The Truth About Hydration – Why Does It Matter and How Much Is Enough?
We all know that proper hydration during a run, hike or cycling trip is important, but what happens if you don't get enough? And just how much do you really need? That's when things start to get complicated. So let us break it down for you and take all the guesswork out of hydration
What Happens When You're Dehydrated?
You Get Tired
Less water in your system means fatigue. Which means when you want to run faster, jump higher or cycle quicker — you can't. What's worse, these activities can feel more laborious and unpleasant if you're dehydrated.
Your Brain Slows Down
Dehydration decreases your brain's ability to signal muscles. According to Mayo Clinic, just 1 percent dehydration causes a massive 5 percent decrease in cognitive function. Lose 2 percent water, and you're looking at slower reaction times, bad decision-making and concentration problems.
Increased Chance of Injury
Combining fatigue with decreased brain function leads to the possibility of becoming injured more often and earlier during physical activity.
Long-Term Health Effects
Water is essential for providing nutrients and eliminating toxins. If there isn't enough water for the system to function properly, the long-term effects can be detrimental. For example, prolonged dehydration causes brain cells to shrink over time and has been linked to brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Here's the real kicker — your body is much less efficient when dehydrated. Just a 2 percent loss (that's about 2.2 pounds of water) will make your performance plummet by 20 percent. This is huge in sports, where inches make all the difference, or endurance events, where it adds up over time.
I think you'd agree now that hydration is crucial. But how do you go about it? Next, let's have a look at how much water you need and how often you should be replenishing.
How Much Water Do You Need?
Your body wants to regulate its temperature at a comfortable 98.6 degrees. If you overheat, you sweat — losing about 80 ounces (2.3 liters) per day just from normal metabolic function. However, some factors can increase this rate.
Level of Physical Activity
It makes sense that the harder your metabolism works, the more you perspire. But you might be surprised to know that during intense exercise in heat, you lose a shocking 90 ounces (2 to 3 liters) of water per hour. During endurance activities, it's slightly less at 65 ounces (1.5 to 2 liters) per hour.
Humidity and Heat
High temperatures, humidity and even warm clothing can increase water loss. For any activity, sweating doubles if it's humid or above 70 degrees outside. For example, runners will lose 42 ounces (1.2 liters) per hour on a cool day but 84 ounces (2.4 liters) on a hot or humid day.
How Often Should You Replenish?
It's nearly impossible to completely replenish all the water you lose during an activity — even Olympic athletes don't. But, it's recommended that your intake should be at least 18 ounces (500ml) per hour at regular intervals. Why regular intervals? Because hyper-hydration (i.e., chugging 500ml of water at once) can cause bloating, nausea and even vomiting. Also, it can suppress thirst — causing further dehydration.
If you want to optimize your performance and avoid negative side effects, you need a sip, or ounce, of water every 3 minutes (double that for hot or intense activities). But that's a lot of stopping and tilting water bottles, which is why a hydration system can be a fantastic solution.
The system lets you sip away to your heart's content every few minutes without interrupting your activity. You stay hydrated, avoid all the bloaty side effects, and maintain your performance — shaving some serious time off your run, cycle or hike.
Check out our best-selling hydration system here.
1. Gabbett, J. (2004) Incidence of Injury in Junior and Senior Rugby League Players. Sports Medicine October 2004, Volume 34, Issue 12, pp 849-859.
2. (Shirreffs, S. M., 2003, Maughan & Murray, 2001) - Shirreffs, S. M. (2003) The Optimal Sports Drink. Sportmedizin und Sporttraumatologie, 51 (1), 25–29.