Water, the necessity of life! Our bodies are comprised of 50-65% water, and almost all of our major body systems depend on it. The body uses water in all of its cells, tissues, and organs to help regulate temperature, lubricate joints, flush out waste product from the kidneys and liver, carry nutrients and oxygen to the cells, dissolve minerals and other nutrients to make accessible to the body, aid in constipation, and protect body organs/tissues.
We lose water through breathing, digestion, and sweating… so we have to replace it! Even minor dehydration in athletes can hinder training sessions, and negatively impact performance. You are probably familiar with the recommendation of eight 8-oz glasses of water per day? Well, I like to get a little more specific with my clients when it comes to daily fluid intake. Instead of assigning a blanket daily water minimum for people of all sizes, shapes, ages, and activity levels, I recommend tracking hydration by assessing urine color. If your urine is pale, yellow – perfect! You are hydrating just right. If your urine is clear, or darker in color (like apple juice), you are probably over or under hydrating. Keep in mind that supplements can change the color of urine, but this is usually just right around the time the vitamin is taken.
So, you now know how important proper hydration status is… But what if you don't like the taste of water? Need a little more flavor, perhaps.
First it’s important to consider what type of hydration is needed. If you are simply trying to stay hydrated throughout the day, you don’t need calories in the form of carbohydrates from your beverage. If you are hydrating during a workout session, water flavored with NUUN, UCAN Hydrate, or SOS Rehydrate is fine as long as the workout is under 2-3 hours and the temperature is moderate. Each of these options is 10 calories or less and provides valuable sodium replenishment. For long workouts (those over 2-3 hours in length), your hydration may have calories as well as electrolytes, depending on the type of fuel plan you are using for training/racing. But this is a topic for another article!
Let’s get back to daily hydration. I’m going to level with you here. Most of the flavored water options are total junk. Soda-in-disguise. I’ve often left a gas station frustrated because I want something that’s not water, but I don’t want it loaded with sugar or sweeteners. Unfortunately, these options are limited. Here is a comparison of some great flavored beverage choices, followed by some not-so-great options:
There is a small selection of carbonated, naturally flavored waters that contain no sugar or sweetener. These are ideal for adding a little pep to your drink without unnecessary calories or chemicals.
+ Flavored Sparking Waters – like La Croix and Perrier.
+ Hint Premium Flavored Water
+ Add a splash (1-2 oz) of 100% fruit juice to club soda or plain water. I like the R.W. Knudsen brand. But beware- fruit juice is calorie and sugar-laden so go easy!
+Homemade Fruit-Flavored Water - soak fruit slices in a pitcher of water, or fill ice cube trays with diced fruit pieces, freeze and then add to water
Everyone knows that soda is not a good choice for a healthy drink. But there are some drinks masquerading as healthy, and they just aren’t! I don’t like sugar-laden drinks, but am also not a fan of the sweeteners. If you do go the sweetener route, opt for Stevia, which is the most natural option.
+ San Pellegrino Sparking Fruit Beverage - loaded with sugar, 31 grams per serving
+ Vitamin Water – 29 grams of sugar per bottle
+ Gatorade / G2 – lots of sugar, sweetener, food coloring
+MIO / Crystal Light Liquid – these chemical-laded water enhancers are far from healthy. Avoid at all costs!
You can also help to meet your daily hydration needs by consuming the right foods! Here are some foods that aid in hydration (most of these foods are at least 90% water by weight):
Other food choices like soups, smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal are also highly hydrating in your fuel plan!
The right amount of daily hydration is essential to us, both as humans and as triathletes. But don’t feel hopeless if you prefer something a little more flavored than water. Just make sure you choose wisely – housing down 30 grams of sugar with your water isn’t necessary or healthy. Neither is consuming a ton of sweetener. Pick flavored carbonated waters, or create your own fruit-flavored water. And be sure to load up on lots of the foods that contribute fluids as well. Stay hydrated, my friends!