HYDRATION 101: What is DeHydration & How to Stay Hydrated?
Water is the fifth macronutrient besides fats, protein, carbs, and fiber. Of course, it isn't considered a macronutrient classically, but I classify as so because 1. You need a lot of it, and 2. It just that important for overall health and especially for the sake of evolving the body.
Even though like fiber, water doesn't come with any calories, it is still important for your metabolism. Unfortunately most of us walk around a little dehydrated throughout most our days.
Water has so many functions in our body, but we'll go over just the most important two that you should know:
- Water is a transportation medium - in blood, in tissue, and in cells. That’s why our body can’t function at 100% when dehydrated.
- Water is an environment where chemical processes in our body take place. Every single process in our body needs water to function.
There are significant problems with dehydration. When we’re dehydrated, even just a little bit, our physical and cognitive performance goes down. Thats means we won't want to move as much, we’ll more easily give in to temptation and binging, as well as feel more tired and sleepless after a long sleep.
One interesting symptom of dehydration for lots of people is feeling hungry. In those cases, our body interprets this signal wrong and we overeat when we just should have had a cup of water.
Our bodies have yet to adapt to the abundance of fresh drinking water and would typically get most of its water from food. Many would even argue that this is still the best way for active individuals to ensure proper hydration and maintain H20 to mineral balance.
For those reasons, being well hydrated is very important to support our metabolism and to avoid poor eating habits.
What should we drink to stay hydrated?
The most important thing to remember is to avoid hydrating with sweetened or calorically dense options like juice or sade. Of course, we get some of our water from different foods, which is fine, but it is very rarely enough for the stress of modern life and especially for physically active, recreational lifters.
So the best source of hydration is - water! Even better - mineral water. Don’t mind the extra cost because the investment you make into higher quality nutrition will always provide a greater return in short term energy & long term health.
Another great option is to buy a quality water filter that will remove the chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals and toxins from your tap water.
Personally I only use reverse osmosis water and then add electrolytes back in. It’s cheaper than getting a top quality water filter that will do more than just remove chlorine (as most only do). There are many businesses that will even deliver reverse osmosis water to your door.
A good trick for the lifters just switching to unsweetened water is to drink your water with BCAAs or other non-caloric supplements like glycine. This tends to add enough flavour and sweetness so that it’s easier to adopt as a habit, while providing some extra protein to help stay satiated and fight off hunger in those that tend to overeat.
What about Coffee?
In the western world, we obviously drink a lot of coffee, which is fine. So long as we don’t drink too much, have too strong of a coffee or add too much extra sugar and milk/cream to the coffee, it will not dehydrate you absolutely.
However, caffeine is a diuretic and for that reason I recommend you follow every cup of coffee with a cup of water.
How much water is enough?
That’s honestly a complicated question for everyone because it depends on many things.
But the main principle to follow is it’s better to be overhydrated than dehydaretd. For most of us, it is 1.5-2 liters or about half a gallon of water in addition to food a day. People who are more physically active, or sweat more, would probably need 3-4 liters a day. The best way to know if you are getting enough water is to drink so much that your urine is light yellow and you go to the restroom more often than more seldomly.
In that case, you are well hydrated.
Clear urine on the other hand can be interpreted as overly hydrated as well as dehydrating. Annoying I know but it’s worth noting that clear urine can be solved with supplemental micronutrients and trace minerals like electrolytes.
How much should I drink when physically active?
It is generally recommended that active individuals drink at least 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercising, and then another 8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise.
After exercise, you should drink enough water to fully rehydrate. A good way to determine how much water you need is to weigh yourself before and after exercise and drink 16-24 ounces of water for every pound lost.
It is also important to pay attention to your body's thirst signals and drink water when you feel thirsty. It is generally recommended that adults drink at least 8-8 ounces of water per day to maintain proper hydration. However, the exact amount of water that an individual needs can vary depending on factors such as their age, sex, weight, and level of physical activity.
Although water doesn’t contain calories, it doesn’t mean it is less important than other macronutrients. Keeping yourself well-hydrated boosts your performance, metabolic processes, keeps your hunger at bay, and adds to your overall health. Get your water from low or non-caloric sources and remember that being a little overhydrated is much better than being a little under-hydrated.