How much water do you drink daily? You’re constantly losing water through metabolism, breathing and through the elimination of waste products. When you work out, especially at a high intensity, you lose a significant amount of water through sweat. In fact, during long periods of intense exercise, an athlete can lose up to 1.8 quarts of water an hour. Loss of water has a definite impact on how hard a workout feels. Even mild degrees of dehydration raises core body temperature and reduces exercise performance. Plus, when you’re not adequately hydrated, exercise seems harder and you don’t recover as quickly.
Research shows most people who exercise don’t adequately compensate for fluid loss due to sweat. In fact, the average person only replaces about two-thirds of the water they lose through sweat. You can’t depend on thirst to tell you when to drink. By the time you feel thirsty you’re already mildly dehydrated and have to play “catch up” with fluids, which most people don’t do. Even people who don’t lose lots of fluid through exercise have relatively high fluid requirements. How much do you need and should you be drinking more water? The average woman needs about 11 to 12 cups a day, while the average man needs 15 to 16 cups daily. That doesn’t even take into account water lost through sweating during heavy exercise.
Feeling Moody or Having Trouble Concentrating? It May Be Mild Dehydration
If you feel fatigued or moody, it may be mild dehydration. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found low levels of dehydration that come from not drinking enough water can impact a person’s mood and energy level. By doing cognitive testing, they discovered that mildly dehydrated subjects had difficulty concentrating and focusing in on tasks, felt more anxious and angry and were more likely to experience headaches.
How Do You Know if You’re Drinking Enough Water?
The color of your urine can tell you something about your level of hydration. If your urine is dark yellow or has a strong odor, that’s a sign you’re not drinking enough fluid. When you’re dehydrated, your urine becomes darker because it’s more highly concentrated. If you’re well-hydrated, your urine should be light in color – the color of lemon juice. Keep in mind that certain medications and vitamins can discolor your urine and make it darker.
Although urine color gives you an idea of your hydration status, weight change is the most reliable indicator. Before a workout, weigh yourself on a scale and record your weight. Then weigh again after your workout is over. By comparing your pre-workout weight to your post-workout weight, you can get an idea of how much fluid you need to replace. Each pound of weight you lost should be replaced with a pint of fluid.
By weighing a few times before and after your workout, you can get a better idea of how much fluid you should be drinking during and after a workout. Knowing this, will help you avoid symptoms of mild dehydration that can linger throughout the day and make you feel tired and unfocused.
What Should You Drink?
Contrary to what sports drink makers would have you believe, you don’t need to sip sports drinks to stay hydrated. Plain water is fine for workouts of less than an hour and if you’re working out longer and need to replace electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride, coconut water is a natural alternative to artificially-flavored sports drinks. Coconut water is lower in sodium than sports drinks, so if sweat profusely and are exercising for 90 minutes or more, add a pinch of salt to coconut water to replace lost sodium.
Other Reasons Drinking More Water is Good For You
Drinking more water helps to lower your risk for painful kidney stones. Kidney stones are more common in the summer because people sweat and don’t drink enough water to compensate for fluid loss. Sipping more water also reduces your risk for constipation.
One study even showed drinking more water could help with weight loss. When subjects drank 17 ounces of water, their metabolic rate increased by about 30% and stayed that way for up to 30 minutes. You would get maximum benefits by drinking ice cold water since your body has to expend energy to heat it. Even though the increase in metabolism is short-lived, it’s another reason to stay hydrated.
How to Drink More Water
Some people forget to drink water because they don’t enjoy the taste. Make water more sip-worthy without adding calories by adding cucumber slices or slices of fresh fruit – or make iced herbal tea. Use frozen berries in place of ice cubes or make your own flavored ice cubes using flavor extracts. Add a few sprigs of mint or basil to a glass of water for greater sip appeal.
If you don’t have great-tasting water at home, consider getting a water purifier to make drinking water a healthier and more pleasant experience. Skip the bottled water in plastic bottles. For one, research suggests they’re really no better than tap water and they’re often in a BPA-lined container. Why pay for something you can get free anyway?
When you wake up in the morning, prepare a large container of water flavored the way you like it so you can sip it throughout the day. Having easy access to great tasting water and drinking more water will make it easier to stay hydrated. Carry a stainless steel bottle of water to sip in your car as you drive to and from work.
The Bottom Line?
It’s easy to forget about drinking more water during the day. If you’re feeling tired and unfocused, mild dehydration could be why. Make sure you keep water with you all the time and remember to drink it.
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Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:1.
J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):382-8.
WebMD. “Drinking Water May Speed Weight Loss”