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Drink up

Our lives -- and our workouts -- would improve with just a bit more water


Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/8/2017 (1007 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Personal trainer Blaine Podaima often must rectify a lot of bad habits with new clients, from incorrect posture to eating poorly.

But one the most common missteps he encounters with newbies that not only negatively affects their workouts, but potentially their general well being too, is a failure to properly hydrate.

"The vast majority of my first-time clients are not drinking enough water," says the owner of Podaima Performance in Winnipeg, which specializes in weight loss for individuals over age 40.

Their dehydration is usually mild. Yet it still could be having a negative impact on their in their day-to-day lives including possibly contributing to "headaches, decreased energy, dizziness and dry skin," he says.

The problem is widespread.

A number of studies point to people being chronically under-hydrated while linking mild dehydration to impaired physical and even mental health. These include a 2015 study that found 75 per cent of the U.S. population is chronically dehydrated, and 2016 research revealing about a third of high-performance athletes at the collegiate level began working out in a dehydrated state. Moreover, research from 2012 has linked mild dehydration to increased symptoms of anxiety in women and men, while a study from 2011 concluded mild dehydration could impair attention and memory.

Given water’s importance — it’s essential to living, after all — you might be left wondering how much is enough?

The rule of thumb for fluid intake is about three litres a day for men and two for women, says Gina Sunderland, a registered dietitian at CancerCare Manitoba who also has a private nutrition consulting practice focusing on heart disease, diabetes, obesity and sport nutrition, among other health needs.

Yet many find consuming that much water difficult, to say the least.

That’s why many dietitians and other health and fitness professionals don’t recommend you slavishly drink that much water daily.

The question of how much generally boils down to the individual, says Mike Wahl, the senior director of wellness solutions and strategy for Medisys Health Group in St. John’s, N.L.

"A smaller person would need less water than a larger person," says Wahl, who often advises large organizations like corporations on health issues, including proper hydration.


"A person who sweats a lot would need more than someone who doesn’t."

Moreover people also take in fluid in the food they eat, Sunderland says.

"If you’re consuming milk, broth from soup, tea or coffee, all of those things count toward your fluid requirement."

(She adds caffeinated drinks should be limited to a maximum of three cups per day because otherwise these mild diuretics will actually cause dehydration rather than help prevent it. And alcohol is even worse.)

Fruits and vegetables such as salad greens, apples, cucumbers and oranges also have high water content that can contribute to daily water intake.

"Watermelon is 93 per cent water, for example, and even things like pudding and Jell-O have water content," she adds.

Still, fluids from food will only get you so far.

Dehydration can also cause people to overeat because its symptoms sometimes manifest as hunger instead of thirst, Wahl says.

"Secondly, the satiety of a meal is increased by the weight of your stomach," he says. "So drinking water with your meal makes your stomach sense more weight and triggers satiety more effectively."

While counting cups is not recommended, neither is judging how hydrated you are based on thirst alone.

"If you’re feeling thirsty, that’s already a sign of mild dehydration," says Sunderland. The chances are you’re already feeling other possible symptoms like mild fatigue or constipation.

The colour of your urine is often the best way to tell if you’re properly hydrated. "If our urine takes on dark, amber colour and has a strong smell, we’re not properly hydrated," Sunderland says. "Our urine should have a very pale yellow colour."

Darker urine reveals a higher concentration of waste relative to water. The best way to address this is to drink a glass of water because it’s the most easily absorbed fluid and is exactly what your body needs the most to carry out metabolic functions, says Farrell Cahill, director of research at Medisys.


"It all comes down to utilization of oxygen in the tissues," he says. When you’re dehydrated, the heart cannot pump blood as easily to your cells providing them with energy to function properly.

That’s why "irritability, anxiety and a poor mood can come from those changes resulting from the tissues (like those in the brain) not being nourished properly with the fluid they need and energy."

Moreover, water is a key ingredient in hydrolysis, a mechanism for how our bodies break down and use carbohydrates and fats, he says.

Water also helps cool the body to maintain homeostasis, particularly when we’re engaged in physical activity. Beyond the relief a cold beverage on a hot day brings, staying hydrated helps promote sweating, and it’s sweating that actually cools the body, Farrell says.

"Perspiration involves transferring water in the body from a liquid state to hopefully an environment with low relative humidity so it changes to a gas, leading to an endothermic reaction that cools down the skin."

Naturally, the hotter it is outside, and the more active you are, the more you sweat. Hence the more water you need. Yet even in cold weather, hydration is important because we continue to lose water, no matter the temperature.

"When you can see your breath when it’s cold out, it is moisture that is leaving your body," Wahl says.

To battle dehydration, keep it simple, Sunderland says.

"Get up in the morning and have a glass of water," she says. "Maybe keep a glass of water by your desk at work."

But don’t obsess about drinking eight to 12 cups of water a day, Podaima, the personal trainer, says.

"I don’t believe in giving absolute recommendations for water intake," he says. "Water requirements are a very individualized." One person at a desk job who lives in a cool place and works out a little bit will need less water than someone who lives in a hot, humid climate doing manual labour, he adds.

So if drinking eight cups of water a day seems like a chore, simply make an effort to drink more than you currently imbibe.

"I take a 24-ounce bottle of water with me to work, and try to drink it throughout the day," Sunderland says. "That’s a nice benchmark for me and lets me know I am doing an OK job at hydrating."




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Updated on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 8:15 AM CDT: Adds photos

August 30, 2017 at 10:05 AM: Corrects exothermic to endothermic.

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