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Habit Challenge #2: Water

The Power of Hydration

by Catherine King MSc. CSCS

The best diet. The optimal training program. The most nutrient-rich, protein-dense supplements. These are things people gravitate towards for change when they have not yet mastered the basics of establishing a healthy lifestyle. It is essential to establish a solid foundation of healthy behaviours that you are consistently practising.

Last week, we started with sleep. This week, we will tackle hydration and the value of water.

It is news to few that water is essential for life on earth. Water is a basis for human health. It is required to survive and thrive. 3 to 4 days without it and we would meet our demise. But how do we ensure we’re achieving optimal hydration?

Water & Human Health 

The adult human body is composed of approximately 60% water and that of infants is about 75% water. To break it down:

Water serves many roles in the human body. Some of its vital functions include:

Our body does a remarkable job of regulating fluid intake and loss. Fluid intake comes from food, drink and even to a lesser degree through the air on our skin. Fluid loss occurs from urine, faeces, sweat, respiratory action and vomit. 

Environmental factors, such as temperature and altitude, activity levels, state of health and biological factors all dictate how much water an individual requires. Depending on your diet, approximately 1 litre of fluid intake will come from food each day. High-fat foods such as nuts contain very little water, whereas raw fruits contain moderate to high water levels. An adult requires approximately 3 litres of water per day, with 1 litre coming from food. The other 2 litres should come from drinking. 

Water is crucial to our health as it is to all life on earth. Without adequate fluid intake, or when fluid output exceeds input, we face dehydration. Signs of dehydration include darker urine, constipation, urinating less frequently, headache, and lethargy. Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration consult your physician.

Not only is it crucial to protect our water sources, but it is crucial to promote our health through adequate hydration, making water our drink of choice. Water is an excellent beverage choice:  it contains no sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, and it is calorie-free. However, if you are exercising for a long period in a hot climate, add electrolytes to your water to avoid hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood).

Hydration Habit

Establishing a health hydration habit will depend on what you need as an individual. Do you need to drink more in general, or do you need to adjust what you are ingesting?

If you need to change your behaviour around hydration and water, consider these options:

Consider your needs. Is it to improve your hydration levels, or is it to make water your beverage of choice? Now think about all the possible options to achieve this. When changing behaviours, we want to keep it simple and easy to accomplish. Pick ONE option that you are confident you can achieve. Use the scale question to establish your confidence level: “0” not at all confident to “10” completely confident. If you are below a 9, reassess and make it easier. 

You only need to choose one option to start seeing results. Attempting to change too many behaviours at once will limit your ability to succeed. At this point, you may need to focus only on the sleep habit from last week and hold off on the water habit until your sleep habit has become automated. It will depend on you as an individual as to whether you are able to add another change now or wait.

Next, think about the changes you could make in your environment to make it even easier to achieve: place a glass next to the tap before going to bed; have a container of lemon slices in the fridge; keep your baby Yoda ice cube tray filled; or, put your water bottle in your bag before work. Design your environment to support your new habit. How can you increase the visibility of your new habit? Opening the fridge and seeing a big pitcher of water with colourful citrus slices is a great cue to drink a glass of water.

Previously on Health Habit #1, I suggested tracking your progress. A note of caution: Tracking is essentially another habit to adopt and may feel burdensome. If you are the type of person who loves data and quantitative feedback, then track away. On the other hand, if it feels like an undue effort, making it less likely that you will accomplish your target habit, consider tracking only high priority behaviours.

Celebrate Your Achievement

Finally, remember to celebrate your successes. If you are unsure of how to celebrate authentically, imagine you have a ball of paper that you just made a winning basket with as it landed precisely in the recycling bin. Consider what you would do in that moment. Whether it is a triumphant fist in the air, a happy dance, a hoot and a holler, or a quiet “yay me”, take a cue from how you’d react to the success of a sunk basket, and apply it here by taking a moment to celebrate. It is important to associate a positive emotion with the desired behaviour.

To summarize, your challenge this week is to achieve a foundational health habit for adequate hydration:

  1. 1. Pick one option that you are confident you can achieve, and that will improve your hydration or your beverage selection decisions
  2. 2. Adjust your environment
  3. 3. Make it visible
  4. 4. Celebrate immediately
  5. 5. Build consistency

If you have any questions regarding nutrition coaching and behaviour change, contact Catherine at catherine@westcoastconditioning.ca 

Resources:

Andrews, R., DePutter, C., Kollias, H., Scott-Dixon, K., & St. Pierre, B. (2016). Water and fluid balance. In 1152021561 866039009 J. Berardi (Author), The essentials of sport and exercise nutrition: Certification manual (Third ed., pp. 263-286). Toronto, ON: Precision Nutrition.

Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. *New York, New York: Penguin Random House.

Fogg, B. J. (2020). Tiny habits: The small changes that change everything. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Water in You: Water and the Human Body. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

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