Water for the win: we bust the myths and bring real tips for staying hydrated
Wouldn't it be great if there was a magic potion that would make us feel less tired, less cranky, less constipated and also increase satisfaction in your sex life? Newsflash, there is, it's called… water!
I know, I know, we've all heard all about the benefits of keeping ourselves hydrated. Yet, as a personal trainer I often find most of my clients are in a constant state of dehydration.
In my opinion, one of the reasons for this is that the information and advice out there about drinking water is confusing. Some advise us to drink six to eight glasses per day, while others claim the right amount is half your weight in ounces. Some say 2.2 liters for women and 3 liters for men, and the list goes on. No wonder hydrating sounds like yet another chore to add to our already maxed out to-do lists.
However, the truth is not as complicated as it sounds, I promise. I'm showing you easy ways to know if you need to top up your intake — and also some info that might help take the pressure off. Spoiler alert: that morning java is not as bad as you think. Best. News. Ever.
Check you thirst meter
Basic but important question: are you thirsty? One of the biggest myths out there about hydration is that the minute you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated. Talk about fear mongering. Actually it turns out, our internal thirst meters are pretty intelligent and quite sensitive. The thirst sensation could be a result of losing as little as one percent of our overall fluid – an easy deficiency to rectify. Another solid way to determine if you're hydrated: the colour of your pee. The darker the hue, the less hydrated our bodies are. The ideal shade is a very light yellow. Don't be shy – check'er out and chug accordingly.
Check your hunger meter
A common issue is that people often ignore when they're feeling parched or mistake it for another sensation, like hunger or fatigue. This is why experts recommend drinking some fluid before mealtime to avoid overeating and under-hydrating.
Speaking of mealtime – we actually get a lot of our water from our food. Like, 20 percent! We can increase that amount by upping our intake of foods with high water density, like fruits and veggies, natch. But, even meat and diary sources have impressive hydrating benefits. While I wouldn't recommend a steak if you're feeling parched – opting for a bowl of sliced cucumber or watermelon is a great alternative if chugging a glass of water just isn't in the cards. These options are hydrating and also low in sugar.
Let's talk coffee, soda, sports drinks... oh my
There's also a misconception that drinking anything other than water will not improve hydration. Not true. While water is the best and most efficient way to get our H20 – almost all other beverages – including coffee (yay!) but excluding alcohol (boo!) – will add to our body's overall hydration levels. Yes, apparently coffee only becomes dehydrating after around the fifth cup (#MondayProblems). The downside to choosing these beverages instead of water is that they're loaded with other additives like sugar, chemicals and fat, and only provide a portion but not all of the water that is consumed. Still they will contribute to overall hydration levels!
Sports drink fan? While they look cool and taste delish, the fact is, most of us simply don't need them. The benefit of these drinks is they're meant to replenish our electrolytes. However, most of us don't work hard enough to lose electrolytes in the first place. Studies show that our electrolyte balance doesn't usually need to be topped up until we've engaged in over an hour of high intensity exercise. Long distance runners, sure. An hour and a half of Bikram yoga, maybe. My routine 45 minute spin class, probably not. (No disrespect to spin, it's a badass workout.)
Mind, Body, Soul... and Sex
That's not to say we don't need to hydrate for workouts under an hour. Sufficient water intake is actually a huge part of our physical performance. You know when you go to the gym and your body just isn't cooperating – your muscles are sore, tight and fatigued? Drinking (or eating) some fluids a few hours before a workout will drastically help improve muscle function.
But it's not just physical performance; it also helps with mental performance. One major side effect of dehydration is mental fogginess, lack of focus and impaired memory – so drink up if you have a big test, project or presentation that calls for your A-game. Bonus: hydration also strongly linked to our mental health as well, so take a sip if you need a little extra mood mojo.
You also might be dehydrated if your digestion is acting up. Anything from constipation to bloating could be improved with increased fluid intake, which helps to break down the food in our bellies, absorb nutrients and move the waste along.
Finally, our libido is incredibly sensitive to hydration – not just because it eliminates the old "headache excuse" but also because it seriously impacts our vaginal lubrication levels. More water, equals more lube, equals more fun in the sack. Happy sipping.