Hydration: So simple, yet overlooked

It was Wednesday afternoon and the office water cooler had already run dry. Delivery of new bottles wouldn’t take place until Thursday morning. Our tap water periodically runs brown, usually smells bad and tastes worse – so we do require drinking water to come in from external sources.

The resulting showdown took place between a colleague and I, after someone had offered to pick up a large jug of water at the local store while she was out that way.

“It’s 2:30 in the afternoon,”, snapped my colleague. “You can’t seriously need more water before the day ends!”.

I gave her the blankest of looks, and  all our other co-workers all stepped back a meter or so, unable to stop watching, just like unwilling witnesses to a street brawl.

“Yes,” I said. “There are two hours left in the day, and some of us need water to function.”

In fact, all of us need water to function. It’s just that some of us are better at getting it.

My nickname at work and at the hockey rink is Doc. People are always asking me about sports injuries, nutrition, and related stuff. In truth, I don’t know how this started, since I don’t offer the info up unless it’s asked for, but I’m generally happy to oblige, always prefacing that this knowledge is really just based on personal experience and a lot of reading.

The simplest and most common advice I’ve given to people, and the one most often scoffed at until they’ve tried it, is that they need to drink more water.

It’s shocking how little water people are drinking. And it’s not even hard to spot the effects. Even without being thirsty, too many of us are walking around in a state of dehydration.

I had a colleague who without fail, would start yawning at his desk by mid-morning, and even worse mid-afternoon. He was drinking the sum total of one cup of water a day – usually after dinner, when he suddenly realized how thirsty he was. Once we chatted, he started a morning glass of water, a lunch glass of water, and an dinner glass. According to him, he felt clearer, and according to us, he wasn’t yawning all the time. When he would forget the morning water, we could all tell, because the yawning would return. It’s that clear.

Someone at hockey was pulling up short in almost every game for a months on end, with a groin muscle that kept pulling. I jokingly asked him once if he was hydrating enough, to which he laughed. And then I said “No, really, being dehydrated results in muscle cramps and pulls”, and he said “Oh?”. He’s now drinking more water before and during a game, and said last week he can’t remember the last time he got that strain. I believe. So does he, now. [Full disclosure: We also discussed that he skate around the ice to warm up a bit before doing better pre-game stretching. That helped too. Thanks, Doc!]

Want a clear head, healthy skin, a happy digestive tract, and some vigor? Drink more damn water.

I honestly see it as the simplest fix to a number of issues. As a juice, soda, coffee and tea drinking society, we aren’t getting enough water. People are so averse to water that entire product lines of artificially-flavoured, artificially-sweetened drops and powders are marketed to us to make our water palatable. Still, people don’t drink enough water.

A full glass of water with breakfast gives you the re-hydration you need after a night of sleep. It helps your body flush the toxins that have accumulated in your filtering organs. By mid-day, the body is prone to dehydrating again, and it manifests in false hunger, grogginess, and the yawns. Water can quench more than your thirst. Feeling hungry though you’ve really already eaten enough? Put down the chips and cookies, and down a glass of water.

Water, simply put, is the fix.

I’ll admit that I drink way more water than the average person, even one who’s properly hydrated. My body dehydrates quickly, so I tend to over-water. But water at my desk also keeps me from drinking yet another coffee, or from snacking when I shouldn’t. On non-workout days, I’m easily drinking 3 litres of water. On workout days, that can jump to over 4 litres. Road trips with the McKnapps involve intense calculations of how much water will be required for two humans and their over-sized canine. And even then, we tend to run out.

To this day, I remember when I started drinking more water. At 23, I had horrible post-lunch grogginess. Cloudy thinking, yawns, and feeling tired stopped when I started bringing a half litre of water with me to work, and drinking it. Just half a litre in a day, and I could feel the change. That was 18 years ago.

Now that I’m training for and racing in duathlons, as well as playing hockey, I can see markers of my hydration very clearly. In a recent race, I forgot that since the first run was longer than I was accustomed to in races, it would put me at risk of dehydrating. I ended up losing valuable time to a calf cramp on the bike portion, despite taking my usual fluids on board on the bike. That was a dumb mistake on my part, but luckily I had the right fluids on my bike to make it through. Valuable time lost on that one, and a valuable reminder that even the most basic of plans can need adjusting. Granted, this was about water with supplements added, but it illustrates the importance of hydration.

Even more recently, I’d had a day of not drinking as much water as usual. For whatever reason, I was likely a touch dehydrated when I went to hockey. Sure enough, I pulled a muscle — badly — just 30 minutes into my ice time, even though I had stretched well before the game. Coincidence? Maybe, but not likely. Again, an important reminder. Hydrating during the game was fine, but a bit late to save my hip flexor.

The short point to this post is that we all need to drink more water. Save the other stuff for extras – whether it’s juice, pop, coffee or sports drinks. Water first and foremost. So yeah, even at 2:30pm on a Wednesday, it’s worth bringing more water into the office.

Whatever the case for each person, it’s safe to say that there’s no huge risk in drinking more water, whereas there’s a lot to be lost for not doing so. Whether you are an athlete or not, good hydration is where good health begins.

Bottoms up!

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