Proper hydration – myths and facts
The human body is made up of 70% water, and can lose up to 3 litres daily, therefore it stands to reason that we need to maintain our water level in order to be healthy. For proper hydration, it is recommended that adults drink eight 8 glasses of water a day. However, this depends on your age, gender and activity level. Many people, athletes included, do not stay properly hydrated and as a result, suffer the consequences. People who lose a lot of fluids through their daily activities need to replace this water in order for their bodies to perform properly.
Water transports food and other nutrients through the body and helps remove toxins from the blood. Drinking enough water can keep the body energised during mild to moderate exercise when the body is losing water. Water comprises a large part of the fluid that lubricates our joints and muscles. Remaining hydrated during and after exercise can ward off dizziness, cramps and fatigue. Water also aids digestion and prevents constipation. Fibre alone cannot do the job without adequate water intake.
Athletes especially, need to get enough fluids as they lose a lot of water through sweat. However, many athletes underestimate the amount of water they need. Others use sports drinks, which do supply the fluid but may add calories as well. Experts tell us that these sports drinks are not necessary unless you are working out for extended periods. How much water is enough? The rule of thumb is to follow your thirst. Keep a bottle of water nearby and drink when you feel thirsty. You can also weigh yourself before and after working out to see how much fluid you lost.
How much water is too much? If you drink so much (at a rate greater than you can excrete) that you develop a condition called hyponatremia in which the blood becomes diluted from too much water and sodium levels drop to dangerous levels. Hyponatremia can lead to nausea, headaches, confusion and in extreme cases, coma and death. This condition is seen in endurance athletes who drink too much water, but it is extremely rare.
Whether you are an athlete or not, you need adequate water to keep your body functioning the way it was designed to do. Drinking fizzy drinks, fruit juices or coffee is not a substitute for water. The more you drink water, the easier it becomes. You acquire a taste for it and will soon see the difference in your overall health and performance.