Dee Caffari on the importance of staying hydrated
All at sea about just how much water you should be drinking to stay well hydrated? Bluewater Global Brand Ambassador Dee Caffari shares her knowledge as an elite sportsperson on the importance of healthier hydration...
By now, we are all aware how important it is to stay hydrated and have probably experienced the effects of dehydration, at least on some level, at one time or another in our life. Water is essential to most functions of the human body and when we don’t take enough onboard, our bodies and brains don’t function in the optimal way. Symptoms of dehydration effect many areas - not just how we feel but also how we react, absorb essential nutrients, how the body heals and how our vital organs function. Our bodies can mistake hunger for thirst, which is one the reasons people looking to lose weight are encouraged to drink plenty throughout the day as this helps prevent overeating.
The average woman should be consuming at least 1.6 litres a day, while the average man is should aim for at least 2 litres a day. These levels are just a guideline and will vary with age, build, activity levels, lifestyle and the ambient temperature. As an avid tea drinker, I am delighted that tea, herbal teas, coffee, fruit juice and milk can all contribute towards the amount of fluid we need. Of course there is also water content in some of the foods we eat, with vegetables and fruit being particularly high.
Many more people don’t just take a water bottle to the gym, they also have one with them throughout the day because having it on hand encourages regular fluid intake.
CAPTION: Top Swedish swimmer Adam Paulsson hydrates by sipping regularly from his double-walled Bluewater stainless steel bottle to help performance during his daily pool training.
There is a delay between the body realising it is dehydrated and our brain relaying that to us as thirst and they believe that by the time you are thirsty you probably should have had a drink about an hour before! Interestingly researchers have found that dehydrated people are most affected when undertaking monotonous tasks or ones that require attention to detail but less so when quick reactions were required. I think we have all been in a long meeting, driving a car or being in a hot room where we have found it hard to concentrate but perhaps put this down to boredom as opposed to being dehydrated.
As an athlete, this research is particularly important as just a 2% loss of hydration can reduce performance by up to 20%. That is huge. Not only does it reduce physical performance, it also negatively impacts cognitive ability and concentration. When sailing, we are often exposed to extreme weather and engage in short bursts of high intensity activity so it can be very easy to ‘forget’ to drink. It is not always easy to access the water you have onboard, so I always have a bottle in a pocket or somewhere on deck. It is also true that, in certain circumstances, females are more likely to become dehydrated than men because it can be harder to access toilet facilities and as a consequence they avoid or reduce liquid consumption.
Now you know the positives of drinking more water, here are my top ten tips for hydration happiness:
- Put water in front of you or have it close to you at all times. A glass of water on your desk or bedside table, a bottle in the car or when you’re out and about – if it is there, I guarantee you will take more sips than if it wasn’t!
- Obviously, I think single use plastic water bottles should be avoided so invest in a reusable bottle like those stainless steel variants from Bluewater that you can fill from a water station or tap
- Some people feel that plain water is boring but there are many natural ways to give it some flavour. A sprig of fresh mint or lemon verbena added to hot or cold water is very refreshing, as is a slice of lemon or cucumber.
- Eat more foods with a high water content such as watermelon, berries, courgette and marrow. Healthy fresh fruit frozen lollies make for a welcome treat in the hot weather.
- Are you hungry or just thirsty? As I said above, sometimes the body thinks food is the answer when in fact water is. If you feel hungry, drink a glass of water before you eat. It may stave of the hunger for a little longer and is a good way to cut out unnecessary calories.
- Remember that milk, sugar-free drinks, teas, herbal teas, coffee and fruit juices all contribute towards your daily fluid goal.
- Setting a timer as a reminder to take a sip of drink on a regular basis may help to kick start making hydration a habit.
- Alcohol is a diuretic, which will make the fluid go through us more quickly. To stay hydrated on a night out, try swapping every other alcoholic drink for a glass of water. Your head will thank you in the morning!
- Finally, staying hydrated during and after exercise is really important. The amount of water your body needs will fluctuate depending on the intensity and duration of the activity, the temperature, your size and how much you perspire. Sipping water at regular intervals will keep your fluid levels topped up and maintain performance.