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Man drinking from a water bottle outside

The Benefits of Drinking Water

Even for those of us new to nutrition programming, “hydration” is likely a familiar term. There are many hydration benefits that impact our health including:

  • Increasing metabolic rate
  • Elimination of wastes and toxins
  • Lubricating joints
  • Supporting digestion
  • Absorption of nutrients

On the other hand, not consuming enough water can have negative health implications and lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Reduced urine output
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Muscle cramps
  • Low energy levels
  • Reduced exercise performance

Of course, within the context of hydration, there are many considerations – including how much water intake you need to stay hydrated, what types of fluids to consume, and of course, does my coffee count?

An aspect we may consider less is when is the best time to drink water or when hydration should take place.

The lack of fluid intake during sleep means that hydration status is lowest upon waking – which creates an ideal opportunity to get ahead of the hydration curvature!

However, it’s common that even with lower hydration status, thirst tends to be diminished in the first few hours after waking – even if you are a mouth breather like me! Body temperature is lower due to less heat production from digesting and absorbing nutrients and a lack of physical movement. As such, the common theme is a tall cup of hot coffee (which fortunately does provide net hydration) and perhaps little else.

How to Increase Hydration

Photo of water bottle outside

  • Have a water bottle within reach
  • Drink water before, during and after workouts
  • Add fruit, cucumber or herbs to your water for flavor
  • Wrap a rubber band around your water bottle each time your refill it with a goal of reaching a certain number of bands per day
  • Use a water bottle marked with times to help you stay on track throughout the day
  • Set a reminder on your phone to drink throughout the day

When is the Best Time to Drink Water?

If we are more dehydrated upon waking – should we increase water intake in this window?

You bet!

The Best Time to Hydrate Your Body is in the Morning

Starting each day with 8 oz of water has been shown to decrease the viscosity (thickness) of our blood supply, and even mitigate the potential of stroke – especially important for those of us at a higher risk ratio for stroke incidence, as both blood viscosity and higher arterial pressure from dehydration increase this risk. In short, hydrating in the morning can support your health and well-being.

How to Properly Hydrate Your Body Prior to Exercise

Woman drinking from water bottle during exercise

 

An additional factor that plays into hydrating in the morning is that many individuals prefer to perform physical activity and exercise in the early hours of the day. Hydration becomes more important prior to exercise for general safety and increasing energy levels to bolster performance. If we consider the above information, any pre-workout food intake will need adequate fluid to promote efficient digestion and absorption, thus, we can get those nutrients where we need them. Fluid intake also helps to thin out our blood supply, which allows better flow to working muscles and organs (like our brain, liver, and kidneys). In fact, the most common detriment to physical work performance during activity is poor hydration status (even more so than what we eat)!

I hear you coach, but how do I make hydration easier when I simply don’t feel like drinking water in the morning?

Add Flavor to Your Water

Water Bottle With Lemon And Lime

 

You can choose to flavor your water to provide a more palatable beverage, which can increase thirst drive. So, if plain water is a tough pill to swallow, break out some fruit or zero-calorie additives if trying to minimize liquid energy intake, or sugar-sweetened beverages if you have the caloric allowance and want to maximize energy availability for that morning workout!  

When to Drink Sports Drinks and Electrolytes

Woman drinking sports drink outside

 

If you plan to be outdoors or exercising for a prolonged period, consider consuming a sports drink to replenish electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Electrolytes help maintain the balance of fluids inside and outside cells, ensuring optimal hydration and cell function. This blog dives deeper into when to drink electrolytes and effective strategies for hydration before, during and after exercise.

How to Know if You are Hydrated

It’s unlikely that most of us are walking around clinically dehydrated (which implies our body is losing water faster than we can replace it and can lead to physical health detriments). The easiest way to gauge hydration is by assessing urine color – a pale to straw yellow indicates adequate hydration; if darker, time for some fluids. As a general guideline, if urine color is clear prior to your workout, you achieved hydration. Hydration benefits work output and better recovery afterward. We may not have the time to kickstart hydration to this degree with early AM activity, so simply do your best to get at least 16-24 ounces prior to, and hydrate as tolerated throughout the duration of activity.

How to Stay Hydrated

The goal does not need to be consuming as much fluid as possible, whenever possible, to stay hydrated. But we do have some further considerations. For instance, pairing meals with a hydration source can increase gastric expansion and stimulate neurological pathways in our gastrointestinal tract that initiate fullness signaling to our brain.

The following three tips can help you stay hydrated:

  1. Monitor urine color. Remember, a pale-yellow color indicates good hydration, while darker yellow or amber hues suggest dehydration.
  2. Assess thirst levels. Feeling thirsty can be a sign that your body needs more fluids, but it’s not always the most reliable indicator. Sip water regularly throughout the day to stay adequately hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  3. Drink about half of your bodyweight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, aim for 85 ounces per day.

The Hydration Cycle

Conceptually, hydration should work backwards as the day progresses. We will be more dehydrated upon waking, and more hydrated toward the end of our wake cycle (choosing wording carefully for all my shift workers out there!). Interestingly, thirst drive, or desire to drink fluids (not happy hour fluids!) increases across waking hours – as we have those digestive and absorptive considerations with the ingestion of food, not to mention that as we eat, we consume more sodium. Over time, that sodium will increase thirst sensation – which means we may find we are the thirstiest closer to bed. However, this is where we want to begin tapering down our hydration – otherwise, we can impair sleep quality and duration from waking frequently to use the bathroom.

Get Support to Optimize Your Hydration and Nutrition?

Having additional accountability to ensure your hydration and nutrition are on point can be a game changer in achieving your goals. Stronger U Coaches help with this and so much more to help you level up different aspects of your lifestyle that impact your health and body composition. Schedule a free membership consultation to learn more about the perks of being a Stronger U member.

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