I got a great question on hydration last week: “When hydrating while hiking or exercising is it better to gulp large amounts of water at one time or sip it over a period of time? Does it really matter? For the record, I gulp large amounts of water.”
When it comes to hydration what really matters is being well hydrated on a regular basis. If you’re not adequately hydrated on a daily basis, then having the most optimal hydration strategy for a hike or a workout doesn’t matter. Hydration is a lot more important that most people think, and it’s also a lot simpler.
Being adequately hydrated matters for everyone and for every single type of fitness goal: weight loss or weight gain, athletic performance, improving joint health, not vomiting …
Here’s why in reverse order:
Being well hydrated prevents vomiting because it helps your body cool itself. It only takes your body heating up by two degrees before you feel like (or can’t help) throwing up and throw in the towel on what would’ve otherwise been a totally appropriate workout.
Your joints are lubricated by synovial fluid, which is water based. If you’re dehydrated, you might end up with less lube in your joints. While this is definitely not the cause of all joint pain, dehydration certainly doesn’t help.
For athletic performance, being down just 2 percent of your bodyweight can cut your performance by 20 percent or more according to research in college athletes. Additionally, being a little dehydrated can push you over the edge toward an awful muscle cramp.
For weight gain or weight loss your body needs to be able to exercise with some intensity, and if you’re dried up inside, you won’t be able to reach the intensity levels necessary to stimulate change in your body. Being dehydrated will slow down your recovery and limit your results because all changes happen between workouts, not during. Lastly, when it comes to weight loss, everyone who “hates water” that I’ve worked with in the past 15 years gets to a point where progress stops . . . until they finally take hydration seriously.
Josef Brandenburg is a Washington, D.C.-area certified fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book Results Fitness.