How much and what should I drink?

When most people think of healthy nutrition, they think about unprocessed food and loads of fruit and vegetables, but nobody is really bothered about what and how much they should drink. Most people figured out by now that soft drink is not the best choice for a healthy drink, but what is?

In the Silicon Valley, some people came up with a new idea: bottled raw water. Raw water is unfiltered and untreated water straight from the ground. Maybe it makes sense – after all, this water is unprocessed. However they forgot the reason why water is treated and filtered. There can be a lot of very nasty bacteria and viruses like hepatitis A, cholera and E.coli. Drinking this raw water is not safe, and pretty expensive too. A gallon costs between $2.50 and $6!

So what should you drink?

Water is the best choice since it comes without extra calories. It can be bottled water, but in most first world countries also tap water. Coffee and tea without milk and sugar are also fine substitutes. Although they might be slightly diuretic, research shows that they do have an overall positive hydrating effect.

Why hydration is so important?

The human body contains 50-65% water and needs this liquid in order to function optimally, regulate body temperature, remove waste and keep joints mobile. Because there is a constant loss of water (sweat, toilet visits and breathing) it is important to keep drinking at regular times.

Athletes will see a clear decrease in performance when they are dehydrated. One of the reasons is that the body regulates body temperature through sweating. When there is not enough liquid available in the body to sweat, the body temperature goes up. Rising body temperature is dangerous and therefore your body will slow down the exercise to protect itself from damage.

How much should you drink?

It’s impossible to give a straightforward answer to the question of how much water you should drink a day. While many people would say 8 glasses a day, it’s an urban myth passed from generation to generation without having any scientifically proof. The necessary daily amount of water intake depends on a lot of factors going from the obvious ones – like how much you sweat – to less obvious factors as the kinds of food you eat and overall health.

A lot of people forget that it’s not only water that can help you to keep optimal hydration levels. There is water in most of the foods we eat, take for example watermelon that contains over 90% water.

How do you know you drank enough?

You know when you’re fully hydrated when you’re not thirsty, have a normal light-colored urine color and a soft bowel movement. Hard bowel movement or constipation can be a result of dehydration. Another indication that you didn’t drink enough is a dry mouth and a headache.

Is it possible to drink too much?

Yes, and people already died because of it. When you drink too much water at once you can dilute the sodium in your blood under a certain level, which can get you in a coma and eventually kill you. This phenomenon is sometimes seen in marathon and ultra-endurance runners. Therefore, the start weight of all athletes is recorded at the beginning of the race. When a runner collapses first aid people know by the weight of the athlete if he didn’t drink enough or if he drank too much. For the same reason, “water-loading” as a method for weight-cutting might be possibly dangerous. A less sport-related place where people died from drinking too much is in a bar playing drinking games.

Should you drink during training?

Drinking should be part of the training, it can improve your performance. If you drank enough your body weight before and after a workout should be more or less the same.


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