Hydration is really the key to health!
You can eat all the healthy food in the world you want, but if you are washing this down with sugar-loaded drinks or no fluids at all then all your hard work in the kitchen or avoidance of fast food or sugary treats is counterproductive.
Did you know our bodies are approximately 60% water? We are constantly losing and gaining water throughout the day. Each shock absorbent disc in our spine is made largely of water and this water shifts constantly and even decreases in volume during the day. That’s why, if you compare your height measurements from morning to night, they will vary all due to our bodies natural process. So that´s why it is essential to ensure you are snacking on water. Again if you are trying to curb unnecessary snacking – simply have a bottle of water close at hand to banish any sugar cravings.
Hydration also plays a key role in concentration. How many of us sit for hours in one position looking at a screen or staring up at someone presenting on a topic. I for one can only concentrate for a very short space of time before I feel the need for some water to zone me in again on the situation. Eye sight is one of the first things to decrease when dehydrated so naturally when you begin to lose focus on the screen ahead or rub at your eyes in frustration it may be due to dehydration and obviously a screen nap would also be worthwhile. Again,imagine you are out hiking or playing a match with your sports team; you begin to become dehydrated from all the water lost through sweat, your focus begins to wane on your opponent and they win the ball from you or you fail to see a lose stone or root again and trip and fall. These are all avoidable things by keeping adequately hydrated.
Our bodies’ natural fluid balance can also be affected due to the environment we are in. The change in the seasons from summer to winter with the introduction of central heating can lead to dehydration. I for one am normally sweating on the wards running around an overheated hospital in winter and an under ventilated one in summer. Again, if you are on holidays in a foreign country and not used to very warm or humid conditions, you will more than likely be sweating a lot more than normal and again losing more fluids.
So how do I know if I am hydrated or dehydrated?
The simple answer is monitoring the colour of your urine. Yes, not the prettiest of answers but the simplest. I was first given this advice many years ago when playing on an underage sports team and really haven’t looked back since. Some sports venues and universities have this simple chart pasted on the back of every toilet door as a simple info graphic. You don’t need any equipment just use the chart below.
Generally if your urine smells offensive or is any shade darker than light yellow, you need to start rehydrating.
Great, how do I hydrate?
The evidence would recommend the average person would drink 2-4 litres of water a day. If you are a sportsperson or just doing some sort of exercise or strenuous activity that is causing you to sweat then this obviously needs to be increased.
If you need some rapid rehydration following an endurance event or just a long day in the sun then my advice would be to use electrolyte capsules diluted in water. There are plenty on the market with varying price tags. I find these great to use after a particularly tough match in warm conditions, a long day hiking in the sun, after getting sun burnt or when you are feeling run down or after an illness.
Coconut water is another great rehydration option as it naturally contains trace minerals lost through sweating or one or two many beers the night before as it is becoming increasingly popular as an essential hangover cure. However, watch out for coconut water laced with hidden sugars and preservatives.
Drink water. If our bodies are made of pure water then this is what we should be drinking not sugar loaded fizzy drinks or liquid calories. Fruit juice is another common source of fluids but also sugar so try to stick to only one small glass a day or else ideally eat rather than drink your fruit. I know some people don’t like the taste of water so simply adding a slice of lemon or orange is great or mixing things up and adding some fresh mint leaves, slices of cucumber and lemon leads to a really refreshing taste.
Okay, so I´ll start drinking more water every day!
Now you´ve decided to start drinking more fluids on a daily basis and you find yourself running to the bathroom all the time!! Not ideal! This is a natural reaction of your body as you adjust to taking on more fluids. However, if you are requiring the toilet constantly and you see your urine colour very light, then you may be over hydrating so lay off the water. My tip would be to sip rather than down a pint of water all in one go. My daily goal it to gradually drink one litre of water between my breakfast and 11am and then sip on water for the rest of the day.
Finally my top hydration tips are:
- Monitor the colour of your urine.
- Always have a water bottle on hand.
- Fill a jug of water and leave it in the fridge for when you need a cool refreshing drink.
- Monitor your hydration requirements due to the environment you are in or the activity you are doing on a daily basis.
- Begin to swap the liquid calories (fizzy drinks, fruit juices etc.) for water.