Hydration is the number one building block for good fitness.
Dehydration is the enemy of all mankind. Protein intake, workout style, equipment, personal trainers…the first step for any person going to the gym is to drink water. The adult human body is roughly 60% water and if you’re dehydrated, virtually every part of your body and ability to work out is compromised. Some people find that no matter how much water they drink, they still experience the achiness and fatigue of dehydration. That’s because, even if you’re drinking water, there are lots of things you could be eating or doing that are causing you to dehydrate. Here are 5 easy things, ranked from least to most surprising, that can cause dehydration:
5. High-sodium foods
We all know that sodium, a.k.a. salt, causes dehydration. But did you know that sodium is an additive in many foods you would not expect it to be? The FDA does not do a very good job in regulating how much sodium corporations are allowed to put in our food. It’s in pretty much everything from chicken noodle soup to pasta sauce. Try to cut down on canned meats and foods, anything cured (salami, prosciutto, ham), cereal, and most commercially packaged pasta sauces. These types of foods all have astronomical levels of sodium relative to their nutrient count because its used as a preservative.
4. Heavy drinking
The pain of a hangover doesn’t just come from drinking too much the night before, it’s also because you’re dehydrated. Drinking a lot is a double-whammy of dehydration because not only does alcohol act as a diuretic, it also tricks the mind into thinking you’re drinking fluids and therefore you feel less thirsty, even as you dehydrate. If you binge drink, you continue to get drunk after you fall asleep, so even if you might not feel that drunk when you go to bed, your body is continuing to dehydrate all night long without you knowing it. Always make sure to drink water when you drink and try to drink in moderation or avoid it entirely.
3. Air Travel
Being at a high altitude can also cause dehydration. Taking a commercial flight for a few hours or more can really cause someone to dehydrate. At a higher altitude where there is less humidity, the human body retains less of its natural water. Always drink water before, during, and after you take a flight, especially if you are going to be working out or competing somewhere when you reach your destination. The effects of dehydration can linger for days, or even weeks if you don’t take time to replenish yourself!
2. Low-Carb Diets
This one might shock the pros out there, but it’s true. Carbs actually store a lot of the water weight in our bodies. So, if you’re in a cutting phase where you’re eating almost no carbs, you’re also losing a substantial amount of water along with that. Make sure to drink extra water to offset the balance, especially if you have only recently started a low-carb diet.
Even if you’re doing everything right — you could literally be drinking gallons of water a day — if you’re stressed out, you won’t retain water as well as if you weren’t. Being stressed out causes adrenal fatigue and causes the body to function less while in a variety of ways. You can manage your stress levels through meditation and mindfulness techniques. The benefits will probably go beyond just hydration, too!