Healthy Hydration is a Key to Peak Performance
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Water is essential for life; about 60 percent of your body is made up of water. Staying well-hydrated keeps our joints lubricated, our body temperature and blood pressure stable, and allows our cells to function in a healthy coordinated way.
Keeping your body at a peak performance level means drinking enough water daily, in addition to regular exercise and a well-balanced diet. Recommendations for daily fluid intake vary by age, gender, activity level, and overall health. General recommendations for water intake is 9 cups a day for women and about 12.5 cups a day for men. Fluid needs vary for individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have congestive heart failure, or have been diagnosed with kidney disease.
One easy way to monitor your fluid status is to be on the lookout for any signs of minor dehydration. Although all fluids contain water and contribute to hydration, experts consider water to be the safest way to re-hydrate.
Here are common signs of dehydration:
Early Warning Signs:
- Flushed skin
- Increased breathing
- Dark Urine
- Decreased exercise capacity
- Premature fatigue
- Increased body temperature
Later Warning Signs:
- Labored breathing with exercise
You can expect your body to be working harder in extreme heat or cold conditions so plan accordingly, as fluid needs may be increased. If you are thirsty before you start an activity – you may already be dehydrated!
What about electrolytes?
Electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium, and potassium are also essential for life. The term “electrolyte balance” refers to the balance of these electrolytes at a cellular level. Healthy kidneys do a great job of maintaining a stable electrolyte balance in our body, and most people don’t generally need electrolyte supplements from drinks to preserve this balance.
Sports Drinks: Do You Need Them To Stay Hydrated?
Experts generally say no to this question. Sports drinks can be purchased anywhere – convenience stores, supermarkets, vending machines, and gyms. Based on the advertising, you might believe that drinking an electrolyte-containing beverage is the best way to stay hydrated.
The truth is, sports drinks were created for extreme exercise conditions. They were not created for people to drink at work or casually outside of exercise. Research suggests people who regularly drink sports drinks outside of vigorous activities tend to see an increase in their BMI. This is likely due to the extra calories (sugar) that these drinks contain.
Sports Drinks: FAQ’s
Are sports drinks better for you than water?
- Water is the best source of hydration to replenish fluid loss. In certain instances, such as endurance athletes or individuals who are engaging in vigorous activity for an hour or more, may benefit from a sports drink.
If I work in an office and sit most of the day, is it OK to have a sports drink with my lunch?
- If you sit most of the workday, a sports drink is not necessary. Focus, instead, on staying well hydrated with water. The extra calories from the sports drink may contribute to weight gain.
What if I work mostly in a factory/field setting and there is no air conditioning?
- Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workday is the best way to stay hydrated. Focusing on a well-balanced diet to obtain your electrolytes is the best way to go! If you know you are going to be working for extended periods in hot weather – you may sweat more. Plan to bring extra water and even snack on foods that have a higher content of water like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and lettuce.
What if I work outside in the heat all day? Do I need a sports drink?
- Certain jobs are at an increased risk for dehydration. If you are going to be working in extreme heat or cold make sure to plan and drink water before, during, and after. Know the signs of dehydration and when to increase your fluid intake. If your job involves a lot of manual labor and you are sweating excessively, a sports drink may be warranted, but be sure to account for the added calories.
Bottom line: The use of sports drinks depends on how intense the work is and how much sweat is being lost during an activity. In most cases, sports beverages are not necessary, and water is enough to stay adequately hydrated.
To have your hydration questions answered, reach out to one of our registered dietitians at firstname.lastname@example.org
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