by Admin | December 31, 1969 | BLOGS | 0 Comment
Written by: Colette Wheeler
Water, water everywhere, but how much should I drink? When should I hydrate? Before a workout? After a workout? During?! When I sat down to write this, I originally thought I’d write about how it was really important to stay hydrated (and it is!), but as I waded out further into the waters (pun absolutely intended), some interesting ideas came to light. To be clear, I make no hard and fast recommendations here (except for the bolded part at the bottom), but these are some things that could be interesting to think about as the summer months progress...
As it turns out, it’s really very hard to determine a measure of how much to drink. Decades of research on the topic of hydration still produces incredibly polarized results. The debate revolves around the dangers of dehydration and its lesser known (but just as sinister) sibling, Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia (EAH). Both conditions are characterized by electrolyte imbalance in the bloodstream. Put simply, sodium and other electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium) enable muscle contractions and brain and nerve function within the body. There’s a delicate balance between concentration of fluid in the blood and these valued electrolytes. Most of us are familiar with dehydration: too little water = too much sodium in the blood. If you’re dehydrated, your precious red blood cells look like shriveled raisins. But hyponatremia? That’s having too much water, causing dilution of sodium in the blood. A person suffering from hyponatremia has red blood cells that look like balloons about to burst. Certainly not ideal. People die from both of these conditions. Sadly, people that die from hyponatremia are often just trying to follow the hydration recommendations set out by companies and their associates that campaign for us to drink as much as humanly possible.
There’s a lot of information out there, often contradictory. On the one hand, we have researchers like Tim Noakes, and organizations like CrossFit and the HEAT (Heat Illness Evaluation Avoidance and Treatment) Institute, all claiming that humans evolved a fantastic thirst regulation system in the brain to alert the body when it needs to consume fluids (we don’t actually have to stuff ourselves full of as much fluid as we can hold in order to avoid dehydrating). On the other hand we have sports drink companies, that shell out millions on research to prove their product is absolutely essential to our survival (how we managed to survive as a species prior to the 1960s we may never know). Sports drink manufacturers are so intent on convincing the public of the need of their product that they establish and fund their own research institutes. Additionally, they partner with well known, nationally recognized exercise and health organizations to bolster the legitimacy of their claims and further increase their sales. Hyponatremia has caused several deaths in the very recent past, many linked directly to massive overconsumption of both water and sports drinks. Yikes!
So what should we do? Our body has built-in regulatory systems to let us know when to drink -- we get thirsty. Unlike our hijacked hunger-regulatory systems that have been knocked all out of whack by industrial ingredients, piles of sugar, and hyper-palatable processed foods, our body’s mechanism for thirst regulation is still fully operational.
Of course, it’s not so black and white in real life -- all things we ingest interact to create different responses in the body. You’re a lot more thirsty after eating a super salty soft pretzel than an apple. If you’re concerned about your hydration, there is a simple answer for you: drink water. Put down the sodas, the juices, the bottled iced teas, and just drink water. You’ll set yourself up for success in more ways than one! This will dramatically lower the possibility of dehydration in your next workout! In fact, if you replace most beverages with water, you won’t need that mid-WOD water break. I mean, are you really truly thirsty every 90 seconds or do you use the water bottle as a nice break before your next round? Most likely, it is the latter.
So anyway, there’s some food (or water) for thought. Summer months can be brutal in and out of the gym. If you’re thirsty after reading this, grab a glass of water. You earned it. Now get back to doing that awesome thing you were doing.
Resources and associated interesting reads: