Hydration for beginners: 4 basic rules

Hydration

We previously covered protein in our beginners guide to healthy living. Now it’s time for the next chapter: Hydration. Whereas protein intake seems complicated but actually isn’t, hydration is not as straightforward as most people think it is – especially if you’re someone who exercises regularly. Since missing out on your hydration goals can have detrimental effects on your performance, focus and overall health in general, we gathered 4 basic – yet crucial – rules to help you reach your #HydrationGoals.

 The importance of proactive hydration

Before we talk you through the rules, you first need to understand the importance of hydration and why you should be equally as proactive when it comes to staying hydrated as you are with eating clean. Drinking sufficient water increases energy, keeps your muscles & joints lubricated, prevents overeating, impacts brain power and improves the quality of your skin. A deficit of just ½ a litre of water can increase your stress hormone cortisol, leaving you feeling moody and not on top of your game – whether it’s at work, on the training ground or at home. So, if you’re someone who always paid little attention to their hydration compared to their nutrition, it’s time to focus on your fluid intake by sticking to these 4 rules:

Rule#1: Men should consumer 3.7 litres and women 2.7 litres of fluid per day – minimum.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends the above amount as a daily hydration goal. If you’re unsure of your hydration level, check the colour of your urine. If it’s pale, this means you’re hydrated enough. However, if it’s a darker colour, similar to apple juice, this means you’re dehydrated. If it’s dark and cloudy, you are extremely dehydrated. Tips to ensure you’re drinking enough fluids include: investing in a BPA-free, refillable water bottle and carrying it with you wherever you go; always keeping a glass of water on your nightstand; tracking your fluid intake each day using an app or simple pen and paper.

Rule #2: Don’t drink calories.

When we say “hydration” and “fluids”, we mean calorie free drinks. Replacing alcohol (obviously), soft drinks, fruit juices and sport drinks with water and natural tea only, is the most effective and efficient method to keep your body hydrated and also means you’re cutting down on unnecessary calories and sugar. Sports drinks are where most people tend to get confused. Should we drink them? Shouldn’t we? To clarify: Sports drinks are designed to provide your body with extra energy during intense sports – not to fulfil basic hydration needs.

Rule #3: Drink 500ml of water (minimum) as soon as you wake up.

If your first drink of the day is that large black coffee you need to bring you to life, you’re already missing out on a great opportunity to reach your #Hydrationgoals. Whether you feel thirsty or not, 6-8 hours of sleep is a long period to go without drinking anything and your body is going to be dehydrated. Having a sufficient amount of water in your system also helps fire up the metabolism and supports in the transportation of essential nutrients in the body. As we already mentioned above: keep a bottle or glass of water on your nightstand and make sure it’s the first thing you reach for in the morning.

Rule #4: Include hydration in your training plan.

Staying hydrated during training is something you should also consider. And by this we don’t mean having a bottle of water next to your training mat incase you feel thirsty two thirds of the way through. You should consciously drink enough fluids the day of a workout, immediately before a workout, during a workout and after a workout. It might sound extreme but losing body weight due to fluid loss can decrease performance and put your health at risk. If you don’t want to suffer from a headache or worse, set an alarm to remind you to drink 500 ml of water 1-2 hours before training, 200 ml immediately before training, 100-200 ml every 10-15 mins during your training and at least another 500 ml afterwards.

It’s simple, but not always obvious. Stick to the rules and stay hydrated.