Next to oxygen, water is the most important thing we need to survive. We can survive without food, but not water, but just how much do we need and what does it do for us?
Your body is comprised of about 60-70% water, and just small losses of 2% can begin to really affect your performance. Water helps our digestive system absorb nutrients, move these nutrients and oxygen through our bloodstream and take waste products away. It helps regulate our body temperature and will help cushion our joints and vertebral column.
If we dehydrate you become susceptible to muscle cramps, our immune system is weakened, your brain will fatigue easier and your blood will thicken reducing the speed at which nutrients and oxygen are delivered. Altogether, not very good.
You can monitor your hydration levels by the colour of your urine. Generally a darker urine is shown when dehydrated, although this could also be shown if on a high protein diet, either way water consumption needs to increase.
Also if you feel thirsty you’re probably starting to dehydrate, however this is not always true.
How much we should drink is dependent on your lifestyle. People in warmer environments will need to consume more, the same for those who exercise.
The main guidelines would be to drink little and often, colder drinks will be more advantageous than hot ones, and if performing lots of exercise a drink containing electrolytes and a small amount of carbohydrate will increase the rate of hydration.
Consuming a drink first thing in the morning will replace anything lost over night and will also help digestion of breakfast. Consuming water 30 minutes before eating any meal will aid digestion.
Steadily consuming water throughout a training session will maintain muscular function, and for those looking to lose weight water can help to reduce food cravings.