Four Ways Dehydration is Hindering your Wellness and Performance

cup of water“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

We’ve all heard about the importance of staying hydrated. We probably all know that the mainstream recommendations are to drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water every day for a total of 64 ounces, but those recommendations are for the general semi-sedentary population, and make no differentiation based on body size or activity levels. Today, I’ll be sharing some vital facts about (de)hydration that often fly under the radar, and provide a better guideline to estimate your hydration needs.

1. Dehydration suppresses the immune system and inhibits physical recovery.
– Water is the universal solvent in the body. It’s a transporter, a catalyst, a lubricant, and temperature regulator. Dehydration can have a negative effect on every single function in the body. This means that the transportation of both nutrients and waste products are slowed down. It’s a double-edged sword: you get nutrients slower, and keep waste and toxins longer. Blood thickens which means the circulation of white (immune) blood cells slows, along with the immune response.

2. Thirst is not the only dehydration signal
– In fact, the thirst signal may come too late. If you’re thirsty and have a dry mouth, you have already lost 1-3% of your body’s total water, which means your performance and recovery is significantly inhibited. This “mild dehydration” can lead to a performance loss of as much as 30%, as the heart has to work harder to pump the thicker blood. Fatigue, diminished work capacity, and reduced mental clarity may follow. It’s also worth noting that the sensation of thirst diminishes as we age. This can begin between ages 40 and 50, and continues for the rest of your life. Older athletes should pay special attention to their water consumption.

3. Your joints, tendons, and other soft tissue may pay a high price for dehydration
– In times of dehydration, the body prioritizes the hydration of the brain and other vital organs. This means that the lubrication of joints may be diminished. In chronic, long term dehydration, the joints, tendons, and other soft tissue will have an accelerated rate of aging and degeneration. The body can cope with dehydration but it never truly adapts, and it presents a serious physical stressor.

4. Proper hydration can help prevent pain and certain diseases
– Dehydration activates the production of histamines through a cascade of hormones responsible for regulating thirst and water retention. Histamines are then thought to trigger a low-grade inflammatory immune response in the dehydrated tissues. In one study, chronic dehydration was shown to be a strong causal factor in the development of kidney stones. Proper hydration habits resulted in low recurrence of kidney stones almost 5 years later. In another study, proper hydration reduced the diagnosis of cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) in 5 of 7 subjects. CCSVI is hypothesized to be one cause of multiple sclerosis.

I use the following formula to get a ballpark figure for my water intake:
You take your weight, divided by two, and and multiply that number by 1.2.

180 lbs ÷ 2 = 90
90 x 1.2 = 108

108 ounces is approximately how much water I should drink on an average day of training. This may fluctuate based on the type of training, climate, and other factors, but it’s a good ballpark figure.

If I am eating very little salt in my diet, I also add about a quarter teaspoon of unrefined salt (not table salt!) to every quart of water to ensure proper fluid regulation and electrolyte balance. I primarily use pink Himalayan salt for this.

It’s outside the scope of this post, but water quality is also a very important consideration. I use a high quality water filter to get rid of all the stuff that the municipal water treatment facility misses.

I’ve done my best to lead you to water, but now it’s up to you to drink.

I’d love to hear your feedback below!


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