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The Role of Hydration in Fitness: Why Drinking Enough Water is Essential for Exercise Performance

The Role of Hydration in Fitness: Why Drinking Enough Water is Essential for Exercise Performance

Water intake is usually the least considered form of nutrition. Individuals generally know the basic fact that almost 65-70% of our body is made of water. But there is so much more to it! Water restores fluids that are lost through metabolism, breathing, sweating, and the removal of waste. Water is an “elixir” that prevents our bodies from overheating, lubricates joints and tissues, maintains healthy skin, and is necessary for proper digestion.

Did you know that a mere 2% reduction in fluids can result in a 10-20% degradation in your overall performance? Our body is a thermoregulator and balances the water in the body through intake and sweating. We have a biological mechanism for maintaining a steady internal body temperature. This involves the hypothalamus, sweat glands, circulatory system, and skin.

So if we have an internal mechanism, why should we care about hydration?
There are some prime reasons:

  • During heat stress and dehydration, thermoregulation is partly suppressed to save body fluid and circulation. Drinking water induces the recovery of thermoregulatory responses, including sweating.
  • The body’s thermoregulation and thirst decline as we age.

These statistics and studies show that water plays an important role in our general well-being and fitness. Let's dive deep into all the aspects that we should look into when it comes to staying hydrated during, before, and after fitness regimes. 
* Importance of Hydration:

Now you might be wondering. ”Why is Hydration Important During Exercise?” The simple answer is that we sweat, and fluids are lost through multiple mechanisms when exercising.

A dehydrated body sends a signal to the brain to replenish it with fluids so that the mind and body can function at their best.
Water is important not only for the regulation of our body temperature but also for maintaining a healthy heart, brain, and muscles.A well-hydrated body improves the ability to perform exercises, aids in having proper sleep, detoxifies the body, and results in weight loss.

If you have the right exercise routine but your water intake is low, it can cause water retention as your cells crave water and store the available water, causing puffiness and bloating in your body. Also, it leads to muscle fatigue, overheating, dizziness, or even fainting.

Hydration is especially important in sports. With proper hydration, performance can reach its maximum, as water lubricates the body and regulates the body’s temperature through sweat and joints so that you can move better. It also helps to maintain normal blood circulation and deliver nutrients and oxygen to every working muscle in the body. 
* What is hydration, and how do you decide the level of hydration?

Every individual has different needs, and multiple factors contribute to defining the exact amount of water needed. The climatic conditions change the level of hydration needed; you might feel more thirsty in the summers for obvious reasons and less in the winters. The fabric you wear also contributes to the level of water needed. Breathable fabrics like cotton and voile give off an airy feel, whereas synthetic materials increase sweating and make you more thirsty. 

If you are not great at understanding the signals of your body, here are some ways to determine if you need to drink more water:

  • Sweating heavily is a clear-cut sign that water is being depleted from your body; hence, you need to increase your water intake.
  • Certain diseases cause increased thirst and urination, like diabetes. You need to keep a water tracker handy to replenish your body with water and maintain the balance of your body. 
  • If you exercise daily and do high-intensity workouts, it is necessary to take sips of water during and after the routine.
  • The other sure-shot sign is thirst. 
  • The brownish, dark yellow color of your urine also indicates that you need water.
  • Another indication that your body is depleted of water is when you do a lot of vigorous activity and still don't sweat. This shows that your body is low on water and, hence, isn't capable of producing sweat.

* Symptoms of Dehydration:

Now you might be wondering, How do I know if I’m not drinking enough water? Well, the foremost indication of dehydration is darker urine. A lack of sweat when exercising is also a way for the body to signify the absence of essential fluids.

* What is the meaning of dehydration?

Dehydration is the term used to signify the depletion of essential fluids from the body. It is used to define the body’s lack of water. There are some signs that the body sends to show dehydration like headaches, fatigue, mood changes, slow reaction times, chills, clammy skin, elevated heart rate, nausea, headache,  dizziness, shortness of breath, and dry mouth

dry nasal passages, dry or cracked lips, dark-colored urine, muscle cramps, weakness, confusion, and hallucinations. Prolonged dehydration can lead to other serious conditions like heat exhaustion, heat stroke muscle cramping/fatigue, and breakdown of skeletal muscle. These symptoms are common to some other diseases; hence, the best way to rule out any disease is to replenish yourself with enough water and see if it makes a difference. If it doesn't, it is best to consult a medical practitioner. 

Drinking water is essential for exercise performance, as dehydration can increase your chances of underperforming. Because of low water intake, you might not see the results, as a lack of hydration could cause reduced blood volume, reduced sweat production (thermoregulation), reduced cognitive function and concentration, and an increase in overall body temperature.

* Can dehydration impact moods?

Though it might not be tangible, being dehydrated can alter a person's mood. Water intake doesn't just affect the physical being but also the mental well-being. This happens because dehydration depletes amino acids, which leads to increased feelings of anxiety, irritability, and anger. The other symptoms include fatigue, headaches, and difficulty in concentration, making it harder to perform basic tasks. Brain fog is a reality; your motor control, decision-making abilities, and concentration may be affected if you don't keep yourself hydrated.

* What Happens If You Don't Have Enough Fluid Intake?

Besides the reasons listed above, your body temperature and heart rate may rise suddenly. Hypohydration is a term used to signify that the water level in the body is below the normal level and that proper heat regulation is absent. Fatigue sets in, and your body’s functions may slow down. Reduced or absent bowel movements and an uncomfortable stomach are other ways for your body to show that you need water. This may directly affect your fitness and performance and can worsen when you’re highly active in hot conditions.

* Solution for Dehydration:

The simplest solution is to replenish your body with water. Making fluid replacement a priority is an essential part of any fitness regime. You can see a drastic shift in your concentration and performance when you have enough fluids. This will not only help you to maintain your health but also increase your endurance.

* Tips for Staying Well Hydrated:

If you have a fitness regime, make sure to start exercising well-hydrated before one hour of the exercise routine.

  • Give a cue to yourself by carrying water bottles wherever you go. Having a bottle in sight is the best way to ensure that you don't forget to drink it. 
  • If you detest drinking plain water, you can spruce it up with lemon water to add taste.
  • Warm beverages like tea, soup, or natural cool drinks like coconut water, lemon water, or fresh fruit juice can also help maintain hydration.
  • Make it a habit to drink water every 15–20 minutes. Keep it in sight or set alarms to ensure a regular hydration routine.

* How Much Water Should I Drink While Exercising?

Each individual's biological needs are different and the intake of water depends on sweat rate, heat, humidity, environment, food habits, etc. A person who has soups and fluids through food needs a lesser amount of plain water. Whereas an individual who is mostly on dry food needs more. 

There are no exact rules for how much water to drink while exercising because everyone is different. However, it's a good practice to sip on water every 10 minutes to maintain balance during high-intensity workouts. But ensure you don't gulp water and have two -3 sips. We recommend you have 1-3 liters of water before working out in a hot climate. Post-workout hydration is as important as pre-workout hydration. After workouts, having water can reduce soreness, improve endurance, keep energy levels high, and reduce muscle injuries.

* Overhydration: How Much Water is Too Much?

Though water is important, having too much can have outright negative results. With medium daily activity, if you drink too much water, there are chances that important minerals are flushed out of the body through urine. This can cause an electrolyte imbalance, leading to other unnecessary complications. Hence, the best way is to ensure that you don't overdo the intake and keep it balanced according to body cues and activity level.

Taking too much plain water without electrolyte balance can lead to hyponatremia, a lowering of sodium in the body. This can lead to a feeling of being bloated and nauseous.Just replenishing the body during activities like long runs, marathons, or HIT is not enough. You also have to replace lost electrolytes.

* Conclusion:

Though we all know that water is life, due to this busy lifestyle, we forget to keep a basic track of this natural need of the body. Hydration is as important as nutrition and exercise. Keeping track of your water intake habits can contribute to your overall well-being.

Water is an underrated form of nourishment. If you are one of those individuals who has taken water intake lightly, start using a habit tracker to make regular water intake a habit. You will see a world of difference in the way your body, skin, and mind feel!

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