Spring is here, the weather is getting warmer and we’re finally going to start sweating again, well as long as the Polar Vortex decides to take a siesta. There’s all types of hype, articles, and superstitions concerning your fluid intake out there. How do you know what to trust and listen to? Between the dangers of dehydration and hypnoatremia what’s a guy or gal supposed to do? Let’s figure out how to figure out our individual needs and then how to take care of them.
Step 1: Find out if you’re hydrated.
The consumption of everything but actual water tends to make it hard for our bodies to find and maintain euvolemia, a homeostasis level of body fluid volume. Sugar drinks (yes even those zero calorie sports drinks), frappuccinos, excessively processed foods, and lack of proper mineral and vitamin levels make our bodies work really hard to maintain a proper level of cellular hydration.
How can you tell if you’re under hydrated? Generally if you urinate 4 or more times a day and the urine is slightly yellow you’re hydrated. Other tests you can conduct are the “pinch test” and the “thumb test”.
To perform the Pinch Test “grasp the skin on the back of the hand, lower arm, or abdomen between two fingers so that it is tented up.” Hold “for a few seconds then release”.
The skin should snap rapidly back to it’s normal position The longer it takes to return to normal the more dehydrated you are.
The Thumb Test is much the same as the Pinch, but we’re going to use are leg. While seated, put one ankle on the opposite knee. Then with your forefinger and thumb find your tibia (shin bone). The forefinger should lay on the far side, with the thumb closer to your body as if you were about to pick up your tibia. Slide your hand to about 6-8 inches below your knee and squeeze for a few seconds. Just like the Pinch Test your skin should return to a normal shape and color rapidly.
The Pinch test reveals moderate to severe dehydration, and the Thumb test shows mild to moderate.
Other signs of dehydration are mild headaches, loss of appetite, and lack of energy.
Step 2: Get hydrated.
Now that we know if we’re suffering from dehydration we can fix it. The old adage of 8, 8oz glasses of water a day does nothing to take into account YOUR base needs. A more accurate rule of thumb for daily hydration is 1/2 your body weight (in lbs), in ounces (of water), per day. What this looks like is:
160lbs / 2 = 80lb; 80oz of water, per day is my base line water needs.
130lbs / 2 = 65lbs; 65oz of water, per day is her base line water needs.
THIS IS A BASE LINE, AND DOES NOT INCLUDE ACTIVITY LEVEL AND LIFESTYLE.
What this means is as a guideline if I, as 160lb individual, do nothing to exert myself all day I still need to drink 80oz of water on top of anything else I might drink.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by sipping water all day. I carry a Nalgene bottle with me pretty much every where I go. The 1st thing I do in the morning (well after starting water for my morning coffee) is to top my Nalgene off and then drink until I’m not thirsty, usually 6-12oz right out of the gate. This get’s your day started with some fresh clean water, and you know that you started with a full 32oz. By carrying the bottle with you, putting it within easy each, and sipping from it all day you can easily track how much your taking in without having to use a lot of energy thinking about.
Step 3: Staying hydrated.
Now that you are hydrated, have your base line consumption, and are feeling good, how do you deal with staying that way?
The best thing, listen to your body. When you feel thirsty sip some water. Not a sports drink. Not water with Mio. Not fruit juice. Not a bunch of artificial crap! Just WATER! Yeah, yeah, I hear it all the time “I just don’t like plain water” “I can’t drink water flavored water” and so on. I get it, I just don’t buy it. There are ways to flavor your water that don’t include a bunch of artificial man made ingredients. Use lemons, limes and cucumber for a quick whole foods approach to to changing it up.
Know your sweat. Perform a sweat test from time to time. This let’s you know how much fluid you’re actually losing. So it can be used to determine not only how much water you need, but what your electrolyte requirements are.
With our sweat test done, we know how much “extra” fluids we need to take in. This is where I can get behind using something other than water. By including beverages with some electrolytes as our sweat replacement we can break up the “monotony of water” without over doing it. Products that I love and get behind are coconut water and NUUN for when I’m traveling. When I’m home, Cleveland-ers you can find it in Heinens, NOOMA is the go to (full disclosure: I am a NOOMA ambassador, but I’m one because they have a great product and are a great company).
Step 4: Not over doing it.
Last but not least, don’t over do it. Our bodies are amazing at performing tasks. Yours will do everything it can do to remain in homeostasis. But if it doesn’t have the proper tools on board it can’t, and will shut down in an attempt to save other, more vital organs.
Hyponatremia occurs when there’s not enough sodium in the system, we loose our homeostasis and can’t properly absorb and process the fluids we take in. It is a real and increasing issue, especially as more and more individuals are out on run courses longer and longer. As our diets clean up and we eat less processed food our sodium intake natural decreases. So don’t be afraid of a little pinch of sea salt on your veggies.
Make it easy on yourself, we humans have stayed alive for a millennia by listening to our bodies, learn to listen to yours. The simplest ways to start:
- Eliminate, or work on eliminating sweet, ingredient filled beverages.
- Start your day with 6-12oz of water.
- Carry a reusable water bottle around, sip from it regularly.
- Eat some quality salt, a pinch goes a long way.
- If you exercise (which you should be) perform a sweat test from time to time.