Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Hydration, or maintaining the body’s fluid balance, is a key component of overall health and performance, especially when exercising. The majority of our blood is made of water. During exercise, blood transports oxygen and other nutrients to organs and removes metabolic byproducts, allowing for safe and effective performance. Water also serves a protective function and aids in muscle recovery.
How hydration benefits exercise
Maintaining proper hydration levels has many benefits when spending time in the gym (or outdoors as the weather begins to improve). Proper hydration helps to improve cardiovascular health. Without the right water levels, the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, making exercise and everyday activity more challenging. Water levels also affect overall body temperature and help maintain homeostasis — the ability to adapt and adjust to different environmental factors — specifically in warmer temperatures with high humidity levels. Muscles also perform better and easier when well hydrated. Hydration also allows the body to transport nutrients and remove byproducts more efficiently. All of these factors help to improve performance in the gym and in everyday life.
Risks of dehydration
While the benefits of hydration are great, the risks of dehydration may be even greater. Without proper hydration, our bodies are at risk for symptoms ranging from simple dry skin or, with severe dehydration, brain damage. Improper hydration can contribute to fatigue, overweight or obesity due to an unhealthy metabolism and improper removal of waste and metabolic byproducts.
Dehydration also affects the circulatory system. Consuming enough water can actually help lower blood pressure. It can also improve respiratory and digestive functions. On the other hand, dehydration can raise the risk of urinary tract infections, unbalanced pH levels, dry skin and eczema. Severe dehydration can even result in brain damage and possible heart attack in some situations, such as extreme heat or stress, by forcing the body to overwork internally to maintain homeostasis.
How to maintain hydration
How do you get and stay hydrated? If our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water, then it makes sense that we should drink at least about 60-65 percent of our body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 165 pounds, then you should consume no less than 100 ounces of water per day. Though someone exercising or participating in an activity that causes the body to excrete more water and electrolytes will need to replenish at a greater level.
Some strategies that make it easier to consume increased levels of water throughout the day include carrying a bottle or glass with you, keeping a water log by simply tracking how many 12-ounce bottles you drink in a day, or replacing one coffee or tea with a water throughout your day.
If you’re not consuming proper water levels, start by adding just one cup per day for a week, then try to drink two more cups per day the following week.
Hydration is important to our overall health and performance. Remember to carry a water bottle with you and try to consume one bottle every few hours throughout your day.