Water is essential for every living thing, including people. Humans are comprised of mostly water. This critical fluid helps our bodies in many ways including transport of nutrients through and toxins from the body. Water is also needed for digestion. Inadequate water intake can lead to dehydration, which is fatal in extreme cases. For most people minor dehydration often leads to feeling sluggish. You may also feel like you have a headache or that your thoughts are cloudy. During endurance exercise dehydration negatively impacts performance. According to Nancy Clark, in her article 15 Hydration Facts for Athletes, “…distance runners slow their pace 2 percent for each percent of body weight lost through dehydration.” Drinking enough water is an easy way to improve your endurance as well as your performance.
How much is enough?
We have all heard the 8 glasses of water rule. Recent research has proven that much water is not necessary as a rule. You may need more or less depending on the length and intensity of your exercise. Temperature is also a factor. Hydration is even more critical as the temperature rises. That doesn’t mean you don’t need water when you exercise in winter, you do. Two good ways to determine if you are getting enough water involve monitoring weight and urine.
- Hop on the scale nude before you exercise and again when you have finished. You may notice that you weigh one or even a few pounds less. How much you lose will depend on how much you sweat. Using the scale as your guide replace every pound lost with 16 to 24 ounces of water within six hours of exercise.
- What color is your urine? When you are adequately hydrated your urine should be plentiful and pale yellow in color. If your urine is dark or low in volume, try drinking more water.
How to stay hydrated
Drink when you feel thirsty. To improve performance drink at least 16 ounces of water about two hours before exercise. If you can’t stop for water, wear a hydration belt and sip at least 4 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise. Adequate hydration will help you avoid cramping and maintain body temperature. If you exercise more than 60 minutes consider alternating water with sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes.
Drink more all day
- Keep water on hand – it sounds easy, and it is. You are more likely to reach for water when it is readily available. If you are worried about adding more plastic bottles to landfills recycle or purchase a couple of refillable bottles. Invest in a filter bottle if you don’t like the taste of your tap water.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – choose foods with high water content and do your body a double dose of good. Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, radishes, and watermelon are just a few of the healthy and high water content choices available.
- Make it more interesting – you may want to skip water in favor of something a bit tastier. Why not perk up your water instead? Add cucumber or citrus slices to a glass of water for a little extra zing. Other drinks can lead to a gastrointestinal episode because of sugar content or artificial ingredients. You won’t have to worry about tummy rumbles with water so you can focus on doing your best.
Boost your endurance efforts with the most important fuel for successful athletes – weekend warriors and gold medalists alike – water.