Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize a particular problem until someone else experiences it or points it out.
Sunday, the day after biking the Redbud Ride, I felt kind of miserable.
Miserable in that non-specific, achey way that was just enough to make me cranky without forcing me to go lie down somewhere. I was kind of dizzy and my stomach was off, the combination of which made me feel mildly nauseous. Again, not enough that I even knew what to do in order to feel better. I just sat around in a daze, trying to will the feelings away, watching TV between reading a few pages of a book.
As the day progressed, my mind traveled back to last summer, when Brett and I decided to spend a weekend camping and hiking.It was a super hot, muggy, humid day – the only weekend all summer when it rained. The woods were damp, the ground slippery, and, to make a long story short, we wound up hiking twice the distance we meant to due to poorly marked trails. I was exhausted and hungry by the end, but, in general, fine. Brett, however, suffered from mild heat exhaustion and dehydration. We packed more than enough water for what we thought we were going to do, not expecting to be out twice as long. His body desperately needed more water than we brought.
At this point we were almost at the spot where we realized we had to turn around
He knew what his body needed – water.
How I forgot to stay hydrated
Sunday, I, somehow, missed that signal. I don’t tend to drink much – coffee in the morning, tea in the morning or afternoon, maybe a glass of water or two somewhere in the mix.
So I started, slowly, sipping down some water. By early afternoon I was chugging away, my body could not get enough. Suddenly it seemed so obvious to me that I had been dehydrated. When we left the house for London, KY it was pretty cold out – I had on long johns, 3 other shirts, yoga pants, and long socks. The exertion from the bike ride and the sun that warmed our way caused me to lose more water than I even thought to anticipate.
All this is to say, I’m a terrible judge of how much water my body actually needs. Apparently, most people are. A chiropractic practice in Wisconsin put together a nifty fact sheet about hydration in athletes. By the time you actively feel thirsty, it’s too late. Men’s Fitness agree – athletes, even amateur athletes, need to be sure to drink water before exercise, whether they feel thirsty or not. Colorado State and Brown University recommend drinking 2-3 cups of water with your meal prior to any event, 2 cups 2 hours before, and 2 cups 1/2 an hour before.
After reading this, I realized how distorted my conceptualization of a cup is. By “one cup” these sources mean 8 ounces. The glasses I typically sip from can hold anywhere between 12 and 24 ounces. So really, after this assessment, 2 cups doesn’t sound like all that much.
Sports Medicine adds a few qualifications to these numbers. “Because there is wide variability in sweat rates, losses and hydration levels of individuals,” they report, “it is nearly impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines about the type or amount of fluids athletes should consume.” Most of these cites suggest weighing yourself before and after any type of exercise regime. Per pound of weight loss (which is really fluid loss) you should drink about 2 cups of water to rehydrate.
What about those of us who don’t want to constantly weigh ourselves, though?
I don’t really have an answer, outside of – keep the water coming.
Adding flavor to water
Even as a (weird) kid, I typically chose drinking water over soda. But what about those of us who need some burst, some tingle, some flavor to our beverage?
- Here are some suggestions to help you stay hydrated:
- Add fresh fruit (berries, peach slices, etc)
- Add cut up veggies (such as cucumber)
- Add a squeeze of citrus (lemon, lime, orange)
- Dilute 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice with 1/2 cup water
- Drink sparkling water
There are a ton of sports drinks and flavorings on the market that are full of questionable additives, colors, and/or “natural” flavors. Honestly, if you can afford it, I would bypass those options for truly natural alternatives that you can make at home.
I plan on making a concerted effort, from here on out, to drink more water. Livestrong lists the benefits of staying hydrated to muscle growth: it prevents muscle breakdown, assists digestion, and aids recovery. That all sounds great to me!
How do you make sure you get enough water? Do you add anything to your water?