Importance of Hydration

As I drove to my office a bit ago, I noticed the outside temperature on the thermometer on my dashboard. It read 104, and that’s only supposed to go up in the next few days! On days like these, keeping your body properly hydrated is crucial! Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, sleepiness, heat stroke, urination and kidney issues, and even seizures. Chronic dehydration can lead to dozens of medical issues, ranging from simple fatigue to fatal cardiac issues.

The “eight and eight” rule is good to remember. It simply means to drink eight, eight ounce glasses of water per day. However, this may vary depending on several factors including your health, size, activity level, weather, women during their cycle, and a litany of other factors. Keep in mind, it’s pretty tough to drink too much water! While you hear of drowning deaths from drinking too much water from time to time, it’s usually because of some ridiculous hazing ritual gone horribly wrong. So particularly on hot days, don’t worry about drinking too much water. Your body will tell you if you need to stop.

Some hydration rules to remember.

1) You will always see one of my canteens on my desk. In fact, every day, I bring at least two of them regardless of the weather. When it’s hot outside, it’s important to be able to take consistent sips every ten or 15 minutes. Get in the habit of having water everywhere you go.

2) Don’t wait till you feel thirsty to drink. By the time you feel the effects of thirst, you’ve already been dehydrated for a minimum of one hour.

3) Caffeine and alcohol do nothing to hydrate you, and in fact speed up dehydration. While they may be great to keep you cool, they will only hurt your efforts to stay hydrated. For every ounce of alcohol or caffeine you drink, add at least an extra ounce of water. If you want to stay cool, you’d be better off having an ice cream cone. In related news, now I want ice cream.

4) Room temperature water is best. It’s tempting to ice your water on a hot day, but when you drink ice cold water on a hot day, it shocks your digestive system, making it work harder, and can even cause you to go into shock. At a minimum, you need to drink more if the water is cold due to the extra effort your body uses to process it. Additionally, things like Gatorade and other sports drinks may be good for after a strenuous workout to replace electrolytes, but for general hydration, the water that comes out of your tap is usually best.

5) If you have a big event coming up like a test or other strenuous activities, start hydrating early! Too often, I see people guzzling gallons of water immediately before the activity. All this does is bloat you, and creates a need to go to the bathroom! Your muscles are no different than a steak. After all, a steak is nothing more than the muscle tissue of the animal. If you want to marinate a steak, you don’t pour the entire bottle of sauce onto it right before it hits the grill, do you? No! The best way is to apply moderate amounts days before it hits the grill. Your body is no different. By hydrating several days early, you saturate the muscle tissue in advance so you perform at your peak performance. A rule of thumb I use is to estimate how many hours you will be active, then double that number. That’s how many days in advance you should increase your water consumption. For instance, if you will be active for three hours, start your hydration six days early. I generally gradually increase the water intake to double my normal intake, but everyone is different, and there is no set amount you should increase.

Lastly, a few easy ways to tell if you’re hydrated enough:

1) The pinch test: Pinch the back of your hand. Your skin should rebound to it’s normal shape and color within a couple seconds.

2) Your urine color: If the color of your urine is extra yellow/gold-toned, this is because your body is trying to conserve water, and the normal waste ejected through your urine is more concentrated. It’s important to note however, that some medications may cause your urine to be darker, even while properly hydrated.

3) Sweat production: Highly tuned athletes are aware of how much they sweat given their level of activity, heart rate, etc. While you may not be a high level athlete, if you’re out in the hot sun, you should probably be sweating. If you’re not, drink something!

Many studies have shown that up to 70% of people are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it! Fortunately, hydration is a very easy condition to avoid, but it requires diligence on your part! Simple things like reducing or eliminating caffeine consumption, and always having a water bottle handy are the best ways. By staying properly hydrated, your body works better, you’ll be healthier, and avoid a litany of potentially medical issues.

Any thoughts? Questions? Want to add your two cents? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
Mike Delfino


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