Friday Five: Drink Water

Why water, tap water, is all you need.

We need water to function. Too often we end up drinking coffee, and lots of soda, and alcohol, not to mention fruit juices and teas and milk and a bunch of other possibilities. Or just as often, we don’t drink enough fluids, and we become dehydrated — and that isn’t good for our health.

The most essential fuel:
Being dehydrated can sap your energy and make you feel tired — even mild dehydration of as little as 1 or 2 percent of your body weight. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated — and this can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness and other symptoms. Being dehydrated can severely hamper your athletic activities, slowing you down and making it harder to ride your bike. Exercise requires additional water, so be sure to hydrate before, during and after exercise.

A healthy body:
Drinking a good amount of water could lower your risks of a heart attack. A six-year study published in the May 1, 2002 American Journal of Epidemiology found that those who drink more than five glasses of water a day were 41 percent less likely to die from a heart attack during the study period than those who drank less than two glasses.

Our digestive systems need a good amount of water to digest food properly. Often water can help cure stomach acid problems, and water along with fiber can cure constipation (often a result of dehydration). Water is used by the body to help flush out toxins and waste products from the body. Drinking a healthy amount of water has also been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent. Drinking lots of water can also reduce the risk of bladder cancer by 50 percent and potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer.

A healthy mind:
Water is essential for optimal brain health and function. If you don’t stay hydrated, then you are just being stupid. Like, actually maybe making yourself more stupid.

Water is necessary to maintain the tone of membranes for normal neurotransmission. It enhances circulation and aids in removing wastes. Water keeps the brain from overheating, which can cause cognitive decline and even damage. Dehydration most commonly occurs because people go long periods of time without drinking water. By the time thirst is felt, there may be a loss of body weight up to two percent from water loss, and a 10 percent cognitive decline may be present. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, poor concentration and reduced cognitive abilities. Even mild levels of dehydration can impact your smarts. (Extracted from the Water In Schools website)

Racing:
Water is even more important when exerting oneself. If you are racing, then assess the course and research whether there will be places to get drinking water on the course. Always take water – more than you think you need. Take more water than you require because if you run out of water when exerting yourself, it can damage your chances of racing proficiently and even put your health at risk. Water is heavy, but try racing without enough of it and even the lightest bike in the world won’t help you once you become dehydrated.

Sodium, potassium, calcium and other electrolytes help the body absorb fluids and assist with a number of other important functions, like muscle function. Include a source of electrolytes, either from a sports drink or supplement, in your race nutrition plan.

Avoid the energy brews:
Ok, let’s not get into this too deeply. Partly because it’s a deep, deep pit which is lined with lawyers. There’s lots of research out there and lot’s of half truths, go figure it out for yourself and make an informed decision. However, I think it’s quite simple to say that you don’t need energy drinks, but you certainly need water.

Form a water habit:
Eight glasses a day is a baseline but you should take into account factors such as, age, dietary needs, health, sickness, exercise etc. It’s also not good to just drink when you’re thirsty — you’re already dehydrated by then. It’s best to form a routine: drink a glass when you wake up, a glass with each meal, a glass in between meals, and be sure to drink before, during and after exercise. Try to generally keep yourself from getting thirsty.

When riding…just drink and drink and drink. It’s not necessary to drink sports drinks like Gatorade when you exercise, unless you are doing it for more than an hour. Just drink water. If you’re going to exercise, be sure to drink water a couple hours ahead of time, so that it will get through your system in time, and again, drink during and after exercise as well.

All you need is tap water:
Drinking bottled water in the First World (and let’s face it, if you are reading this on a computer with a wireless coonection or on your cell phon,e then you are safely in the first world) is a crime. Or it should be. I’m willing to bet that no more than twenty feet from where you sit there is a tap that spouts forth water on demand. That water is all you need. It’s clean and watery. It’s all you need.

If you were to drink eight glasses of water each day for a year from a tap, it will cost you 49 cents for the whole year. If you drank the equivalent in bottled water it will cost approximately $1,400.

Bottled water is not healthier, it’s likely not to be any tastier, it causes A LOT more waste (plastic waste being incredibly troublesome), it means less attention is paid to public systems and it increases the commercialization of water.

If you are still fearful of common tap water, then instead of spending a fortune on bottled water, invest in a filter for your home faucet. It’ll make tap water taste like bottled, at a fraction of the price.

Carry a water bottle or something you can drink from. Sip from it and when it’s empty refill it. It’s that simple. You’ll feel better and stronger for it in no time.

(A great source of inspiration and common sense is Drink Water, a simple movement started by two snowboarders, Austin Smith and Bryan Fox, who felt that energy drink companies were becoming too good at convincing us to drink their mystery products when all we really need is water. Profits from sales of merchandise go towards water.org providing safe drinking water for those that need it around the world.)

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