I’m not going to water down this subject whatsoever. Water is really important. Water is greatly undervalued and under appreciated by many. I feel this way because the most common answer I get when I ask someone how much water they drink is “a lot” or “I don’t know.” If the answer is along the lines of “a lot” or “a good amount” and I ask a follow up question of “exactly how much water a day?” Then there is usually no specific answer. This is important since humans die after around 7 days of no water whereas we die within weeks without food. Clearly water is important to our health. Water and hydration relates to almost every aspect of health and performance. Better hydration has been shown to increase various performance measurements, boosts mental/physical recovery, improves mood, and indirectly improves sleep. The goal is that by the end of this read you will know how to determine if you are chronically dehydrated along with some action steps to hydrate smarter. A great place to start this off is discussing the quality of our water.
Not all water is created equal these days. Sure there is the obvious understanding that drinking water shouldn’t contain certain chemicals and toxins. However there are several different types of drinking water to choose from. Alkaline water, spring water, reverse osmosis, kangen, etc. The thing is that everybody will have unique needs and sensitivities to all these different types of water. Unless you are willing to work with a trained medical professional who understands hydration at a higher level and knows how to test which type is ideal for you, then your best bet is to try one kind of water for 2-4 weeks and measure subjective info along with any changes to the tests we will cover later. Regardless of which type of water you find works best for you, the next big piece is regulating your electrolyte balance. This is a fancy way of saying that we need a good balance of minerals in our bodily fluids. Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are huge players in the electrolyte game. This is another reason why spring water has become so trendy in the past. Since spring water naturally holds some minerals it can be a great choice for many. For others not interested in spring water start by pinching a small amount of organic sea salt in your water throughout the day. This for some can be a big help. Taking electrolytes or magnesium/calcium supplements can also be helpful. Keep in mind that working with a trained professional is the most efficient way of figuring out the best strategies for yourself. However if someone is short on resources, time, or willingness to work with someone then these concepts will get you started on the right foot.
Once the quality of water and electrolyte balance is appropriate we can then use hydration tests to determine how dehydrated we are. The three main things to check are urine color, the skin pinch test, and observation of any swelling of the lymph nodes. When observing urine color we should see a light yellow to clear color when we urinate. This will be affected by any supplements/multi-vitamins you take those taking these supplements should disregard the urine color after ingesting any supplements. Another quick hydration test is the skin pinch test. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand lightly and if the skin doesn’t bounce back to normal within a matter of seconds then you’re most likely dehydrated. Lastly we can gently palpate specific areas of our body that hold a surplus of lymph nodes. Lymph nodes can be inflamed for a multitude of reasons including illness. However regardless of why lymph nodes are swollen it’s been shown that adequate hydration helps move lymph fluid through the body which decreases their inflammation. Therefor anytime your lymph is inflamed for any reason it makes sense that you would also be somewhat dehydrated. With the pressure one would use to check the rareness of a steak or wake someone up, gently push into the are under your earlobe and behind your jaw. Another area to check for lymph would be right under your collarbone or down along the sternum (center of chest bone) on both sides. If any or all these areas are tender upon light palpation then most likely your lymph is inflamed and you could use some water!
Use one, if not all or more, of these hydration tests to continuously determine how well you’re hydrated and how much water is appropriate for you at this time in your life. Remember that when traveling, training more frequently, training at higher intensities, eating and drinking alcohol excessively, and/or during higher stress times we will all mostly likely require higher amounts of water to keep our recovery status up.