Water and Fitness Carla Mangrum on Physical Fitness
Water is essential to survival. Water makes up more than two thirds of the human body. In addition, water is crucial to all of your body's major functions. Without enough water, you cannot digest food or eliminate wastes properly. Deprived of water, your body will quickly shut down.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER AND FLUIDS Drinking enough water is essential if we are to perform our day-to-day tasks effectively. When you do not have enough water, symptoms of dehydration quickly develop. Signs of dehydration include headaches, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. Under such conditions, being effective at work or at home becomes difficult or impossible. The consequences of dehydration are serious. Prolonged dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones, infections and other serious health problems. On the other hand, maintaining hydration can have tremendous benefits. Recent studies have shown that people who drink at least eight glasses of water a day can decrease their risk of developing colon, bladder, and even breast cancer.
WHEN TO DRINK As important as staying well hydrated is, it's easy to forget to drink water until dehydration has already set in. The best time to drink water is before you feel thirsty. Physical signs like dry mouth and sensations of thirst often occur only after you are dehydrated.
Even when people remember to drink water, they often fail to drink enough. The amount of water required for each individual is determined by his or her weight and metabolism. A rule of thumb for calculating your water consumption needs is to take your weight in pounds and divide it in half. The resulting number is the number of ounces of water you should consume. For example, a 180-pound person should drink 90 ounces of water per day. However, drinking more is always better. They say that on average, men should drink around 120 ounces of water a day, while women should drink around 90 ounces. No matter what your ideal water consumption is, remember to increase your water intake in conditions such as high heat, high altitude, low humidity, or high activity level..
SOURCES OF HYDRATION A number of liquids and solid foods can provide your body with the water it needs:
Water: Your body uses water most readily in its plain, unadulterated form. The bulk (80-90%)of your hydration should come from drinking plain water. Beverages: Drinking decaffeinated beverages such as fruit juices, sports drinks, and milk is a good way of maintaining your hydration. Herbal teas also work well. Just remember that many beverages also contain sugar, fat, or both, which can add unwanted calories to your diet.
Fruits and Vegetables: These solid foods consist mainly of water therefore are excellent for hydration. Individuals who eat a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables may receive up to 20 percent of their hydration from these solid foods.
Be wary of drinking caffeine beverages, such as coffee, tea and many soft drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it stimulates your kidneys to remove water from your system. If you feel the need for a caffeine beverage, remember to compensate by drinking extra water.
HYDRATION BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER YOUR WORKOUT Proper hydration is one of the easiest and most effective ways of boosting workout performance. Water is necessary in order for metabolism to take place, so being properly hydrated helps your body turn food into the energy you need for exercising. Water also helps your body regulate its body temperature through sweating. Because vigorous exercise causes you to lose large amounts of water through sweating, it is important to drink water before, during, and after each workout session.
PRE-WORKOUT Drink between 8-16ounces of water in the hour prior to working out.
DURING WORKOUT Replenish fluids by drinking 4-8 ounces of water every fifteen minutes. During vigorous cardiovascular training, or if you're exercising in hot temperatures, increase your water consumption in order to replace water lost from sweating.
AFTER WORKOUT Drink between 8-16 ounces of water within thirty minutes of completing your exercise routine. Your muscles need water in order to recover from the stress of a workout. Drinking proper amounts of water after your workout will help reduce muscle soreness and help you feel less tired.
If your goal is to lose weight, you should increase the amount of water you consume before and after working out. Water is necessary for metabolism to take place. By keeping well hydrated, you will help your body burn calories.
DEHYDRATION AND POOR PERFORMANCE Just as keeping hydrated enhances physical performance, dehydration leads to decreases in physical and mental performance. When you are dehydrated your body is unable to handle the physical exertions related to cardiovascular or strength exercises. As you become dehydrated, your blood volume can actually drop. A reduction in blood volume causes less oxygen to reach muscles, resulting in fatigue and loss of coordination. Your brain's oxygen supply is also reduced, leading to reduced concentration. Allowed to continue, dehydration can cause dizziness and loss of consciousness.
As you work to increase your level of fitness, keep in mind that an effective workout regimen depends largely on your ability to avoid fatigue and stay focused. Keeping well hydrated will allow you to do just that. So, what are you waiting for...Get Up And Move...and drink some water while your at it!!
Carla Mangrum is a physical fitness expert and professional aerobics instructor.
If you would like to comment on this story, we'd love to hear from you. Your name will be listed with your comment when it's posted in the Letters to the editor.