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Hydration Hype

Fluid facts and fluid fiction

By George M. Withers

Every fitness guru agrees: Proper hydration during physical activity is essential to make the most of any workout. But amid all the hype about fluids that refuel, there’s a grey zone when it comes to facts. Here’s some gospel for you, according to the Dietitians of Canada: The top warning signs of dehydration are dizziness, nausea, chills, headache, and muscle cramps. Which brings us to the myths.

By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

It all depends on what you mean by “dehydrated.” Most experts agree that while those walking around in a state of subclinical dehydration may not feel thirst, their bodies are sending signals of inadequate hydration, from headaches to dry skin. When it comes to avoiding clinical dehydration, thirst is a good indicator of when you need to drink. As your body’s water level drops, your blood thickens. When the concentration of solids in your blood rises by two percent, the thirst mechanism is triggered. Time to hit the water cooler.

You need to drink eight glasses of water per day.

Unless you’ve been eating salt right out of the bag and training for a marathon while wearing a snowsuit, your body does not need a steady supply of water to operate efficiently and perform routine tasks. According to the Dietitians of Canada, adults only need two to three litres of fluid every day for healthy living. That includes water found in foods like certain lettuces and most fruit.

You can never drink too much water.

Under normal conditions, the body flushes the water it doesn’t need. But if you were to say, exercise to exhaustion and manage to down more than 12 litres in 24 hours, you could potentially disrupt the body’s osmotic balance. This happens when the excess water dilutes and flushes too much sodium, an electrolyte that balances the pressure of fluids inside and outside of cells. Over-hydrating or hyponatremia cause the body’s cells to bloat and, in severe cases, burst.

Hydrating is all about water.

Like most things in life, it’s all about balance. Proper hydration is a balance of minerals, electrolytes, and essential fatty acids to sate blood, tissues, and cells. Your very vitality depends on how well your body moves water into and out of cells.

Healthy urine is clear urine.

The hue of urine is an indicator of how many particles like sodium, nitrogen, potassium and chloride are being excreted. A lighter shade of yellow usually indicates more water is present to help the kidneys flush out toxins. Less water equals darker urine.

Spring 2015, Vol 7 N°2

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