Men’s Fitness magazine
Hydration strategies for ultimate energy: how water helps keep your performance afloat
by Lisa Alcalay Klug
Hunger gets all the glory. Large parts of your day are set aside to appease it. The lunch hour has reached near Constitutional inviolability. Chefs don’t want their own restaurants anymore, they want their own TV series. Flip on the Food Network, and Emeril will show you how to make corned beef-and-cabbage strudel with a grain-mustard sauce.
But thirst, that’s something different. You drink with your meal, not the other way around. While hunger growls to get your attention, thirst merely broods. It’s unassuming, playing the supporting role while hunger takes all the curtain calls. Hunger is Penn; thirst is Teller. It’s the other one.
But sometimes it’s the quiet ones who cause all the trouble. And if you don’t pay attention to thirst, you’re courting trouble. You can survive a month without food, but you may not last a week without water. “Hydration is critical,” says Steven Masley, medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Aventura, Fla. “If you don’t hydrate, you’re going to feel tired.”
Water constitutes about 75 percent of your body, so even a slight shortage puts a serious deficit in your horsepower. An insufficient amount of water in your system causes a reduction in blood volume, which means less oxygen gets to your working muscles. (A 2 percent loss in the water surrounding your cells can mean a 20 percent decrease in energy levels, according to Charlie Ryrie in his book The Healing Energies of Water.) In fact, some experts even contend that staying well-hydrated contributes to long-term high energy by helping to relieve enervating conditions such as arthritis, body aches, constipation, indigestion, ulcers and stress.
You can avoid dehydration–and the accompanying drop in energy–by taking steps to protect yourself ahead of time. Follow these tips to keep your fluid intake above water:
* Drink two glasses of water first thing in the morning to help cleanse the kidneys and detoxify your system, says certified nutritionist Sherry Dell, Ph.D.
* While the traditional recommendation is to drink a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, better you should drink at least half your body weight in ounces daily, according to Fereydon Batmanghelidj, M.D., author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. If you weigh 160 pounds, your daily intake should measure at least 80 ounces. That’s 10 eight-ounce glasses a day (if you don’t have a glass, one gulp equals about one ounce).
* Drink during exercise. You should consume six to eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes while working out, especially if you are doing cardiovascular training in a warm climate.
* Avoid caffeinated sodas, tea and coffee, which actually leach fluid from your body with their diuretic effects. If you must have caffeine, follow it up with a water chaser just to stay in balance.
* Unless you’re gearing up for an endurance event lasting more than 60 minutes or you’re exercising in very warm weather, you won’t need an energy drink to keep your electrolytes. Water will do the trick–and will allow you to save your calories for a hunger-vanquishing meal.
* Don’t confuse hunger with thirst. How can you tell the two apart? Easy–drink a glass of water if you think you’re hungry. If that satisfies you, it was thirst. As a preventative measure, reach for water before snacks and about half an hour before meals. You’ll likely drop some extra weight as an added benefit.
* Cut back at the bar–alcohol can dehydrate you. Limit drinks to one or two beers or glasses of wine, and before turning in for the night, consume one glass of water for every glass of alcohol.
When the mercury rises above about 80 degrees or the humidity is excessive, you need to take extra precautions.
* “If you’re really going to be exerting yourself in a very hot climate, the risks of dehydration and hypovolemia [a decrease in blood volume] are magnified,” says Jeffrey Lautman, M.D., chief of medicine at Euclid Hospital and director of dialysis at Euclid Dialysis Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “In dry climates, where your sweat evaporates quickly, you may not recognize that you are losing salt as well as water. In advance of your activity, you might want to consider taking a salt tablet along with liquids or an electrolyte-enriched drink.”
* If your stomach rebels with vomiting or diarrhea, you’re losing liquid plus minerals and electrolytes. “You better hit electrolyte-rich Gatorade and Tang in a big way,” Lautman advises. “Whatever you think you need to drink, double it. The harm will come if you don’t drink. In 15 years, I’ve never admitted anyone to the hospital with an overdose of Tang.”
* To help prevent muscle cramps that accompany dehydration, Lautman recommends potassium and magnesium. He suggests taking a magnesium supplement called Slo-Mag (try two tablets before working out). Munch on potassium-rich baked potatoes (with the skin), prunes, dates and avocados.
THE SODIUM CONNECTION
Don’t make a point of increasing your sodium intake to combat dehydration–unless you’re an endurance athlete or training under the extreme conditions cited above. “In America, most people eat too much sodium,” Lautman says. “I recommend everyone go as salt-free as possible, because they will still get plenty of salt hidden in the basic American diet.”
A word of caution: If you lose your senses, or maybe a bet, and decide to run a marathon, you’ll want to take steps to prevent hyponatremia, which can lead to death. This condition is caused by drinking too much water and consuming too little salt at times when urination is avoided (for example, during a running race). Excess water in the bloodstream and not enough water in excreted urine causes low blood sodium; symptoms include nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
Recommendations (from Lewis Maharam, M.D., medical director of the New York City Marathon) include:
* Drink one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes along the course.
* Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) that increase the risk of hyponatremia by decreasing blood flow to the kidneys and interfering with prostaglandin, a hormone whose functions include helping the kidneys maintain homeostasis (a balance of salt and water).
* Eat salty pretzels and salted bagels before a race.
LITTLE-KNOWN WATER BENEFITS
Like a miracle cure, water helps the body flush out toxins, improving its performance. Water also charges up joints and promotes longevity by boosting your overall health. Studies show good hydration helps prevent exercise-induced asthma and reduces the risk of kidney stones, bladder cancer, heart attacks and even strokes.
Like any fine-tuned machine, when you’re well-lubed you can function at your peak, mentally as well as physically. At least three-quarters of your brain is water. Shorten the supply and you dull your senses–literally. So not only do your muscles need water, your brain does too. Sufficient hydration helps keep your cognitive thinking clear and your reflexes fast.
When you hydrate properly, you stand to enhance performance in yet one more important arena: the love chamber. Drinking lots of water, herbal teas and other non-diuretic fluids increases circulation and blood flow throughout the body, including the penis. “Dehydration decreases erectile performance,” says Steven Masley, with the Pritikin Longevity Center in Aventura, Fla. “Water is nature’s answer to Viagra.”
SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
How do you know if you’re fluid-deprived? Symptoms of dehydration include clammy hands, headache, nausea and fatigue. You may also feel light-headed or dizzy, especially when moving from a lying or sitting position to standing up.
The classic signs of hydration–frequent urination and a pale-yellow flow–aren’t necessarily reliable indicators of whether you need fluids, according to Jeffrey Lautman, M.D., director of dialysis at Euclid Dialysis Center in Cleveland, Ohio. How often a person pees is individual, says Lautman, and such things as B vitamins, caffeine, antibiotics and recreational drugs can affect the color of urine.
When your volume of urine decreases, that’s a sign you’re dehydrated (a healthy daily output would be enough to fill up a two-liter bottle). But measuring volume isn’t an ideal way to check your hydration status, because, well, it’s not easy to do.
Follow the guidelines given here for staying hydrated, and if you get tired of keeping track of how many ounces you’ve downed, just follow your thirst, says Lautman. “Forget the formulas. Drink plenty and your kidneys will sort it out. What you need, the body will absorb.”
COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group
Workplace fatigue busters: don’t let your job drain your energy— or diminish your workouts
by Lisa Alcalay Klug
Here’s the first truth about your job: It’s work. Love it or hate it, it’s work. Write with a pen or pound with a hammer, it’s work. Get paid a lot or get paid a little, it’s still work.
Which brings up the second truth about your job: It’s tiring. Spend eight hours or more doing anything, and it’s bound to exhaust you. You’re concentrating, managing conflict. And you’re away from hearth and home.
All work and no play makes you more than a dull boy. Work exhaustion, in fact, causes serious damage when continued unchecked. “Some men pursue the almighty dollar at all costs, spending their health to gain wealth,” says clinical psychologist Dan Baker, Ph.D., director of Canyon Ranch Life Enhancement Center in Tucson, Ariz. “Then they try to use their wealth to regain their health. That’s a much tougher proposition.”
In addition to draining your health, job fatigue taxes your workouts–keeping you from performing at your best whether you’re lifting weights or running your favorite trail.
One way to fight back is to drink plenty of water, eat a well-balanced diet and get sufficient sleep. But it takes a lot more to put the oompf back into your day. To tackle this challenge, we’ve put together a holistic plan, addressing everything from head to heart. Within a number of weeks–if not hours–you should notice huge energy gains.
SCHEDULE A MENTAL TUNE-UP
The greatest influence on workday fatigue is your mental attitude. “The mind itself can create a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven,” Baker says. Deadlines, performance pressure, competition for promotion, even the economy, get “into our heads and ultimately affect our bodies. The body never questions the brain: `Could you be exaggerating?’ If the brain says you’re in a combat zone, that’s exactly how the body reacts.” When the body senses danger, it releases great amounts of the opposing fight and flight hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which play havoc on muscle tension and mental concentration, and can even cause fat deposition. “When you’re overdosed with these two hormones, you’re assaulting your body,” Baker explains.
If you often feel under siege at work, imagine your dream job and devise ways to actualize it. In the meantime, undergo a mental tune-up. “Focus on what’s right about your work and try to build from there,” says Baker. And watch the language you use. Does it create energy or take it away? Do you tend to say “I must” or “I can’t” instead of “I choose” or “I get to”? “With constructive language, you can take on difficult opposition and become more resilient,” Baker says.
DO YOUR BODY GOOD
If you experience severe slumps, ask your physician to test for low blood sugar or adrenal or thyroid insufficiency. Continued stress on your adrenals–from job pressures and a diet low in protein and high in caffeine, sugar and carbs–leads to a biochemical cascade that, when triggered many times a day for several years, can worsen a variety of conditions. According to The Canyon Ranch Guide to Living Younger Longer, written by the staff of Canyon Ranch Health Resorts (www.canyonranch.com), these include depression, headaches, musculoskeletal problems, anxiety, skin disorders, poor concentration, digestive troubles, infertility and a diminished sex drive.
A traditional M.D. would typically prescribe pharmaceuticals, something like hydrocortisone, but these carry the risk of side effects that may be more severe than the original afflictions. To rebalance adrenal levels, holistic practitioners (who emphasize natural remedies) prescribe capsules containing actual hormones, glandular extracts or a combination of vitamin C, pantothenic acid ([B.sub.5]), zinc, licorice root and ginseng. But supplements are only a quick fix, says Richard Kitaeff, N.D., L.Ac., a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist in Edmonds, Wash. A lasting solution requires a commitment to wellness.
PLAN FOR FUN
You can cultivate creativity, motivation and sustained energy by “planning your fun and relaxation when planning your work,” says Ann McGee-Cooper, Ed.D., author of You Don’t Have to Go Home From Work Exhausted. “It’s just as important to have a well-thought-out plan to reenergize as it is to fulfill your work commitments.”
McGee-Cooper’s strategy, which has been tested by NASCAR drivers, includes these precepts:
* Exercise both sides of your brain by regularly switching gears. After performing a task that demands concentration and accuracy, read a humor column or jump rope (or toss around a football, as some MEN’S FITNESS staffers are prone to do). After brainstorming, illustrating, writing, teaching or performing similar creative activities, switch to filing, unpacking your briefcase or other zoning-out tasks.
* Take five- to 15-minute breaks to plan a new workout, schedule a date or plan a getaway.
* After long meetings, take 10 minutes to center yourself and relieve stress through “imaging.” Picture yourself succeeding at a challenging task or at your ideal job. Shed the negative self-talk and self-criticism. Instead, focus on how you contributed new ideas to the meeting, took informative notes or listened well.
* After working alone, talk, laugh and interact with others for an instant lift.
* Stake out a minimum 30-minute mini-vacation each evening and a few hours on weekends.
* Recapture the thrill of an engrossing hobby–perhaps a childhood favorite–in which you lose track of time. Research shows this boosts immune-building endorphins that raise your mood.
JAZZ UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT
If your job causes back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome or any other physical ailment, correct the situation ASAP. Good lighting and functional work furniture are energy essentials. “Environment has a major impact on personal and team energy,” McGee-Cooper says. “A well-designed workspace can increase energy and productivity as much as 20 to 45 percent.”
Research shows that when factories introduce color and artwork, a significant increase in morale, productivity and teamwork follow. McGee-Cooper designed her Dallas headquarters as a three-story treehouse perched over four fishponds and three waterfalls as a way to inspire staff and clients. You may not be able (or want) to duplicate a scene from The Swiss Family Robinson, but you can add imagination to your work environment. Extroverts often prefer red and bright colors, while introverts opt for muted hues, such as blues and violets. “It’s important to tune into which colors energize and soothe you and find ways to bring these into your work and living space,” McGee-Cooper says.
REJUVENATE WITH A MINI-ESCAPE
Recharge your energy stores with brief on-the-job rejuvenation sessions.
* Relieve muscle tension and pain with standing stretches. (1) Clasp hands and reach your arms straight ahead with palms facing away from each other. Then reach above. Bend your elbows and hold your clasped hands behind your head. (2) In a lunge position, rest your forehead on crossed forearms against a wall. For more ideas as well as instructive software, visit www.shelterpub.com.
* Escape your computer screen, says retired optometrist Harold Friedman, O.D., former chief of the Visual Rehabilitation Service at the State University of New York’s College of Optometry. Every hour, look out the window or simply glance across the room for a minute or two. Then close your eyes and relax.
* Inhale, imagining filling your body with air from your belly on up, says internist and holistic physician Carrie Demers, M.D., of the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Penn. Let your belly rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.
* Meditate for seven minutes. Sit comfortably with your feet solidly on the ground. Count each inhalation and exhalation as one cycle: one … two … three. Then repeat. Don’t worry about achieving deep relaxation, writes Herbert Benson, president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and author of the classic Relaxation Response. “When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling on them, and return to saying `One.’”
COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group