If you live at altitude or in the desert, you’ve probably gotten so accustomed to the “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate” mantra that it’s lost all meaning. Yeah, yeah, you grumble, grabbing a water bottle.
Hydration is an important, if somewhat tedious, element of exercise. Sweat takes water out, and you have to put water back in. We all know this. However, water has a more profound effect on physiology than you might think. These five little-known facts might just make your water bottle a little more appealing:
1. Water Effects Mood.
Forget “hanger,” we need a word for moodiness brought on by thirst. Two studies published by the University of Connecticut drew a correlation between hydration and emotions. Their tests showed that, whether you’re sitting at a computer or running on a treadmill, even minor dehydration can cause fatigue, irritability, anxiety and poor concentration— as well as the perception that simple tasks are harder than they really are. So basically, not how you want to feel when you’re setting up for some hill intervals, or an important meeting. Moral of the story? Keep a water bottle on your desk AND your bike.
2. Electrolytes… Overblown?
Electrolytes (calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium) have a key role in the body: directing water and nutrients to the areas they’re needed most and balancing fluids within the cells. Yet supplemental electrolytes may not be needed as much as we think— especially for efforts under 60-90 minutes. Just about any nutrient (including those in Beta Red) will aid in absorption when mixed with water— so don’t assume you need sugary drinks to make it through your workout. Naturally carbonated mineral water is another great alternative— add a squeeze of lemon juice for flavor.
3. Timing Matters as Much as Quantity.
Sure, sipping all day on your bottle is a great way to keep yourself hydrated, but there are also key times when your body needs more water. One is right after you wake up; getting some fluid in your system before breakfast helps get everything moving. It’s also important to drink a bottle (approximately 20 ounces) right after down a sugary energy gel. Not only will this free up some intestinal juices to break down the gel quickly, but you’ll mitigate any chance of stomach irritation (also known as gut rot).
4. You Lose Water in Your Sleep.
You’re asleep (if you’re lucky) for about eight of every 24 hours— which is a long time! Sure, it’s not like you’re hammering on your bike, but you’re not taking in any food or water either. What you are doing is sweating. And breathing. By some estimates you lose up to 200mL of water (about half a pint) every eight hours simply by inhaling and exhaling! Especially if you’re in a high or dry climate, this can mean waking up with a dry mouth, feeling groggy (see point 1) and occasionally even losing sleep due to needing to wake up and drink. Make sure you get the best sleep you can by keeping a bottle by the bed and having a nice big glass before zonking out.
5. You Need Water to Recover— and Not Just from Hangovers.
Okay, so water is important for working out, and apparently also for being asleep. Guess what, it’s also crucial for recovery! Water helps flush waste products that have accumulated over the duration of your workout, and it aids in protein synthesis (which is how your body repairs your torched muscles.) So next time you find yourself reaching for that post-ride beer, force yourself to down some water first. Your muscles will thank you.