We all know hydration is important, but most of what we know correlates very little to what existing research says about your daily fluid consumption.

Appropriate hydration strategy will take pre-exercise hydration levels into account, and electrolytes and substrate needs before, during, and after exercise will be assessed (Maughan & Shirreffs, 2008). Strategies should vary from person to person depending on environmental and competition factors (2008).

Pre-exercise hydration status can be assessed in several ways, but there is no universal agreement on appropriate pre-exercise hydration status. Blood volume, plasma osmolality, and various urinary markers are often associated with hydration status, but research fails to support that any of these things correlate well with hydration status after exercise, do mostly to the fact that body-water content changes rapidly during exercise, so these measures have little to no value at the time of collection (Maughan & Shirreffs, 2008).

Because these markers are both impractical and unreliable, Maughan & Sherreffs (2008) suggest several messages to athletes to encourage proper hydration. First, athletes should weigh themselves before and after exercise. If 1-2% body weight is lost during exercise, not enough water was consumed during exercise, and more should be consumed next time. Second, if an athletes passes urine less often than normal during or after exercise, it is likely that they are dehydrated. Third, athletes should think about why and when they drink, and pay attention to their own thirst indicators. Finally, those who lose excess salt when they sweat should consider consuming more drinks and foods with salt when sweat losses are high. Maughan & Sherreffs (2008) suggest wearing a black T-shirt during exercise to self-assess salt losses.

For some people, including myself, the hardest part of achieving optimal hydration simply comes down to the habit, or lack thereof, of consuming water regularly. Here are several ideas to make frequent hydration a normal part of your routine.

1. Purchase a gallon of water from the store and make it your goal to consume an entire gallon of water in one day. Benefits of this practice: A gallon of water is cheap and the empty container can serve as your refillable bottle. If the gallon breaks or gets lost, you don't have to worry about the loss of an expensive water bottle. These gallons are also usually clear, so you can see your progress throughout the day, which is motivating. You also only have to fill the bottle once a day, so no excuses if you can't find good drinking water anywhere other than your home!

2. Buy four reusable 32 oz water bottles. Fill the bottles the night before and put them in your fridge. Make it your goal to drink all four water bottles during the day. With this method, you also never have to worry about refilling the bottles, and you can easily track your progress throughout the day. You never have to worry about tracking your intake or trying to remember "Has that been three bottles today? Or only two? Oh well I guess it doesn't matter now."

3. Download an app. For those of you who keep your life on your phone, there are hundreds of apps out there to help you track water consumption. Simply take note every time you have a glass, a quick drink, or chug a water bottle from the vending machine throughout the day.


References

Maughan, R. J. & Shirreffs, S. M. (2008). Development of individual hydration strategies for athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 18, 457-472.