Written by 10:00 am Nutritional Wellness, Physical Wellness

The Skinny on Smart Hydration

A few decades ago, I saw an interview with the Gracie brothers, the famed family of martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The interviewer asked one of them what their most important part of their training routine was.

Now, think about all of the possible answers they could have said. They could have talked about strength or endurance. They could have talked about punches or kicks. They could have talked about mental strength or courage. They could have talked about technique or tricks.

They talked about water.

The most important part of the routine? Starting the day with water.

That line stuck with me like taffy on teeth.

To this day, I start my day with two glasses of cold water because it has such a profound effect on me.

Looking at all of the things we can do for our health, hydration—the simple act of drinking water—is probably one of the most undervalued things we do. Most of us don’t really pay attention to drinking a lot of water—or really think about what an impact it has.

During the night when we sleep, our bodies get dehydrated as our kidneys work to detox our systems—and think about if we get up during the night to use the bathroom. So we automatically wake up dehydrated before we’ve even wiped the gook out of our eyes.

I started the two-glasses morning routine back when I was in college (and I always woke up feeling pretty crappy). But once I started, I immediately started feeling good. Within 15 minutes of drinking two cold glasses, I felt like I had been up for two to three hours. It was amazing the effect that it had on my energy.

It was a simple lesson—and it didn’t come from a scientist, but from a practitioner who knew his body and what he needed to make it work as optimally as possible.

And in the end, isn’t that what we’re all after anyway?

How to Hydrate

If you’re not in the habit of drinking a lot of water throughout the day, it can seem like a daunting task: “Water? It’s so boring! What will I do without my diet soda???”

For me, it’s a daily habit—I just keep a water bottle filled with purified water with me and fill it throughout the day. I also use USANA Electrolyte Replacement because it’s important to replenish sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium that can be lost via sweat, and it also helps with adding a nice flavor.

While diet soda, coffee, and high-sugar sports drinks shouldn’t count toward your hydration plan*, you can start by alternating your favorite drinks with water and then gradually increasing the amount of water you have and decreasing the amount of other beverages you consume.

The benefits of staying well-hydrated? Well, it’s been shown to help with skin health, digestion, nutrient absorption, joint health, blood supply—and not to mention it can help you feel satiated, which can help with weight management. On the flip side, dehydration can be linked to fatigue and headaches.

If you don’t drink water regularly throughout the day, come up with a strategy that works for you. Some options:

  • Two glasses when you wake up and then two glasses before every meal.
  • Keep a water bottle with you so that it’s a visual reminder to fill and drink.
  • Give yourself a goal that acts as a mini-motivator every day (like having four glasses of water before you have a coffee, or creating a daily amount you’d like to hit).

*This is because they can act as diuretics or contain sweeteners that can be damaging to your health. Diet soda, for example, has been repeatedly shown to have negative effects on your health.

What About Exercising?

During exercise, some people don’t sweat much at all, while others can look like a mini–Niagara Falls, leaving puddles of their salt water behind them. (PSA: Please wipe the equipment!)

It’s no surprise that you need to replenish your fluids when you’re working out, but I find that a lot of people tend to think about hydrating once they’ve already started to sweat.

I’ve always practiced pre-hydration—that is starting to hydrate a few hours before a long hike or bike ride. And I find that I don’t drink at all when I’m actually working because I’ve done a good job of preparing my body for exercise. That, of course, is especially important if you’re training in warm climates (in Arizona, where I lived for a long time, we’d go for rides of 15 to 20 miles in 115 degrees).

So while you always need to be sure you’re prepared for sweat sessions by having easy access to water, I’d encourage you to give the pre-hydration strategy a try: Drink up a few hours before—I suspect you’ll notice high-quality energy during your workout.

What’s Your Health Question

Have a question about health or nutrition? Drop me a line at DrRobSinnott@AtthePeakofHealth.com and I’ll answer some of your questions in an upcoming edition.