Health & Fitness

For optimum fitness, keep the water flowing

Drinking plenty of water is crucial to your body’s ability to perform whether you’re an Ironman competitor or a casual runner.
Drinking plenty of water is crucial to your body’s ability to perform whether you’re an Ironman competitor or a casual runner. Idaho Statesman file

There may be times when you wonder why your energy levels are so low or why you’ve been feeling more fatigued than usual. Often it’s a result of simply not drinking enough water.

Since the human body is about 70 percent water, it only makes sense that water intake is key for maintaining optimal energy on a daily basis. Sufficient hydration is crucial to every physiological action that takes place in your body. Water is involved in the digestion of food, helps lubricate joints, is a carrier of nutrients to cells, affects hormone regulation and is the main component of blood.

Proper water intake is also a key component of weight loss. Fat metabolism simply does not occur at an optimal rate when we are chronically dehydrated.

Even when it comes to exercise performance, the importance of water is often forgotten. Much of our attention is focused on finding the right foods for fueling our workouts. But inadequate hydration can hinder exercise performance as well.

And you can’t rely on thirst as an indicator. If you wait until you are thirsty to rehydrate, you have already lost 1-2 percent of your body weight, which results in a decrease in performance and loss of mental focus and clarity. This is primarily due to a reduction in cardiovascular output, metabolic reactions and an increase in core temperature since water is the body’s coolant during exercise.

Needless to say, maintaining hydration can be a real difference maker when it comes to exercise performance. Outlined below are tips and specific guidelines for proper daily water intake and throughout the workout spectrum (pre-, post- and during).

Daily Intake

Current research from the Institute of Medicine found that the average water loss per day was nine cups for women and 13 cups for men, which is the minimum daily recommendation for each sex, respectively. If you’re active, then you need more.

Eating your fruits and vegetables will supplement that daily minimum. Some 19 percent of our fluid intake also comes from food (approximately 4 cups on average). Fruits and vegetables are water-dense foods and are great for getting additional hydration. Plus, they are packed with nutrients, high in fiber and low in calories, which can aid in weight loss as well. Here are some of the most water-packed foods you should add:

▪ Squash (cooked): 94 pecent

▪ Cantaloupe: 90 percent

▪ Oranges: 87 percent

▪ Apples: 86 percent

▪ Pears: 84 percent

Pre-Workout

By “pre-hydrating,” you will ensure that you begin physical activity adequately hydrated and with normal electrolyte levels. As a general rule, aim for 16 ounces 30 minutes prior to exercise.

During Workout

Remember, if you wait until you are thirsty, then your performance has already suffered. Aiming for 6-12 ounces every 15-30 minutes will match the rate of fluid loss under most circumstances. Also, most sport beverages that contain a low concentration (6-8 percent) of carbohydrates and electrolytes can be even more beneficial for longer or more intense workouts since they help to maintain sufficient energy and electrolyte levels in addition to just water.

Post-Workout

After a workout, fluid intake is necessary to aid in recovery since losses in both carbohydrates and sodium hinder the process of rehydration. As a general rule, 24 ounces right after a workout or, more specifically, 24 ounces per pound of body weight loss.

Beat the Heat

Increases in temperature naturally increase the rate of fluid loss in the body. At a minimum you should increase your intake by 16 ounces a day once the weather gets significantly warmer. In some cases, daily fluid needs could be as much as double as normal. Monitoring your weight changes throughout the day and pre- and post-workout can serve as an effective gauge as well.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at championfit@live.com or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column.

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