Good hydration is essential for active adults because water helps optimize performance. It is essential for lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and removing metabolic byproducts, among other things. Seventy percent of your eye, muscle and brain, organs vital in high performance, is water. But not everyone needs to hydrate the same way. A lot depends on your activity level, your environment/climate and exercise duration.
- Elite-level training and competition: For competitive athletes, a 2-3% drop in hydration can result in a 5-10% drop in athletic performance. If you just consume plain water during prolonged (more than an hour) physical activity in the heat, you risk diluting the electrolytes remaining in your body. This could lead to muscle cramps and a host of other issues.
Rehydrating with electrolyte-enhanced water will help replenish the electrolytes lost in sweat. One of the easiest ways to add electrolytes to water is to add sea salts. A pinch or two per liter of water is sufficient. You don’t want to taste the salt; you just want to know it’s there.
- Extended periods of physical activity: Whenever you’re active for two or more hours, especially if it’s an aerobic exercise such as a vigorous tennis match, add carbs, such as a banana, to your replenishment regimen. In very hot climates, such as Australia, some tennis players will eat cold oranges from the fridge because they are a good source of water, electrolytes and carbs. Another option is coconut water. Yes, it contains some natural sugar, but after intense exercise you’ve earned the right to consume it.
- Exercise up to an hour: Drink regular water. You don’t need anything fancy. If you work up a sweat because you’re a runner, it’s hot outside, etc., add electrolytes.
- Everyday hydration. It’s a good goal to routinely drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you should be drinking about 9-½ cups (75 ounces) of water every day. Most people won’t even get close. Increase your fluid consumption by eating more fruits and vegetables; eating more soup; drinking a glass of water before, during and after each meal; and carrying a reusable water bottle with you.
A word about water quality: Know what you’re drinking. In some cities, traces of prescription drugs have been found in tap water because residents are flushing medications. Drink water that’s as close to natural as possible. Ideally, this is spring water bottled in glass. Yes, it can be pricey but it’s better to spend a little more to stay healthy than to pay later by becoming sick. Another option is to use a high-quality water filter, such as Berkey, to remove contaminants from your tap water.