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One Small Change

The New Rules of Hydration

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Although we think we are so much more, the fact of the matter is that we are 55- to 65-percent water. I was surprised and, frankly, a bit disappointed to learn this. In the unique recipe that is me, I thought my ingredients were more exotic. I could have sworn I was closer to a bouillabaisse than a chicken consommé. But nonetheless, if our primary component is H20, then what is the formula for insuring health and well being with a steady supply of it? The answer is not that simple, which is why an estimated 33 percent of the active adult population is living in an under-hydrated state.

Let’s address a few fallacies first. The biggest is that this is something we don’t need to concern ourselves with. We drink when we’re thirsty, and that’s it. But hunger is the flip side of thirst and look at how that mechanism has gone haywire. If hunger were a trustworthy signal, then obesity wouldn’t be the biggest health challenge in America. Likewise, thirst. By time you’re feeling a little parched, you’re already dehydrated. It’s rudimentary technology at best.

The second myth is that, in lieu of this vaguely calibrated thirst gauge, we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid daily just to be safe. This is the so-called “8x8 rule,” and it’s been around so long and repeated so many times that it’s become doctrine, even though there is no scientific basis for it. That’s right, no scientific basis. It’s a guess.

So if the goal of this month’s One Small Change experiment is to drink the recommended amount of fluid daily, how do we figure that? Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of sport nutrition at Florida International University in Miami and executive VP of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, recommends this easy 3-step process:

1. Eat, poop and get naked.

Don’t you wish all self-improvement plans would start this way? Sorry, I stray. After you’ve gotten out of bed, eaten breakfast and voided, strip down and weigh yourself. This will be your baseline. Since our bodies are roughly half water, divide your weight by 2 to arrive at an approximation of your daily fluid needs. So in my case, I weigh 174 pounds, divided by 2, which equals 87. This is the amount of fluid in ounces I need to drink every day to counterbalance what I naturally lose via breath, perspiration, urination and bowel movements. As you can see, it’s significantly more than the 64 ounces derived from the 8x8 rule.

2. Exercise, then weigh in again.

If we were not athletes, then we could stop here. But since we sweat much more than the average person, we need to build that fluid loss into the equation and replenish accordingly. So after your normal workout, shower, towel off and step onto that same scale naked. Subtract what you see from what you were. For every pound lost, you need to drink one pint (16 ounces) of additional fluid. Using myself as an example, after one 60-minute session of full-court basketball, I lost 3 pounds. Thus, to get back on an even keel, I must drink 135 ounces that day (my 87-ounce baseline + my 48-ounce sweat deficit).

3. Run a periodic systems check.

To stay properly hydrated, drink regularly throughout the day. And notice that I’ve been using the word “fluid” and not just “water,” which means you can count coffee, tea, juice, soup, soda…really any liquid except alcohol. Because of its diuretic effect, those two beers or that glass of pinot you put away with dinner don’t count towards your fluid goal. To periodically check how you’re doing, look at your urine. It should be clear or a very faint yellow.

Because it’s summertime and I’m a fairly active guy who sweats like Beyonce shimmies, I’m figuring that I’m going to need to drink about 120 ounces of fluid daily to stay properly hydrated. That’s a staggering 225 pounds of fluid in the month of June! What happens when a man willing does that to himself? Be sure to check back.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Hydration, Beverages