The benefits of drinking more water

Glass of water

In my post “Why am I not better” I spoke about the number of small things that you can do to improve your health and performance. You could call this the Compound effect (a number of little changes that can add up to a greater, positive impact in the future) or what British Cycling call marginal gains.  (I am not quite at the marginal gains level yet, but you get the point).I stated that I was going to undertake a 22 day challenge to drink more water and see if there is any benefits.

Why 22 days? There is popular belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit. This come from a book Psycho Cybernetics written by a German cosmetic surgeon Maxwell Maltz in 1960 where he observed that the adjustment period for his patients was a minimum of 21 days. Over time this has become more popular and has become the stock answer for how long it takes to form a habit.

So for now I am going to go with 21 days and add 1 day as way of an upgrade!

Why did I make drinking more water my first self-improvement?

First of all, I am highly aware that I do not drink enough water. The colour of your urine is the best indicator of hydration. Let just say, mine is not where it should be.

Urine Colour Chart
Colour Chart – stay in the upper section!

Secondly, it is a simple change to make. I do not have to buy anything and it is something I already do, but just need to do a bit more.

Thirdly, there are the many day to day physical and mental benefits of drinking water. It can improve energy levels and brain function (your brain is about 75% water). It flushes toxins from your body therefore improving your skin. It aids digestion. It helps you eat less but filling you up. It lubricates and cushions your cartilage and joints.

Fourthly, it can have a huge effect on athletic physical performance. A 2% of body weight loss in water can lead to reduction in athletic performance. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30%.

Think about that. When you are dehydrated and working out, you feel rubbish and it feels super hard, you could be at a 30% reduction of your full capacity. That is crazy! No wonder my BMF sessions vary so much. Sometimes I can be near the front, and sometimes I am hanging on like grim death to the back.

The average male is made up of 69% water and muscles are 75% water. It can easily be determined that a dehydrated muscle is not going to perform as well as a hydrated one. Dehydration reduces cardio output. Plasma, which constitutes 55% of blood fluid, is mostly water. If you are dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker, this lowers your blood pressure and makes it harder for the blood to get back to the heart reducing the number of times your heart beats and how much blood it can move with each pump. So when dehydrated, you are reducing the pumping capacity of your heart. When you are exercising you also tend to sweat. This just compounds the issue as you a losing even more water. Hence, why my performance at BMF sessions can vary so much.

What have I done to increase my water intake?

In the morning I still need a cup of tea.  It’s the first thing I do in the morning (after brushing my teeth). Apparently tea does count to your fluid intake. Yes, it does have diuretic properties, but in the end you are putting more fluid in that it takes out.

I now have a large glass of green smoothie every morning, so this gives me extra fluid that I had not previously been taking on board.

Green Smoothie
It would not be a health blog without a photo of a green smoothie!

I carry a water bottle around with me. I was already doing this, but the bottle used to end up never making it out of my bag. Now I sit it on my desk next to me. One thing I have found is that having a see through bottle helps me drink more water. Being able to see how much I have, or have not drunk is really helpful. My company gave me a fancy water bottle that I can add fruit to, to make the water a little more intresting.

When I think I should have some water, I have some water, or go and get some water. Very simple, but it works!

At work, with every cup of tea or coffee I have, I now have a glass of water.

Water bottle with fruit
Water bottle with fruit! It can help make water more interesting!

I take a much bigger glass of water to bed at night. This does not mean I always drink it, but I no longer end up rationing myself with the small glass I used to use.

On training days I pay particular attention to drinking more water. Especially afterwards.

When I do drink alcohol, I try to drink a glass of water between drinks. This is not always successful, but the intention is there and I do get some water down me.

What benefits (if any) have I seen?

Thirst – Funnily enough, I am not as thirsty as I used to be. Thirst is the body’s way of telling you to drink water. It is not saying you are severely dehydrated, it is just a gentle reminder from your body.

Headaches – I have found that I have fewer headaches. I am not massively prone to them, but when they do come they can be quite painful. They normally come around late afternoon, when I have been ignoring my body telling me I am thirsty, having only had 2 cups of tea all day.

Tiredness – I have not found much of a change here. I think there are too many variables involved, and more important variables such as going to bed at a reasonable time.

Physical/Training – The main thing I have found here is that I have removed an excuse for not pushing at training. Previously, I had known before a workout that I had not drank enough water and would then chugged a litre of water an hour or so before (which has its own detriment effects). I would already start telling myself I was not physical prepared for the session. Then, if the session did not start to well I would use it as an excuse to back off. Sometimes I would use lack of hydration as a reason to not even go for a run. So, drinking more water has removed an excuse to train hard or miss runs.

First Triathalon Selfie
Make sure you are well hydrated before physical activity

Intangibles – I have noticed that I just feel a little better all-round. I was highly aware I was not drinking enough water and it could be a placebo effect, but I do feel I have a bit more spring in my step.

Negatives – More toilet visits. You are supposed to get up a couple of times every hour, so every cloud…..

Have you tried any little self-improvements? If so, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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