How To Maximise Your Hydration For Health When Exercising

Maximise Your Hydration For Health When Exercising

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Maximising your Hydration is a key but often overlooked component of health, fitness and performance. A lot of the suggestions in the mainstream can sometimes come across contradictory which leads to confusion for the general public, leading to mixed results. This short article will highlight a few key takeaways that you will be able to take away for your own fitness regime.

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Water Sources

If you live in the UK, generally speaking tap water is completely fine to consume on a regular basis, providing that sufficient filtration systems are in place. Bottled water is often marketed to be better and in some cases it may be and may taste better but the majority of the time, tap water has just as good nutritional value and is more cost effective. Drinking from the tap also means we are less likely to waste plastic which will only help the environment.

That being said, if you live outside of the UK – bottled water may be a better option as the safeness of consumption largely comes down to the quality of the filtration systems in place.

World map for tap water
Source: Centre for Disease Control

Alkaline / Acid Balance

The difference in acidity level will mostly affect the taste but pure water has a Ph of 7.2-7.4. Each brand of water will have a different Ph which should be labelled on the bottle. Some brands may have a level as low as 5.8 whilst others can go up to 8. Regulated water in the UK and most of Europe won’t be caustic enough to hurt you but for optimal performance and to be on the safe side, we want to be as close to 7.3 as possible, leaving slight variability for preference in taste.

Hydration water bottle chart
Photo: Daily Mail

Drink Little and Often

There are a number of equations out there that widely vary in advice given. The important thing to understand here is that context is king. The amount of water we will need is dependent on a number of factors including activity levels, weather, food intake, and time of day, genetics, how big we are, how much we weigh and other environmental factors.

Drinking a minimum of eight cups of water a day is a vague and commonly used guideline but it can sometimes be a bit arbitrary. For some people this is too little, for some it’s perfect and some it’s not enough. Instead, you should be consistent in your intake over a period of time and tweak your amounts until you find a range that works best.

Establishing a baseline will allow you to have less or more depending on the demands of your environment using the base as a guide. An example would be, in summer you will sweat more so you will need to increase water intake – the same applies if you increase your exercise frequency and/or intensity. Based on this, the eight glasses a day may not be a bad starting point but for some people it is the bare minimum.

Hyponatremia is a condition that means you don’t have enough sodium in your blood and sodium is important to control how much water is in and around the cells in the body. It can be caused by medical conditions, medicines or if you drink too much water. The more common symptoms as nausea, cramps, muscle spasms, headache, fatigue and general weakness.

This is something to pay attention to as too much water is just as detrimental to the body as dehydration and there is a rising occurrence of hyponatraemia especially in endurance based athletes who don’t pace their intake. As a general rule, a good way to measure your bodies’ water adequacies for health is to assess the colour of your urine using the colour system below:

are you drinking enough table
Source: NHS

Monitor your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is popular and as we know it comes in the forms of coffee, energy drinks and tea. It has its place and many people will agree that it benefits them first thing in the morning but the key is to limit your intake to no more than two cups per day. This is an estimate based on the size and weight of the average person but this does not take into account personal tolerance to the substance, so it just acts as a starting point.

The stimulation on your nervous system aside, caffeine is a strong diuretic and therefore causes you to go to the toilet more which can lead to dehydration. This is more so a problem because when you drink a lot of tea and coffee, you feel like you are consuming liquid but the jury is out on whether this should count towards your daily fluid intake. Caffeine also causes some people to not feel thirsty when they actually are so by masking the urge for water, it causes us to drink less and go into a deeper state of dehydration.

If you are a heavy caffeine consumer, it would also be sensible to drink more water and consume more electrolytes to ensure that you stay hydrated properly as we can lose a lot of salt when we sweat and urinate. Salt is the key to maintaining healthy water balance.

Hydration and caffeine
Source: My Food Data

Monitor your Alcohol Intake

Alcohol is another one to keep an eye on as this also causes us to lose fluid almost as quick as we are consuming it. Alcohol is not only a depressant but it’s also a diuretic like caffeine, so it causes us to become dehydrated quickly, especially if we aren’t keeping our water up between every other drink.

This doesn’t mean to say don’t drink alcohol if you feel inclined to and you enjoy it but there’s no disputing the effect regular alcohol consumption has on body composition, energy and health so if you’re serious about these things, you may want to trade in the weekly sessions for special occasions. The government guidelines tell us to keep alcohol consumption to less than fourteen units per week which is about six pints of lager or four large glasses of wine.

This is fine as a recreational exerciser but if you’re after a drastic result and/or are a performance driven athlete or individual, you are more often than not better off knocking it on the head altogether.

What’s also not common knowledge is that a lot of people are actually intolerant to alcohol and many people of eastern Asian descent in particular, don’t have the necessary enzyme to break alcohol down leading to reactions such as the Asian flush. Some individuals livers are also not aptly suited to dealing with alcohol on a regular basis and this can lead to things like alcohol induced hepatitis if left unchecked.

Photo: Cone health

Consider using BPA free Plastic Bottles

BPA free bottles are also suggested to be better for our health due to high levels of BPA being related to eroded teeth, depression, diabetes, and asthma and memory loss. Now, I would be stretching and speculating to say that BPA directly causes these things which I’d never be able to prove but the thought of not having eroding plastic in the bottom of my water every time I refill it, is an appeal to many people and if there’s a chance it improves our health then it’s worth, at least exploring further.

There are many people in the fitness industry who swear by this approach and it does make sense on a logical level. The problem is the evidence is just suggestive at this stage and isn’t strong enough to definitively conclude that they are always 100% safer but that’s the same for most things in fitness but what we can be sure of is that water contamination is a health concern in general and anything that reduces that concern can only be a good thing.

Maximise Your Hydration For Health When Exercising

My names Christian Roach. 

I’m the Education Director at Redefining Fitness. We deliver internationally accredited fitness qualifications for aspiring personal trainers across the UK. Our internationally experienced team of tutors help students to go from enrolment to graduation to successful business in as little as six to twelve months. 

We’re known for delivering exceptionally high service and for producing industry ready fitness professionals, leaving our students feeling inspired to be the best version of themselves.

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