Water

The benefits and everything else about it.

Water – A colourless, odourless, and tasteless liquid containing of two Hydrogen molecules and one Oxygen molecule (Scientifically known as H2O). This liquid is vital for life. Some can’t do without it, while others consume this as minimal as possible. After reading this blog, you may experience a shift in perception of this amazing liquid.

Without water, humans can survive only for a few days, as it comprises from 75% body weight in infants, to 55% in the elderly. Even 75% of your muscles are water.

Benefits of consuming enough water

Water aids in maintaining:

  • Balancing and normalising bodily functions, preventing overall dehydration, and maintaining electrolyte balance.
  • Flushing out waste and bacteria from your body, through perspiration, urination, and bowel movements– Poor hydration may increase the risk of developing of kidney stones, in some individuals. Studies have also shown that drinking adequate amounts of water mayΒ reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
  • It aids in regulating body temperature.
  • It helps your brain function and aids in cognitive function also improving mood.
  • It protects your tissues, organs, spinal cord, and lubricates cushions and joints.
  • It aids digestion and nutrient absorbtion.
  • It helps maintain weight– ResearchΒ has shown that having water before a meal may promote weight loss through suppressing yourΒ appetite. This was also noted in another studyΒ in which diet drinks were swapped for water.Β The results showed that this may lead to greater reduction in weight.
  • It keeps skin bright.

How much water should I drink?

It is important to drink water before, during, and after exercise. The exact amounts of water needed will vary from individual to individual. The following is only a basic guide.

  • Before: 500ml-600ml of water at least 2 hours prior to exercise
  • During: 200ml-300ml of water for every 10-20 minutes of exercise
  • After: 500ml-750ml of water for each 0.5KG lost due to sweating

Hydrating before training:

It can take time for fluids to be absorbed into your body. So, drink at least 500ml-600ml of water before training. After that, drink more if you feel thirsty.

Hydration during training:

It’s important to drink water during a workout – take a water bottle with you on a run, for example. Being dehydrated can affect your energy levels.  Drinking little and often will give you the best chance of hitting your exercise targets. You can lose a lot of fluid when you exercise β€“ as much as a litre or two an hour – mainly through sweating and breathing.

The amount you need to drink will depend on how much you sweat and how long you exercise for. How much you sweat and lose water is influenced by your:

  • Size – Larger people tend to sweat more than smaller people, and men sweat more than women.
  • Fitness – Fitter people sweat more and earlier in exercise because their bodies are accustomed to needing to cool down.
  • Temperature and Environment– The main way the body maintains optimal body temperature during exercise is by sweating. Heat is removed from the body when beads of sweat on the skin evaporate, resulting in a loss of body fluid. Sweat production, and therefore fluid loss, increases with a rise in ambient temperature and humidity.
  • Exercise Intensity – You sweat more as you exercise harder.

One way to know when to drink is to respond to what your body tells you. If you feel thirsty, you really need to drink water as your body is already showing advanced signs that it needs to take in more fluid.

Hydration after exercise

It’s important to hydrate following exercise to make up for all the sweat you’ve lost. At least 250ml within 30 minutes following any exercise will help keep you hydrated. While this is a basic timeline to follow, people with a higher BMI or who sweat more during exercise require more water. The sooner you start to replace the fluid, the sooner you’ll recover.

Don’t be tempted to reward yourself after exercise with a pint or a glass of wine. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it removes water from your body by increasing how much urine your kidneys produce.

How to assess the water in the body?

The amount of water you drink each day is important for optimal health. Most people drink when they’re thirsty, which helps regulate daily water intake, but this may not be very accurate, more especially when water loss (through sweating and urination) is greater in the body than water replenishment. You will also have to increase your water intake if you’re exercising or living in a hotter region to avoid dehydration.

Other ways to assess hydration is through the colour of your urine Urine that is dark or coloured indicates dehydration. Pale or non-coloured urine typically indicates proper hydration.

What Affects Dehydration?

There are several factors that affect dehydration besides exercise alone. The environment can affect how quickly you become dehydrated. Moderate exercise in hot or humid weather can increase the amount of water you need when compared to if you were doing the same activity in an air-conditioned gym. High altitudes can also make your body work harder and affect your hydration levels.

Your general health also affects dehydration. If you are suffering from cold symptoms or getting over an illness, your body likely has lost a good amount of fluids. Conversely, not drinking enough water can make you more prone to getting sick. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle involves a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, and plenty of water, too. 

Finally, travel is a factor that can affect dehydration. Changing climates and time zones can have a negative effect on the body. It’s key to maintain your daily water intake even if your schedule shifts due to travel plans.

Symptoms of Dehydration

By drinking water at all stages of a workout, you can prevent dehydration. However, if you’re starting a new fitness routine or training for a marathon, the amount of water you need may change and your body may become dehydrated if you’re drinking the right amount for the activity only. There are noticeable changes you’ll experience if dehydration sets in. Symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased urine output or urine that’s more yellowish
  • Headache
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Muscle cramping/fatigue
  • Breakdown of skeletal muscle

Severe dehydration can also lead to fever, and in some cases, fainting. Even if you don’t strictly regulate your water intake on a daily basis, drink as much water as possible, and know what signs to look for to indicate you’re not getting enough. Every person requires different amounts.

What does water do for you?

As dehydration increases, there is a gradual reduction in physical and mental performance. There is an increase in heart rate and body temperature, and an increased perception of how hard the exercise feels, especially when exercising in the heat. Studies show that loss of fluid equal to 2% of body mass is sufficient to cause a detectable decrease in performance (that’s a 1.4 kg loss in a 70 kg athlete). Dehydration of greater than 2% loss of body weight increases the risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and other gastro-intestinal problems during exercise. Dehydration reduces the rate of fluid absorption from the intestines, making it more difficult to reverse the fluid deficit. You may end up feeling bloated and sick if you delay fluid replacement.

How can you prevent dehydration?

Β· Don’t wait until you are thirsty! Thirst is one of the early signs of dehydration and if you wait until you are thirsty, you have already begun to dehydrate.

Β· Dress for the environment.

o During the warm months exercise at the coolest time of the day – early morning or late evening and wear the lightest clothing that you can (lightweight t-shirts, shorts, low-cut socks).

o During the cold months, wear several layers of clothing so that you can remove layers as you begin to sweat.

Β· Avoid working out in plastic or rubber suits.

If you’re dehydrated before you start exercising:

  • your core temperature will rise faster
  • your heart will have to work harder than usual

This will affect your performance negatively and can even lead to heat stroke.

Guidelines on how much?

For a lower intensity workout, drink 200ml – 300ml of water for every 10 to 30 minutes. On the other hand, a high-intensity, 90-minute workout calls for closer to 1.6 litres or more. 

Adjust your water intake by your workout schedule. For example, if you take a 60-minute exercise class, work in at least 2 or 3 short water breaks.

Water helps fuel your muscles, so drinking before, during and after exercise will boost your energy levels, and may help to prevent cramp.

Here are some ideas to make sure you drink enough each day:

  • Carry a water bottle filled with water, with you, wherever you go. This way it makes it easier to consume on the go and reminds you of your daily intake.
  • Aim to take in optimum amounts every day, within your daily required amount.
  • Pace yourself to approach half of your recommended consumption by midday. It is recommended that you finish you last cup / sip or gulp about an hour before you plan to sleep.

Fluid Guidelines Summary

  • The detrimental effects of dehydration on performance may include loss of coordination, impaired ability to make a decision, increased rate of perceived exertion and increased risk of heat stress.
  • Aim to match your sweat rate with fluid intake as closely as possible.
  • Ensure that you drink at a rate that is comfortable.

References:

B.M. Popkin., K.E. D’Anci., & I.H. Rosenberg. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health Nutr, 68(8): 439 – 458. Doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010. 00304.x

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/why-is-water-important
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/water-and-healthier-drinks.html
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink
https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-are-health-benefits-drinking-water

https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/exercise-fitness/hydration-exercise https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Fluids-in-sport.pdf