.
Therefore, it is crucial to pre-hydrate to boost your performance. Likewise, it is important to drink water after exercising as it plays a role in the body’s recovery process.
How much water should we drink every day?
Everyone is different. Most people have heard the recommendation to drink 6-8 glasses of water daily. However, this can be difficult to accomplish even for the more dedicated water-drinkers. Research has proven that fluid requirements vary among people based on age, sex, activity level among other factors. It can also differ from day to day, depending on the food we eat and other beverages we consume.
As outlined above, drinking water while working out is essential and pre-hydration is very beneficial. The recommendation is to drink:
- 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before exercising
- Another 8 ounces during your warm-up (or 20 to 30 minutes before exercising)
- 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
- And 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes after exercising
Which drinks are the best hydrators?
The best way to stay hydrated is to drink plain water. Many people use sports drinks during a workout but they aren’t necessary unless you are working out for a long period of time (over an hour). Other hydrators to consider and be wary of include:
- Beverages including fruit and vegetable juices, milk, herbal teas and even coffee contribute to your daily water intake. However, beware of the caffeine content – a safe amount is 200-300 milligrams or 2-4 cups a day.
- Soda is often considered a bad hydrator. Carbonated drinks are mainly composed of water so they will hydrate you. However, most of them contain high sugar and caffeine. Depending on the caffeine levels, drinking too many carbonated drinks can actually lead to dehydration. This is because caffeine is a diuretic, which results in the body increasing the production of urine.
- Sports drinks can be useful for anyone who works out for long periods of time or when performing an intense physical activity. These drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that boost energy, helping your body absorb water. However, similar to soda drinks, they can contain high sugar and salt content.
- Energy drinks differ from sports drinks in that their caffeine content is quite high. Some also contain ingredients that overstimulate the body such as guarana, L-carnitine and inositol. Side effects from these drinks can cause rapid heart rate, irritability and insomnia. And again the high caffeine content can result in dehydration.
5 Tips for drinking more water every day
- Create a healthy habit by starting each morning and finishing every day with a glass of water. This is a great way to build your new habit. Add some squeezed lemon, mint or cucumber for extra flavour and goodness.
- Buy a good quality water bottle and bring it with you to when travelling to work and for your desk. Seeing the bottle will remind you to refill it and drink throughout the day.
- Set up phone alerts or use a drinking water app to remind you to drink regularly. Water apps like Daily Water – Drink Reminder allows you to log you daily drinking water and you can review your previous month, week or day’s drink intake.
- Plan your hydration if the following day involves a lot of exercise. If you are planning a day outdoors in hotter temperatures, fill water to ⅔ way in bottles and put them in the freezer overnight. You will have cold water to last you throughout the next day, helping to cool you down and stay hydrated.
- Include more water-rich foods into your diet. These include strawberries, blueberries, oranges, watermelon, pineapple, cucumber, spinach, lettuce and celery to name a few.
Fundraising for safe drinking water
Conscious of the demand for safe drinking water, we launched an initiative at the beginning of 2018 to help provide clean water in communities in Uganda. Our Gym Plus team actively fundraises to support more community wells for Africa. Members in any of our eight locations can purchase a special Camelbak water bottle and we donate all the profits for every bottle sold to the Fields of Life well drilling project. And it also helps reduce the environmental impact of throwaway plastics.