What is Hydration and Why is it so Important?
First things, first. What does the word hydration mean?
“The process of causing something to absorb water.”
“The act or process of the introduction of additional fluid into the body.”
Now that you understand the literal definition of hydration, now let’s look at it in more detail.
What are electrolytes?
I am going to mention electrolytes throughout this article, so it’s essential you understand what they are. You’ve probably heard of them before, but what are they?
An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. Electrolytes are essential for thousands of bodily functions.
Put Simply, electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue.
Sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate are some of the main electrolytes that your body needs. However, there are many more trace elements that contribute to optimal hydration.
Are there electrolytes in water?
Regular tap water does contain trace amounts of electrolytes. If you aren’t training a lot, then regular tap water is adequate for hydration. If you are training regularly, particularly in hot environments then supplementing with extra electrolytes can make a big difference. However, a lot of what is on the market are ineffective, expensive and full of artificial ingredients.
Sports supplementation is big business, and electrolyte drinks are incredibly popular. Brands like Lucozade, Gatorade, Powerade regularly sponsor big athletic competitions and have top athletes promoting their product.
Unfortunately, most of these products have absolutely no scientific backing. Even worse, they are full of artificial flavourings, colours, sweeteners and sugar.
Even the more respected brands only focus on a few of the main electrolytes and forget about the trace elements which are essential for optimal hydration. What’s more a lot of what’s added to these drinks have a low bioavailability which means they aren’t absorbed well by the body.
Over the years I have competed at many different sports and seen the increase in effervescent hydration tablets to improve hydration. The same issues apply with tablets as they do with electrolytes drinks.
Benefits of Hydration
Whether you are a professional athlete, an office worker, or someone who is looking to feel more energised, staying hydrated is one of the best ways to optimise your physical and mental performance. Let’s look in detail about the benefits of hydration.
1. Staying Hydrated Improves Mental Performance
Our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally. Brain cells require a specific balance between water and various electrolytes to function, and when you lose too much water, that balance can be compromised. Years of research have found that when we’re thirsty, we have more difficulty staying focused. Dehydration can impair short-term and long-term memory as well as your ability to perform mental arithmetic and essential day to day functions.
2. Drinking Water Improves Physical Performance
It is widely acknowledged in the sports world that dehydration increases cardiovascular strain, thermal strain, glycogen utilisation (in turn depleting valuable stores in the body), muscle lactate production (contributing to muscle fatigue) and the perceived rate of exertion. Even as little as 1% dehydration can affect your performance by as much as 5%!
3. Optimal Hydration Improves Cardiovascular Health
Your heart is continually working, pumping about 7500 Litres of blood a day. By staying hydrated – i.e. drinking more water than you are losing – you are helping your heart do its job. A hydrated heart can pump blood more efficiently, allowing the muscles in your body to work even better.
4. Hydration Improves Temperature Regulation
Optimal hydration allows our bodies to do its job effectively. One of those jobs is keeping the body at a stable temperature. Sweat keeps us cool, if we do not have enough fluid in the body, our temperature can quickly rise which can be incredibly dangerous.
5. Hydration Increases Energy Levels
Dehydration is a major cause of daytime fatigue. Keeping well hydrated will ensure your bodily functions are supported and running efficiently. When you are dehydrated your body functions slow down and use up your extra energy resources, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish.
6. Hydration Improves Digestion
Your digestive tract needs water to function properly and move food waste through the body. Dehydration can cause chronic constipation because when you’re dehydrated your stools become drier, harder and more difficult to pass.
7. Drinking Water Can Reduce Hunger
When the stomach senses that it is full, it sends signals to the brain to stop eating. Water can help to take up space in the stomach, leading to a feeling of fullness and reducing hunger. A person may also think that they are hungry when they are thirsty. Drinking a glass of water before reaching for something to eat can help to curb unnecessary snacking.
8. Hydration Improves Kidney Function
Proper hydration keeps urine diluted, which helps the kidneys remove waste from the blood. It also promotes vasodilation so that blood can travel freely to the kidneys and deliver essentials nutrients.
9. Drinking Water Can Reduced Headaches
Water deprivation and dehydration can lead to the development of headaches. Although this observation is mostly unexplored in the medical literature, some observational studies indicate that water deprivation can impair concentration, increase irritability, and trigger migraines.
10. Optimal Hydration Can Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Disease
Good hydration is associated with a reduction in urinary tract infections, hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, venous thromboembolism, and cerebral infarct but all these effects need to be confirmed by clinical trials.
How Much Water Should I drink a Day?
Hopefully, I have persuaded you how crucial staying hydrated is for optimal health and performance. Now let’s answer the question – how much water should I drink in a day?
The answer depends on many variables, like your age, sex, height, weight and activity levels.
I am shocked to hear that many of my clients don’t drink anywhere near enough water. For many, it’s a big problem.
NHS Choices advises: “In climates such as the UK’s, we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated.”
To me, this sounds incredibly low. I always advise my clients to drink AT LEAST 2L per day as a starting point and to increase on training days. I usually drink 4-5L per day without any effort at all. Compared to most, I have a high amount of lean muscle mass, and I train regularly which increases my requirement for water.
In my experience, women that are training should drink 2-3L daily and men 3-4L.
Tips to Stay Hydrated
1. Have a Big Glass of Water Next to Your Bed
This is a non-negotiable for me! I occasionally wake up feeling thirsty at night. Having water close by means I don’t have to get out of bed and disrupt my sleep.
2. Drink Half a Litre as Soon as You Wake Up
After 7-8 hours sleeping, your body will be dehydrated. Consuming a decent amount of water first thing will help your body to perform all of its functions optimally, from the get-go. If you train a lot, get some electrolytes in first thing in the morning. I used to add a pinch of salt to my morning glass of water, but now I use Totum Sport.
3. Buy a Reusable Glass or Metal Water Container
You want to make it as easy as possible for you to consume water, having water on you all the time will serve as a reminder to drink more. I always have my big 1.5L water container on me, and it makes a huge difference.
4. Eat Real Food
Commonly forgotten, food can also provide a substantial source of water for hydration. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be used as a reliable source of both water and electrolytes, whereas processed “fake food” which can have large amounts of added salt can sometimes have the opposite effect.
5. Check the Colour of Your Urine
Believe it or not, checking the colour of your urine can help determine how hydrated you are. The paler your urine, the more hydrated you are. If your urine is dark yellow/orange, you are likely to be dehydrated.
Hydration at Work
I first started to feel the benefits of drinking more water when I was working in finance, sitting at a desk all day. These are the tips I incorporated to stay hydrated at work.
1. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
Leave this on your desk at work; this will serve as a constant reminder to drink more water throughout the day. The goal is to get into the habit of taking a few sips regularly throughout the day.
2. Don’t Rely on Thirst
Once you start to feel thirsty, you are already at least 2% dehydrated which can have a 15% effect on performance. Some people may also have different perceptions of thirst, which means they don’t feel thirsty until they are actually dehydrated. Sip regularly throughout the day to avoid this.
3. Download an App
Many apps can send notifications and reminders for you to drink water and to track how much water you are drinking. This can be a very useful tool if you are someone that has difficulty incorporating new hydration habits.
Hydration and Intermittent Fasting
Hydration can become a bit more complicated when you are following an intermittent fasting protocol. During your fasting period, you are not getting any electrolytes from food, so even if you are drinking a lot of water, you may not retain or absorb it effectively.
Many of the initial adverse side effects of intermittent fasting are mostly due to dehydration.
I advise all my clients to consume some natural electrolytes during their fasting window.
A pinch of mineral salt in a glass of water works well, or even better use Totum Sport, which contains 78 different minerals to optimise hydration.
Hydration and Fasted Cardio
When done for the right reasons intelligently, fasted exercise can be a great way to improve metabolic flexibility – meaning your body gets better at accessing all its stored energy sources.
In the past, I have had issues with hydration during fasted training. When you fast, you are not getting any electrolytes from food, so you need to supplement with some natural electrolytes
Having experimented with many different products, Totum Sport is by far the most effective product out there on the market. Nothing even gets close to matching it, and because it contains no added colours, sweeteners or flavourings, it doesn’t take you out of the fasted state.
I first started using Totum when I was training for a 65km race up a mountain in the French Pyrenees. I was aware of the complications of hydration in ultra-endurance events and came across Totum Sport.
I was immediately intrigued because I could not find any other product that was 100% natural containing all 78 electrolytes that can be used in the fasted state.
The people at Totum kindly gifted me with enough product to last me through my training and race, and what a difference it made. There was a noticeable difference in performance, recovery and energy levels.
I am pleased to announce that I am now an official Totum Sport Ambassador!
The Benefits of Using Totum Sport
Contains all 78 Electrolytes – Only Totum Sport provides your body with the complete 78 electrolytes in the correct proportions that your cells need to function effectively. It enhances nutrient uptake at a cellular level to replenish glycogen stores and amino acids to improve recovery time for enhanced performance.
It’s Bio-Available – Totum Sport is harvested below huge plankton blooms in nutrient-dense areas of the Oceans. The plankton blooms, energised by photosynthesis, convert the 78 naturally-occurring elements into fully bioavailable minerals and trace elements to support your cells.
It Improves Performance – Once oxygen supply fails to keep up with demand then cellular respiration switches from being aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) which is significantly less efficient at generating energy for muscles to work. Totum Sport enhances stamina by significantly delaying the switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism through optimising cell metabolism and regulating blood sugar to ensure cells are supplied with enough glucose and oxygen for as long as possible.
It Reduces Muscle Cramps – Taking Totum Sport before exercise prevents the drop in blood sodium that contributes to cramps, and studies have shown that Totum Sport delays and reduces lactate production – preventing cramps so that you can remain strong without impacting your performance.
It Reduces Fatigue – Studies have shown that Totum Sport delays the production of lactic acid, which prevents muscle fatigue so that you can keep going for longer throughout your training and competition. The electrolytes and trace elements in Totum Sport enhance the uptake of nutrients from your post-exercise meal, reducing recovery time so that your muscles can recover properly between sessions, minimising fatigue.
It’s 100% Natural – Nothing is added to the already complete number of minerals and trace elements in Totum Sport – it is 100% natural. Collected from a nutrient-dense area of a unique part of the Atlantic Ocean, every batch is tested to ensure it meets the criteria for Informed Sport and is 100% safe.
How I Use Totum Sport
I train hard 3-4 times per week, which means I use Totum quite frequently. I usually have one as soon as I wake up, pre and post workout and if it has been a very active day I have one before bed.
During my ultra-marathon, I took one sachet for every hour of running which worked very well.
It also happens to be a very effective hangover cure, but this isn’t something that they talk about very much!
Totum Sport Discount Code
If you are someone that takes their training seriously then you will undoubtedly benefit from using Totum Sport. I have a discount code which can be claimed at the checkout:
I do earn a small amount when you use this code, but this isn’t why I am promoting the product, I have experienced first-hand how much of a difference it has made with my training and I would never promote a product that I didn’t fully believe in.
I will be with Totum Sport (Stand D18) at the Elevate Expo in Excel, 8th May, if you are going make sure you come and say hello!
Elevate is the UKs largest physical activity trade show.