Most of us are aware of the fact that over half of the human body is composed of water. Most of us, too, can grasp the importance of hydration in an abstract, ‘eight-glasses-a-day” sense. What we’re not so good at though, is actually ensuring that we consume enough water to meet our physical needs. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that with age, the signs and signals of dehydration become easier to ignore, making it that much more important that we consciously adjust our water intake in accordance with activities we do each day.
The importance of hydration cannot be overstated. Water is essential even when you’re sedentary, with normal perspiration and other excretions draining the body’s water stores by about two liters each day. When exercise is brought into the equation, the risk of dehydration is considerably higher, making it even more important to drink up. Apart from keeping you energized and ready to go to the gym or for a hike, waterworks from the inside out, helping your skin to stay hydrated and healthy.
If you’re still not convinced, then consider the specifics of what happens to the body when fluid and electrolyte imbalance are at play. Among the side effects of dehydration are:
- Dry mouth
- Light-headedness; and
- Impaired mental function
Cumulatively, what these symptoms spell for your body is diminished performance – certainly not the ideal state in which to undertake any fitness activity. It’s never recommended to begin a workout with depleted water stores, and it’s just as integral to rehydrate after you lose fluids in exercise. Where hydration is concerned, preemption is always the best mode of protection; it’s much better to drink in anticipation of water loss rather than trying to correct it afterward.
But the question of exactly how to re-hydrate can leave even the most seasoned fitness buffs stumped. With so many purchasable drinks containing exorbitant amounts of sugar, you might be worried that drinking up will undo all of the good work you’ve done on the treadmill. The good news: it doesn’t have to! There are multiple liquid options that will keep you on track to your fitness goals.
Coming in first is, of course, good old water, easily jazzed up by a slice of citrus fruit. Milk is another good choice, especially if you’re needing a calcium boost, and coconut water is high in electrolytes, making it one of the best drinks to opt for if you’re wondering what to drink during or after exercise. High-electrolyte, low-sugar sports drinks are an obvious option (but scan those labels carefully!). Finally, even tea and coffee will contribute to your daily water intake, with a moderate amount of caffeine beneficial to your holistic health.
In terms of hydrating foods, you’ll find that celery, watermelon and cucumber have some of the highest water contents out there. And don’t neglect the salt: after physical exercise, your body will be calling out for some sodium, so sprinkle a pinch over the aforementioned hydrating vegetables next time you’re feeling a bit peckish.
And as for how to drink after you’ve exercised: try to sip water frequently rather than waiting until you’re thirsty to skull it all in one go – apart from spluttering all over the place, your body, having gone without water for a while, won’t be used to this sudden intake of fluid. Whether it’s a snazzy drink-bottle or an hourly alarm that ensures you don’t stray from your pro-hydration path, it’s important to prioritize water consumption on a daily basis. Make sure that you’re keeping yourself accountable for your own water intake, and your body will thank you in the long-term.
Stay Raw-Stay Unshakable
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Allison believes in proper self-care through exercise, eating healthy, and having an active lifestyle. But once in a while, she has no problem in treating herself to a scoop of her favorite strawberry ice cream on the beach. You can find more of Allison’s work here.