Our muscles, our skin, our bones, our hair; these are all hard and tangible parts of our bodies that we seem to always focus on. But did you know that the majority of your body is not actually bones nor solid tissue? Research shows that those components only make up for around 20 percent of your body of your body. The remaining 80 percent is a combination of water and chemical compounds. Given that most of your body is made up of water, keeping hydrated throughout your day should be one of your biggest priorities and here’s why.
1. Your body is losing water, all the time
I’m sure that you would’ve come across a leaky bucket at one stage or another. They’re annoying, aren’t they? As soon as you put some water into it, it starts leaking out the bottom. The more that you put in, the more that seems to come out and the only way to keep the level of water in the bucket at a consistent level is to just keep pouring. Our bodies are very much like leaky buckets. We have to constantly replenish our water stores as we are constantly depleting them. A typical adult will lose around two to three liters per day - if you exercise more or live in hot environments, then you will sweat and excrete more - predominantly through urine and sweat.
2. You lose water every time you breathe
Every time you breathe, your water stores get a little bit lower. The reason behind this is because our airways add a little bit of moisture to humidify the air that we breathe in and out. This is equivalent to around 200 to 500 ml of water per day but heavily depends on the environment that you are in. Dry environments require us to breathe out more water to humidify the air, while humid environments where the air is already very moist such as Malaysia require less.
3. Conventional sports drinks aren’t that good for you
Although we’ve developed a habit for reaching for the latest conventional sports drink to quench our thirst post-workout, it may not actually be a good idea. Aside from costing a lot of money per litre, there are numerous side effects that could be detrimental to your health. Conventional sports drinks are laden with harmful additives such as artificial dyes, colouring and flavouring, as well as excess amounts of sugar, salt and acids. These ingredients have all been linked with complications such as allergies, ADHD and dental erosion. Tim Noakes, professor of exercise and sports science at University of Cape Town in South Africa, when advising casual runners even went to the great lengths of saying, “if they avoided the sports drinks they would get thinner and run faster.”
4. We don’t all need sodium replenishments
Endurance athletes who compete in long-distance competitions generally hydrate their bodies with drinks containing sodium. As an example, one bottle of Gatorade contains over 300 mg of sodium. While endurance athletes generally need this, most of us already have enough sodium in our systems. The daily recommended intake for an average adult is 1500 mg, yet people frequently average over 3000 mg. Therefore, someone who completes a normal one hour workout would most likely not need extra sodium in their diet. But your professional endurance athlete probably would.
5. There’s more to electrolytes than the word “electrolytes”
We’ve all heard of “electrolytes,” when talking about sports drinks, but what actually are they? Electrolytes are minerals such as chloride, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium which carry an electric charge. Our bodies need electrolytes as they regulate our nerve and muscle function, while maintaining our acid-base and fluid balance. Electrolytes are lost when we sweat though, so we need to constantly replenish them throughout the day.
6. Although we should avoid sugary drinks, we do need “some” sugar
Our main fuel source for training is muscle glycogen (our bodies way of storing glucose i.e. sugar). When we work out, we use up our muscle glycogen and this needs to be replenished. Some people may avoid eating after a workout because they want to lose weight, however eating the right carbohydrates will help our bodies to restore muscle glycogen levels, help us feel rejuvenated and fend off any sugar and starch cravings. Best of all, they will also give you the energy that you need to face your next workout.
7. You can make your own natural sports drinks
Aside from drinking plain old H20, there are ways to hydrate yourself more creatively and nutritiously. Firstly, you could add ingredients such as lemon, lime, cucumber and chia seeds to make your glass of water even healthier. Or if you really want to get the most out of it, create your own all-natural sports drinks. As previously mentioned, your body needs key minerals such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium to function optimally, however, sports drinks are generally unhealthy for your body. Creating your own all-natural sports drinks is fun, and can result in delicious and healthy concoctions, which above all, quench your thirst.
8. Timing is key
Gym bag, keys, phone and a bottle of water - you’re all set to go exercise, right? Well, not exactly. Although bringing some water to your next fitness session is a no-brainer, there is a science to how much you should bring and when you should drink it (this includes hydrating your body before you’ve even gone out the front door). Here are some guidelines set out by the American College of Sports Medicine to help you effectively hydrate your body:
● Before exercise:
○ Weigh yourself on the scales
○ Drink half a litre of water at least 4 hours before exercise
○ Drink 300 ml 15 to 20 minutes before exercise
● During exercise:
○ Drink 100 ml of water every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising for less than 60 minutes
○ Drink 100 ml of a natural sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising for more than 60 minutes
● After exercise:
○ Weigh yourself on the scales
○ Drink around a litre of water or natural sports drink for every kilo that was lost
9. You can actually drink too much water
Back in 2007, a Sacremento-based radio station ran a competition called “Wee for a (Nintendo) Wii ” and asked contestants to drink a small 250 ml bottle of water every 15 minutes. Contestants would be disqualified if they went to the bathroom and the last contestant remaining would win a brand new Nintendo Wii. While this competition seemed harmless at the time, it turned out to be horrific. On her way home, one of the contestants complained that her head was hurting and later died of water intoxication.
Like everything else, it’s all about balance. Although it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, there is a limit to how much your body can take. Water intoxication, or overhydration, can cause behaviour changes, nausea, vomiting, weakness, paralysis and in some cases, death. This is easily avoided though by regulating your fluid and sodium intake. As a rule of thumb, you should not consume any more than one litre of fluids per hour.
How do your rehydrating habits stack up? Will you be making any changes to better care for your body?