Wait… hydration again? I’ve been talking about personalized nutrition, and I already addressed hydration a couple of days ago in a bullet point under “Basic Lifestyle Guidelines.” Well, hydration is important enough to talk about more than once. I talk to clients about hydration first when we’re working on the ‘foundation’ that is their healthy lifestyle, and we talk about it again when we start working on the ‘framing’ that is their nutrition plan, right after talking about Protein.
I feel like I’ve worn out the grooves on this record, discussing the reasons to hydrate repeatedly. You can read my previous writings on why water is important here, here and here.
How Much Water?
There is definitely such a thing as too little water. That’s called dehydration. It is one of the deadliest things known to man, guaranteed to kill human beings if prolonged. Before that happens, there will be early warning signs, such as dark colored urine, excessive thirst, fatigue, and dizziness. When dehydration becomes severe, it can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney failure, seizures, loss of consciousness, and low blood volume shock. Go too long without water and you will die.
There is also such a thing as too much water. That’s called overhydration. Also called water intoxication, water poisoning, hyperhydration, water toxemia, or hyponatremia, this can kill you too. If you’re drinking too much water, symptoms might include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, confusion, dizziness, cramping, and weakness. More athletes are actually injured or killed by overhydration each year than by dehydration. In fact, according to M.D./alert, the medical literature does not include a single case of sports-related dehydration death, while on the other hand, as many as 15% of endurance athletes suffer from it and some die.
So, how do we find the ‘Goldilocks point’ of just the right amount of water to drink? Well, I like to start people off with a recommendation of half their bodyweight in ounces. So, if you weigh 200lbs, that’s 100 ounces. Easy math. Then, you monitor your urine. Peeing way too often and it’s always clear? That would indicate you’re probably drinking too much, so drink less. Rarely going to the bathroom to pee and it looks golden? You’re probably not drinking enough, so drink more.
How To Manage It?
Despite the tendency of endurance athletes to overhydrate, more often than not most people struggle to take in enough water in during the day. I have a few simple strategies for them:
- Only drink water (no coffee, tea, juice, soda, milk, or alcohol)
- Drink water first thing in the morning (I like sipping on a quart of H2O with a little Himalayan pink salt and lemon juice for the first hour of my day)
- Give yourself a visual reference (visualizing how many pint glasses or Nalgene bottles make up your daily water requirement)
- Put yourself on a water schedule (maybe setting a reminder alarm to drink a certain amount of water at set points during the day)
- Create some daily benchmarks for yourself (“I’m going to refill this water bottle X many times today”)
- Keep water close at hand (a water bottle at the desk where you work, another in the car)
Once you get an adequate hydration routine worked out for yourself, a lot of common complaints tend to go away. Mental acuity, recovery, and physical readiness are all improved. Your immune system will function better and your body will better adapt to training. You’ll also have more experience practicing self-discipline and behavior change, which will make it easier to take on your next set of nutrition improvements.
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