by Geoff Rand
My first real lesson in hydration came at Fort Campbell, Kentucky at Air Assault School in 1994. The final graduation requirement was a 12-mile road march in full uniform with helmet, rifle, and rucksack. The 3-hour time limit was tough on my short legs, but the real challenge was to drink all the water they required. At several points along the course were hydration stations. At each one, we had to hold two open 1-quart canteens over our heads to prove they were empty. And we couldn’t just dump the water along the way. Spotters would disqualify us for a safety violation if we tried to spill it. After showing empty, we refilled them and continued on. I’m not sure how many gallons I drank during the 2.5 hours it took me to finish, but I would have exploded if someone kicked me in the stomach upon reaching the finish line. I definitely was not dehydrated.
While the Army’s safety regulations may border on the absurd at times, there usually is a reason. In this case, soldiers have died on this very course due to dehydration.
While potential for death is quite a motivator, there are other reasons you should be drinking water. Studies have shown that dehydration by a mere 2% loss in body weight can cause impaired performance. At 5% loss, capacity for work can be decreased by up to 30%.
Water has benefits for you even if you’re not engaged in physical activity. It aids in proper digestion, reduces chances of developing kidney stones, cavities, some cancers, urinary tract infections, and cataracts, to name a few benefits. Water is also crucial in flushing toxins from the body as well as assisting in proper blood flow and plays a key role in muscle repair because of these functions. You will notice more muscle soreness, cramps, and earlier onset of DOMS if you are dehydrated.
Drinking water before a meal can also help you feel full faster and consume fewer calories. If weight loss is your goal, consider drinking water as cold as you can stand. Your body has to warm it up to metabolize it, and that burns even more calories.
When should you drink? Early and often is good advice. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you are already playing catch up. Hydrate before, during, and after physical activity. If you want to freak out other people in the bathroom, take the below chart in with you and compare your urine color to it. Know that some vitamins and supplements can give you an artificially light yellow color even if you are dehydrated.
How much should you drink? We’ve all heard the 8 glasses of water a day as the accepted standard. However, it turns out this standard is not at all based on scientific study. Its origin has not been definitively determined, but generally the accepted source is a 1945 paper that suggested one ounce of water consumed per calorie of food consumed. On a 2,000 calorie diet, this translates to roughly 64oz., or 8 glasses of water. A better rule of thumb, often prescribed by Amanda, is to drink one ounce of water for every pound of body weight you have.
While we aren’t going to make you hold your water bottles over your heads, our coaches can tell when you aren’t drinking your water. It shows in your face and in your performance. So, do your body a favor, drink up now and keep drinking up throughout the day.