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Your body is comprised of 60% water (ref). Whether you have a desk job or you are a professional athlete, adequate hydration is important. You need water throughout the day for energy, mood and performance, not just when you exercise. Once you feel ‘thirsty’, you are already experiencing dehydration and basic body functions can go wrong.
- Enhanced hunger
Dehydration can be confused with hunger and has been linked to the obesity epidemic. (7)
- Muscle cramps
Increased body heat with loss of hydration can affect electrolytes imbalances and muscles to cramp.
- Bad breath
Your saliva has antibacterial properties. Lack of water means lack of saliva and the bacteria make themselves noticed.
- Concentration & mood
Studies show mood and concentration improve with adequate hydration. (5,6)
Your brain sits inside a fluid membrane. Lack of water can result in part of your brain hitting against your skull. Dehydration headaches are often aggravated by movement.
- Lack of energy
Water in your blood is the main transportation for nutrients from food. If you don’t fuel your vehicle, it can’t work efficiently.
- Digestion and bowels
Decreased movement, sluggish bowels, less nutrients absorbed.
- Dizziness or lightheaded
As your body’s internal thermostat starts to overheat, you may feel dizziness.
- Sports performance
A study of basketball players showed that when dehydrated, their performance was significantly affected. (1)
It is important to highlight that dehydration is a serious problem and can be life-threatening. If you feel unwell, you should consult medical help.
Long term mild dehydration can result in impaired kidney function and extremely painful kidney stones. Inflammation has been linked to all chronic diseases.
Ways to Gauge My Hydration:
- A basic rule of thumb is to look at the colour of your urine.
The darker it is in colour, the more requirement there is for water. If your urine is clear it is generally a sign you are sufficiently hydrated. Sustain your consumption.
- Take a pinch of skin on the back of your hand and pull it up as high as it goes. Let it go. It should bounce back straightaway. If it doesn’t, you could be dehydrated.
- The average water consumption for an adult should be 1.5-2.5 litres per day (excluding extra when exercising). Hot climates often require more water.
- A healthy person urinates 7-8 times per day. If less then you are likely dehydrated. •
- Thirst is a sign of dehydration. Ideally you should drink before you feel thirsty for optimum health.
- If you are someone who rarely gets thirsty, your body could have a good buffer system. However, your buffer won’t last forever, so start the habit of drinking water before inflammation takes over.
Tip: If you start drinking more water, expect to urinate more frequently for the first 7 days. Your body needs to get used to receiving increased amounts so it takes consistent drinking for it to metabolically alter its fluid absorption to benefit your health.
Caffeine If you take caffeinated drinks, you need at least 1 glass of water for every cup of tea/coffee. More information on caffeine in programme week 2.
- Sports drinks and soft drinks (sodas)
According to the renowned Dr Mercola, “Sports drinks are high in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners. It has two-thirds of the sugar content of soda, and is 30 times more erosive to your teeth than water. High-fructose corn syrup could cause negative health impacts like preventing the natural production of your body’s human growth hormone (HGH)”
- Soft drinks
Did you know that the average soft drink contains 16 teaspoons of sugar? A study by The University of Texas Health Science Centre showed soft drink consumption and increased waist circumference. In other words, it made people overweight,(3) along with a myriad of other health problems. Artificial sweetener aspartame did the same whilst also detrimentally effecting insulin (which is our hormone that influences both fat storage and blood sugar balance). Don’t despair, read on for an alternative.
- Fruit juice
If your fruit juice has an expiry of more than 60 days from purchase, it has had so much of the nutrients and oxygen removed that there are no beneficial properties. Many fruit juices have nearly as much sugar as a can of soft drink.
What Can I Drink?
Water is the most accessible and best, but everything in moderation. It isn’t advisable to drink any one item in excess (even too much water is bad). It’s about balance. If you filter your water, it’s much better for you than tap water, but tap water is better than nothing. So take your first step. If you just can’t bring yourself to drink water even now, try good alternatives (in moderation).
- Coconut water (with no sugar added) is very hydrating, is a natural isotonic and has many anti- inflammatory properties. This is a good alternative if you are a sports drink fan. Drink after exercise.
- Herb tea chilled and drunk with ice and some fresh cut fruits, sprigs of mint and slices of cucumber is extremely refreshing.
- Drinks in glass, rather than in plastic bottles are preferable, as BPA in plastic is a whole other health story.
- Green juice smoothies (that contain more vegetables than fruits (see the recipe of the week section for tasty smoothie ideas)
Prioritise, drink and feel energised.
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I confirm and acknowledge my participation is limited to my own abilities and medical condition(s) (known or otherwise). I acknowledge associated risks of participation in the event I suffer from a medical condition, disability or other injury which may compromise my health and safety. I further acknowledge this may impact my end result and I absolve Fitness First of all liability, losses and damage for any injury I may suffer as a result of my participation.
The Fitness First Get Fit Nutrition Programme has been formulated in conjunction with Sara Valentine at Valentine Nutrition.