Water you know about hydration?
As it heats up outside, we’re best to remember how to keep our insides hydrated – especially if we’re in training for a big run. But how do you know that you’re in a good way to avoid drying out and hurting yourself?
“Not keeping yourself properly hydrated can restrict your performance by up to 30%, though how best to stay hydrated is a subject of debate,” says Nick Scott, personal trainer and coach from Performance 101. “You’ve probably heard people recommend that you drink eight glasses of water each day, but that amount isn’t specific to everyone and is very broad.”
Like Nick explains, our bodies all work in different ways.
“Since it can depend on your weight, fitness and how efficient of an athlete you are, how to stay hydrated really does vary from person to person,” Nick says. “Your body is smart enough to tell you when it’s thirsty so that you know when to reach for the water. But at the same time, if you’re not good at keeping your fluids up, it’s also clever enough to simply train itself to run off less.”
Nick stresses, “You should never deliberately avoid feeding your body the water it needs when it’s thirsty, but if and when it has to, your body can find it from other sources, such as your muscles.”
Though, obviously, if you keep your insides watered this way, it won’t be sustainable for long – especially if you’re a long-distance runner.
“I’m a runner and a big sweater, so I’m good at keeping myself hydrated,” says Nick. “But normally when I get home after decent trot, I’ll have a thin layer of salt around my eyes and along the collar of my shirt, plus – depending on the outside temperature and intensity of my session – I can be up to 2 kilos lighter.”
As Nick points out, “That’s because most of the weight we shed when we’re doing a good amount of exercise is due to the fluid we lose from our body.”
And with that in mind, if you’re planning to pound the pavement out for more than 60 or 90 minutes, make sure your body is fuelled properly beforehand – though don’t go overboard.
“Remember that the body can only handle so much liquid at a time,” explains Nick. “If you drink too much before or during any long session, it can cause you the same amount of grief as by not drinking enough.”
“Even after you’re done, only take in enough water to quench your thirst – don’t force it down just because you think your body needs it.”
So how do you know that you’re thirsty? “Recognise the thirst signs,” suggests Nick.
“If I’m dry in the mouth or have dry lips, no matter if I’m exercising or not, I can be fairly sure that I must need some water,” Nick says. “So when I’m out running for a long time, I try and find a track with the odd water fountain here and there. That way I can wet my whistle whenever the signs start to appear.”
But then there’s the more noticeable way. “Check the colour of your urine,” suggests Nick. “You know how it’s usually fairly dark in the morning after you’ve woken up? That’s because you’ve just been fasting for several hours.”
“My rule of thumb is that if it’s almost clear or just slightly yellow before I take off for a long run, I’m confident I’m starting out on the right foot.”
Just back to the salty skin, Nick recommends having a balanced diet can give your body the salt it needs, rather than always relying on supplements and sports drinks.
“Electrolytes are important, but you can get them by eating the right sorts of food,” Nick explains. “Don’t go too nuts on the processed foods as that’ll be counterproductive, but if you’re working up a sweat, having salt in the system is crucial to avoid possible cramps.”
“If you’re going to have sports drinks, try diluting them to avoid giving your body a big hit of sugar it doesn’t otherwise need,” Nick continues.
“As most sports drinks are relatively concentrated, they may not go down well during a long run or when you’re exercising intensely. Plus if you water it down, you should still get enough of the electrolytes to keep you going.”
Though if the thought of buying sports drinks makes your budget’s heart skip a beat, there are more affordable options.
“Celtic sea salt is what I have at home,” Nick confesses. “You can pick some up for less than $10 from health food shops and you only need to add a small pinch or two to your water bottle to give your body what it needs.”
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.