Trying to drop a little body fat before summer, but struggling to see results? Feeling tired at work and losing concentration? Already eating healthy, but looking for an extra energy boost? All these things may have the same solution… Better hydration.
While water does not – sadly – have the power to fix all ills, adequate hydration can dramatically improve our overall health and fitness, with short and long-term benefits for energy balance, digestion, muscle performance and much much more.
Water plays a vital role in the transportation of nutrients around the body, energy levels, cramps, body temperature, concentration and mood. It is especially important to rehydrate after exercising, as a lot of water is lost through sweating and breathing. Drinking around 500mL during the 2 hours before exercise ensures you are not dehydrated and even more water is needed post-workout to replace the water lost. Drinking a reasonable amount of water after exercise also enhances rapid and complete recovery. Just be aware that drinking a lot of water during exercise can cause stomach ache and discomfort, so maybe stick to sipping on water when necessary – but this will vary from person to person.
It’s very easy to misjudge how much water we’re drinking and end up not being hydrated enough. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 3.7L /day for men and 2.7L /day for women – this includes liquids found in food. UK government guidelines suggest drinking 6-8 glasses every day. Low-fat milks and low-sugar or sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee all count towards your daily hydration needs, not just water. Fruit juice and smoothies also count, but they contain free sugars (naturally present sugars) that can damage teeth, so limit these to a combined total of 150ml per day.
Drinks that are high in sugar are often also high in calories, and consuming too many calories makes you more likely to gain weight. Checking the nutrition labels on fruit juices and fizzy drinks can help you make healthier choices.
Alcohol is very high calories and regular consumption will limit results, wellbeing and has been proven to cause inflammation in the gut, as well as damage the liver.
When it comes to optimal health and weight loss, alcohol does not trigger a feeling of satiety or fullness, so after one drink, it is easy to carry on drinking. The calories consumed from alcohol are likely to lead to a surplus in calories that day. For this reason, it’s a good idea to limit alcohol consumption as much as possible.
When it comes to mood and concentration, dehydration leads to a drop in blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to the brain and leads to poor concentration and tiredness. This in turn can cause energy levels to plummet and you might also experience headaches. Drinking water regularly throughout the day will help to keep your energy levels up and stay focused and motivated all day.
An estimated 43% of people in the UK (around 28 million) experience chronic pain (pain that lasts for more than three months), but research has found that drinking water helps to keep your lower back healthy. It does this in two ways. Firstly, it carries nutrients to and from the vertebral column. Secondly, the center of our intervertebral discs are made up of mostly water, so as you go about your daily activities the spine compresses the disc and water is squeezed out. When the discs do not have enough water, this can cause back pain and lack of mobility. Hydrating is therefore highly important for spinal health and pain-free movement.
To sum it all up, aim to make a daily habit of drinking plenty of water. A good target to aim for is 2 to 3L/day for optimal results. Keeping a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day could help you remember to keep drinking.
Water works best as part of a complete and balanced lifestyle. If you would like more advice on exercise, nutrition and how to improve your overall health and fitness, ask our personal trainers, who would be more than happy to help! (Pssst. A good place to start learning about nutrition is our blog on macros and micros. Check it out here!)