We regularly hear that we should drink two to three litres of water a day, but how important is it to be fully hydrated? And how can we tell if our hydration levels are low?
It has been estimated that more than 96% of the UK population is permanently dehydrated, with low hydration levels resulting in a number of different conditions such as lethargy, headaches, aching joints and poor concentration. If you are undertaking health and fitness training of any kind, then it is particularly important that you drink enough,
especially in hot weather or if you are exercising for more than 60mins.
A minimum of two litres of water per day is required if our cells and organs are to function at their optimum level. Optimum hydration levels have been shown to increase metabolic rates by in excess of 25%.
Don’t use thirst as an indicator of your hydration levels - just drink little and often throughout the day. Remember that caffeine-based drinks and alcohol have diuretic properties and will speed up the fluid loss process.
If you are working in an office or at home looking after a family, then it’s easy to keep a one litre bottle of water handy and make sure you drink its contents, twice during the day. You may be surprised at how little you are actually used to drinking.
During any health and fitness training you need to take on board sufficient fluids to enable you to optimise your exercise. Always keep a bottle of water with you or use a camelback or similar hydration system. Being dehydrated by as little as 2% can reduce your performance by 10-20%
So, if you are suffering from headaches, tiredness, heavy legs, poor digestion and lack of concentration, you could be dehydrated. One quick way of checking is by what we call the ‘pee test’. If your urine is dark yellow, then you are dehydrated; if it is very pale or clear you are sufficiently hydrated. Your water requirements will change every day, so do be conscious of how much you are drinking – particularly if you are undertaking a health and fitness regime.
Please remember that it can take your body up to three days to become hydrated, so drinking a class of water just before you pop out the door for a run isn't going to be sufficient!