Hydration – The importance of balance and management.*

Wednesday, 23 December 2015, By Jackson Privett

Regular ingestion of fluids is essential for the human body to function. The average sedentary adult should aim to consume two or more litres of water per day. Roughly 80% of the fluids the body needs to consume come from liquids ingested, whilst the other 15-20% of fluids comes from the foods that we eat. Alternatively, throughout the day the body loses fluids as a result of bodily functions such as sweating, breathing and urination. It is important for us to replace fluids lost throughout the day by consuming external fluid sources to keep internal body processes performing at an optimum level and not to disturb the balance maintained inside the body.

Dehydration (when total body water levels are below normal range) impairs the body's ability to regulate heat resulting in increased body temperature and an elevated heart rate.  Perceived work rate is also increased, meaning the athlete feels more fatigued than usual at a given work rate.  Mental function is reduced which can have negative implications for motor control, decision making and concentration.  All these effects lead to impairment in exercise performance.  Most types of exercise are adversely affected by dehydration, with minimal differences of as little as 2% in fluid retention within the body resulting in decreases in performance.

The positive news is that by consuming water regularly, declines in concentration and skill level, improve perceived exertion, excessive elevations in heart rate and body temperature can be prevented.

Intake of water throughout the day can also be beneficial to those looking to lose weight. Consuming around 500mL of water pre-meal can help fill the stomach, resulting in you not having to consume as much food to feel the same level of fullness as a normal meal. Cold water has also been proven to slightly increase metabolism rates for brief periods, resulting in a greater amount of energy burned, thus resulting to further carbohydrate and fat molecules burned. Such increases are insignificant when observed from a daily perspective, but when performed over an extended period of time (6 months - 1 year), the numbers add up.

Hydration levels can be detected individually by thirst levels, urine colour (clear urine is a sign of hydration, a darker yellow colour is an indication of dehydration) and changes in body weight.

Recommendations and tips for consuming water:

  • Aim to drink at least 2L of water per day, if not more.
  • If exercising that day, aim to consume around 1 extra litre of water per hour of exercise. *High intensity training may require greater intake
  • Carry a reusable water bottle to fill up and take with you on the go
  • Set alarms or reminders on your phone or computer to maintain consistency
  • Use a slice of lemon or lime to add some minimal-calorie flavour to your water
  • Drink an equivalent glass of water after coffee or caffeinated drinks to reduce dehydration levels. Caffeine is a diuretic which increases urination levels and decreases water retention
  • Use the new Water Intake Calculator on VVT so both you and your trainer can track how much water you have consumed throughout the day


*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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