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Yellow river? You could be burning alive

Date

Performance Matters

Andrew May is a performance coach who has spent the past 15 years working with elite sportspeople.

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The fastest cure for dehydration isn't sports drinks, soft drinks or even fruit juice.

The fastest cure for dehydration isn't sports drinks, soft drinks or even fruit juice.

... Somebody bring me some water, can't you see I'm burning alive ...

While she was singing about her broken heart at the time, Melissa Etheridge really did have a point. Without adequate amounts of water, we literally would burn alive.

Next to air, water is the most necessary element for human survival. In fact, proper hydration is essential for life. We can live without food for almost two months, but without water for only a few days. Most people have no idea about how much water they should drink throughout the day, and did you realise more than 75 per cent of us live in a constantly dehydrated state?

Why do we need water?

The reality is, without water pulsing through our bodies we would eventually be poisoned by our own waste products. Uric acid and urea is removed via the kidneys and this is dissolved in adequate amounts of water. If there isn't enough water in our system, waste products are not removed as effectively and may build up as kidney stones.

Water is also vital for chemical reactions in digestion and metabolism. It carries nutrients and oxygen to cells through the bloodstream and helps to cool the body through perspiration.

Water lubricates our joints and we even need it to breathe, as our lungs must be moist to take in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide. Staying hydrated also helps you concentrate.

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?

Thirst is not the best indicator of dehydration, as the thirst mechanism only kicks in when you are already mildly dehydrated. While for some people this might not be the most PC type of hydration assessment, the best way to check whether you are drinking enough water is to regularly check the colour of your urine. If it looks like a Berocca that has just dissolved in a glass, you're high on the dehydration scale. Ideally, your urine should be clear or a very light straw colour. A number of mining companies and sporting teams now use urine charts to educate people to monitor their own hydration levels.

Other symptoms of dehydration include headaches and dizziness; decreased energy or fatigue; dry lips, mouth and skin; nausea; constipation; increased body temperature; loss of concentration; and irritability.

How do we become dehydrated?

We continually lose water during the day through sweating, breathing and going to the toilet (through urine).

Each person has different water intake requirements based on their gender, weight, climatic conditions, activity levels, travel requirements, altitude and consumption of diuretics (caffeine in coffee, Coke, energy drinks).

Do other drinks count?

Water is the best choice when it comes to reaching your daily fluid requirement. It contains no calories or sugar, and it's generally free. You can also meet your daily fluid intake with milk, fruit juices or teas. It's important to remember, though, that these are more likely to contain calories – usually from sugar. A freshly squeezed fruit juice contains lots of vitamins and can help make up one of your portions of fruit and vegetables for the day. Commercially manufactured fruit juices can contain lots of sugar and be acidic, both of which are bad for your teeth. Therefore, it's best to limit how much fruit juice you drink and go for the simple high quality H2O.

Drinks that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee and cola can contribute to your fluid intake, however they are also diuretics (increasing the amount of urine you produce) and can cause you to become dehydrated. Drink water alongside alcohol (aim for a water chaser after each standard drink) and always stick within the recommended alcohol limits.

Is two litres a day enough?

Yes, and no. It depends on your weight and activity levels.

We've all heard the advice to drink two litres of water per day, or 8 x 250ml glasses. The problem with this is that it assumes the environment you're in is cool, you weigh 68 kilograms and you're physically active for only about 20 minutes each day.

Recent studies have shown active males and females need to consume 44ml of water per kg of body weight a day to stay hydrated, and 33ml/kg body weight during inactive days. This is a huge difference from the generic "drink two litres a day" advice.

Performing at your peak

Drinking the right amount of water ensures your body functions efficiently, makes you feel healthier and more alert, and reduces the risk of serious health problems. Always have a water bottle in your car or on your desk at work.

1. Have a glass or two of water as soon as you wake up each day.

2. Have a water chaser after a soft drink, coffee, tea or alcohol.

3. Drink water regularly throughout the day. We often mistake hunger for thirst.

4.Drink more water on hot days and when you travel on planes.

5. Always have a water jug in meeting rooms.

What are your tips for staying hydrated throughout the day?

(Source: David Dawson, The Performance Clinic)

29 comments

  • That all sounds good, but from my reading based on a myth, not science—see http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/jul/13/myth-eight-glasses-water-day, or more practical advice at http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/8-glasses-of-water-a-day-an-urban-myth-1.1196386

    Commenter
    Gazza
    Location
    Bendigo
    Date and time
    September 30, 2013, 6:34AM
    • Yep - and I often wonder how it is that humans evolved in places where there wasn't water on tap ALL THE TIME. Throughout history people have had to walk to water sources. It simply doesn't make sense that you must have a constant supply of water to avoid dehydration.

      The other thing this article doesn't mention at all is that almost all food includes some water content, and a substantial part of your daily water intake comes from food.

      It is also true that as with everything, your body adjusts to what you're doing to it. So if you constantly drink water, you will start to feel thirsty more readily because your body gets used to having that amount of fluid poured in. Conversely, if you drink less, your body adjusts to running on less water.

      Commenter
      Sarah
      Date and time
      September 30, 2013, 9:39AM
  • If as a 93 kg sports doctor I need to drink 3-4 litres a day to stay hydrated, the obvious question is: why am I not a pile of wind-blown dust by now? A minor degree of dehydration may affect whether you finish first or third in the City to Surf, but the decrement in performance or health that it causes is just not relevant to most of us. Yes, it's a good policy to keep the fluids up, but it is also safe to wander more than 50 metres from a tap. Substituting tap water for a couple of those daily cups of coffee would be a step in the right direction for most of us, though.

    Commenter
    Not that complicated
    Date and time
    September 30, 2013, 7:02AM
    • Ok. I get it that we need water to survive. But can someone tell me why there always have to be at least two w*#kers who need to take a two litre bottle of water into every meeting and proceed to slurp through the pop up lid every 5 minutes? Should I turn down the AC and get a mist spray machine to reduce the sweat rate?

      Commenter
      Seamus O'Connor
      Location
      Potts Point
      Date and time
      September 30, 2013, 7:12AM
      • I think you answered your question! Because they are w#$#ers and want to show us all that they are committed to health and exercise.

        Commenter
        Daniel
        Date and time
        September 30, 2013, 11:09AM
    • A quick way to get the water down, is to use a straw, a glass is consumed in a blink of an eye, and it also has a mild fun factor, pretend you're drinking a cocktail, or a milkshake.. try not to think about it being just water, anyway down it goes, lickety split, easy.

      Commenter
      Frantic
      Date and time
      September 30, 2013, 7:25AM
      • Drinking your water from a two liter bottle insures that you are keeping to your quota.

        A spritz of lime or lemon juice helps without calories. Some say it even increases your bodies ability to absorbe.

        Drink it through the day and not just in one go as it will go right through you and be less benificial.

        Commenter
        Nicolas
        Date and time
        September 30, 2013, 7:26AM
        • The worst kind of water? One that has been generously 'improved' with sugar and 'energy'. If you want a boost, drink black coffee.

          Commenter
          Caffetierra Moka
          Location
          Sector 7-G
          Date and time
          September 30, 2013, 8:24AM
          • Should point 3 in the list be "We often mistake thirst for hunger" rather than "We often mistake hunger for thirst"? You're telling us to drink more water, not eat more often.

            Commenter
            Andrew
            Date and time
            September 30, 2013, 8:32AM
            • No. The point being made was about people thinking they're hungry when they're actually thirsty. I don't think I've ever experienced that, but the author of the article thinks it's possible.

              Commenter
              rudy
              Date and time
              September 30, 2013, 10:49AM

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