As someone who trains hard, you know that hydration is vital to your performance. If you aren’t hydrated going into your workouts (and throughout the day), it could cause you to miss a PR and even slow down your recovery. Additionally, falling short with your water intake can cause you to feel more sluggish and can even put the brakes on your body’s ability to burn fat.
Clearly, hydration matters! However, there are some common myths surrounding hydration which impact many people. This article will provide the facts so you can stay properly hydrated in order to improve your health and performance.
Water Is Best
‘Water is best!’ How often have you heard this touted by magazines and health websites when talking about hydration. You need to ask yourself, is it really? The fact is, if you’re an athlete who trains hard, you’re losing more than just water when you sweat. You’re also losing electrolytes which are important for stabilizing your blood pressure, regulating your heart rhythm, as well as sustaining your concentration and energy.
When you sweat, you’re sweating out sodium and potassium, both of which need to be replenished. Additionally, magnesium stores have the potential to be depleted during intense training sessions. These three electrolytes are essential in high-sweat situations, and water isn’t going to provide them.
In this case, you need a more comprehensive hydration agent that contains these electrolytes to fully restore what your body has lost. This is where a product like Kaged Muscle Hydra-Charge is a better option. You’ll still be getting the water your body needs, but you’ll also be taking in five vital electrolytes along with taurine for endurance, and coconut water powder for extra hydration. It also packs an antioxidant blend of fruit, vegetable, and herb extracts. It’s the best defense against dehydration out there.
Caffeine Automatically Means Dehydration
Another myth that commonly circulates is that consuming beverages which contain caffeine will dehydrate you.
While caffeine can act as a diuretic in the body, if you’re taking it in the form of a liquid (such as coffee), you’re still putting fluid into your system. The question then becomes, will the fluid you lose due to the diuresis of caffeine outweigh the fluid you put into your body when you consumed the drink?
In most cases, the answer is no. You’ll still be reaching a state of hydration by consuming the coffee as the ratio of input to output is in your favor. However, if you’re drinking a shot of espresso where the liquid content is much lower, it may be a different story, but with a regular cup of coffee, there shouldn’t be an issue.
What about when caffeine is combined with exercise – does the diuretic effect have a greater impact? A study examined the fluid balance of athletes with various dosages of caffeine. Among the athletes given caffeine, the average intake was 300mg – significantly more than a cup of coffee would provide. While there was a minor diuretic effect noted, it was nullified when participants exercised after intake.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to second-guess adding a little caffeine to your day or your pre-workout routine. As long as you are still consuming other fluids throughout the day and keeping your intake of caffeine to a reasonable amount, there should be no problems related to dehydration due to caffeine.
Thirst Is a Good Indicator Of Hydration
The next myth that needs to be dispelled is the notion that thirst is an indicator of hydration. Many people think that if they aren’t thirsty, they must be doing a good job of keeping their body hydrated.
However, many things can impact thirst. For example, if you stand out in the sun for just five minutes and begin to feel warmer, you’re more likely to want to reach for a beverage. Have you lost a considerably amount of fluid in that five minutes? Likely not, but yet, that thirst mechanism has been activated.
Generally speaking, thirst is a poor indicator of hydration status because you’ll find you become thirsty long after you have crossed into a state of dehydration. Research has found that drinking to thirst levels was not equivalent to drinking what you desire. Essentially, your body will need more fluid than what you are thirsty for during prolonged intense exercise.
While at rest, you may find that you can get away with thirst being a general cue to drink. However, when you’re more active on a day to day basis, even if it’s just running errands around the city, you likely need more water than what your thirst indicates.
Eight Cups of Fluid Is the Ideal Intake
It’s long been thought that eight cups of fluid is the recommended intake for everyone. In fact, you’ve probably heard that eight cups of water is what you need to aim for during the day, but ask yourself, how can this possibly apply to all individuals?
Would the 200-pound man training for two hours a day need the same amount of water as the 120-pound woman who is on her rest day?
Obviously, their needs are different. Fluid needs increase with body weight, intense and prolonged exercise, as well as hot and humid climates. Additionally, in general, men require more fluid than women do.
In the case of training, a great way to evaluate how much water you need to drink to offset what you lose during exercise is to weigh yourself before and after the workout session. For every pound you lose due to training, you should replace it with 16-20 ounces of fluids. You can use this as a general guideline when you train.
The More Water, The Better
Finally, the notion that the more water you drink, the better off you’ll be, needs to be examined. In the same way that too little water can cause problems, too much water can negatively impact your health, especially if it’s plain water.
Your body works hard to maintain a perfect balance of electrolytes at all times. If you’re overloading yourself with water, you could be diluting those electrolytes, possibly running into issues related to hyponatremia – a situation where sodium levels are abnormally low.
One method you can use to gauge if your hydration level is optimal is using your urine color. You don’t want your urine to be dark yellow or cloudy as this would indicate severe dehydration, however if your urine is completely clear, it may indicate over-hydration. Your urine should be a pale yellow color at all times.
However, keep in mind that certain vitamins can influence urine color. If you take a multivitamin and notice your urine goes bright yellow a couple hours later, this may not be an indicator that you’re dehydrated.
There you have five of the most common hydration myths to be aware of. Water is the most important nutrient for your body and it plays a role in every function, from digestion to temperature control. Ensuring that you keep an optimal level of hydration, especially as an athlete, is imperative for your performance and your health.
Key Indicators of Dehydration
Are you adequately hydrated? Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dehydration is important if you are going to put this problem behind you. Some of the key telltale signs you aren’t getting enough fluids include:
- Increased levels of thirst
- Feelings of a dry mouth
- Sluggishness or malaise
- Lowered urine output
- Decreased blood pressure
- Dry skin
- Urine that’s bright yellow (and you have not just taken a multi-vitamin)
- Increased heart rates
- Elevated perceived level of exertion (your workout feels exceptionally hard)
If you notice even a couple of these warning signs, pay attention. Your body might be trying to tell you something!
Armstrong, L. E., Johnson, E. C., & Bergeron, M.F. (2016). Counterview: Is drinking to thirst adequate to appropriately maintain hydration status during prolonged endurance exercise? No. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 27(2)195-198.
Zhang, Y., Coca, A., Casa, D.J., Antonio, J., Green, J.M., & Bishop, P.A. (2015). Caffeine and diuresis during rest and exercise: A meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18(5) 569-574.