The Key to Looking and Feeling Younger

one key ingredient for good health

one key ingredient for good healthI was asked the other day what would be the one key piece of advice I’d give to someone if they wanted to “improve their fitness”. Wow. What a question. There’s so much that it can cover.

I immediately thought of “get enough sleep”, but then that’s not a particularly easy piece of advice to follow for some people.

“Exercise more” is another obvious one that comes to mind, but again, that could mean many things to many people.

I came up with a few more sage pieces of advice which I’ll probably share with you another day, but none of them hit the spot. Some of it was too running specific, some of it wasn’t necessarily easy to implement, some of it didn’t take into account everybody’s life circumstances. The one piece of advice I arrived at,  the one thing that everyone can do, the one thing that could help anyone take the first step towards looking and feeling younger, was something that is sitting right under our noses, and costs next to nothing.

And that something is…………WATER folks. Simple, cost effective and something that many of us need reminding of from time to time!

So, what’s so great about water?

  • If you’re well hydrated, your skin will look fresh and clear – because it will help to flush toxins out of the body, and it will increase blood flow to the skin
  • Water can aid in weight loss, by ensuring maximum uptake of nutrients from your food. Often, your body’s cry for food is a cry for micronutrients -(vitamins and minerals) not the bulky macronutrients -fat, protein and carbs. In short, water can make you want to eat less
  • It helps to eliminate waste from your body in a number of ways, including through the bowel, often eliminating feelings of bloatedness
  • Drinking enough water helps with muscle function and improves sporting performance
  • Water aids in disease prevention (it has been shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45% and bladder cancer by 50%)
  • It just makes you fell better
  • It’s pretty cheap and readily available

 And did I say it aids in weight loss?

  • Water is a natural appetite suppressant. Next time you reach for a snack, think again, and go for water instead. You’ll be surprised how far a glass of water can go towards satisfying your hunger.
  • Enough water ensures your body can metabolise fat effectively. Water ensures your kidneys are functioning effectively, which in turns ensures your liver is able to remove toxins and waster from your blood. With your liver switched to maximum efficiency, it can better metabolise fat.
  • Water is a great substitute for high energy drinks such as shakes, smoothies, soft drinks, sports drinks. Swap these for a cool glass of water with a slice of lemon, and you’ll be saving calories big time.

What about fitness?

  • An inadequate amount of water will impair muscle function, leading to a less functional you
  • Too little water will cause your body to slow down, and you’ll lack energy
  • Dehydration leads to a reduction in blood volume, impairing performance
  • You won’t be able to regulate your body temperature efficiently if you are dehydrated
  • As your brain is over 70% water, you can expect to experience headaches if you aren’t well hydrated

If you are chronically dehydrated, leading to the impaired performance outlined above, you can’t train at your optimum level, which means you can’t realise your true fitness potential.

A few tips on staying hydrated

Water Tip #1. Drink the stuff. Even though fish do naughty things in it, you have to drink it to feel the benefits! Tea and coffee count. The caffeine in tea and coffee do act as a very mild diuretic, but the balance is overwhelmingly tipped towards hydration rather than dehydration after a cup of coffee. For caffeine to dehydrate you, you have to consume a lot of it, in a short space of time

Water Tip #2. Add a slice of lemon and/or some mint to your water to make it more interesting. The lemon will also help to stimulate hydrochloric acid

Water Tip#3. Carry water with you throughout the day. Better still, set an alarm to go off every hour. Get up and walk to the water cooler. Pour yourself some water, and drink it! Delicious

Water Tip #4. Limit the amount of water you drink at meal time. Whilst some people will recommend that you fill up on a big glass of water before a meal to help you to eat less, the water will only serve to dilute the hydrochloric acid necessary for the break-down of food.

Water Tip #5. Get into the habit of having a big glass of water when you wake up, or have some hot water with lemon juice for an extra digestive boost

Bonus Tip: For expert advice on health and fitness, train with us. Leave your details here, and we’ll give you a call.

Is better hydration the secret to improving my running performance?

For most of us, the answer is a resounding yes. 

[EDIT 2019: current research shows loss of body weight is not a great measure of dehydration and it’s effect on your performance]

A conversation with a client the other night prompted me to analyse my own fluid intake during races. It was surprisingly little, even though I’m well aware of the value of hydrating. It’s interesting how you can overlook the little things.

Dehydration resulting in a loss of just 1% of your body weight can cause a loss in performance. Levels of up to 3% are quite common in sports of around 1 hour duration, and you can reach this level quite quickly if you go into an event under hydrated. Studies have shown when dehydration causes a 3-5% loss in body weight, work capacity decreases by as much as 35-48%. One of our runners weighed in before and after the SMH half marathon to find she’d had a 2% loss of body weight-probably more as she was weighed in the clothes she ran in, which would have retained some of her sweat, therefore weighing more.

To find out how much fluid you lose during an exercise session you need to weigh yourself naked before and after the session, or if not naked, in the same dry clothes before and after.  Weighing yourself before you exercise, then weighing yourself afterwards in the same clothes will give you a false reading, as the clothes you run in will most likely retain some of your sweat, giving you a heavier reading. Take the difference of your pre-exercise and post exercise weights, then add 100 gms for every 100mls of fluid taken in whilst exercising. This will give you the amount of fluid you have lost during exercise. Each kg of weight lost represents 1 litre of fluid lost. You should measure this long term, and take note of temperature and humidity as well as exercise intensity, and use it to predict how much fluid you should take in during the course of an exercise session.

How do I know if I am  dehydrated?

If you’ve lost more than 2% of your body weight using the method above, you’ve definitely moved into a dehydrated state, and remember just a 1% loss of body weight can cause a loss in performance. Other signs and symptoms include

  • Thirst/dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and tiredness. Literally feeling like you could just stop running and go to sleep.

Other more serious signs and symptoms include vomiting, tingling of the limbs, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing and death.

Most if not all of these could be put down to something else, but if you get a few of the symptoms, it’s worthwhile doing an analysis of your fluid intake during a race. Think about how much you drink prior to the race as well as during. You’d be lucky to take in 150mls from each of those little plastic cups you scoop up at the water stations (I have just measured one about 3/4 full).

How much fluid should I take in to perform at my peak?

This depends on a number of factors. To get a true idea of how much fluid you should take in during a race, you need to go through the pre and post workout weighing procedure over a period of time to predict how much fluid you are going to lose, given a certain set of circumstances. Things that effect your dehydration rate include:

  • temperature and humidity
  • exercise intensity
  • how used you are to the conditions
  • clothing
  • baseline hydration status
  • individual differences

Pre-race hydration

You should go into an event well hydrated. The colour of your urine is a good indication of your hydration status. If it’s clear, you’re well hydrated. If it’s like tea, then start drinking. For a week or so prior to your event, be very conscious of the colour of your urine, and adjust your fluid intake accordingly.

Fluids on the day

Keep in mind that each person’s needs will be different, but as a rule of thumb you should go for:

  • 500-600mls of water of sports drink 2-3 hrs before the start. In reality, this means having about a glass and a half of water when you get up. This will give your body time to pass any excess water out of your system before the race.
  • 200-300mls 10-20 minutes before the race
  • 200-300 mls every 10-20 minutes to maintain fluid loss at less than 2%

If you don’t normally drink before the race, be a little cautious about going all out on these recommendations first up, but you should be working towards around about these amounts over a period of time. Practice on your long runs first, then try it in a race.

If you don’t normally grab a drink at every stop, do so. Even if you just take a couple of mouthfuls each water station, that will help, but taking in a couple of cups would be better.

If you’re a bit scared of changing what you consider to be a proven formula, even if on analysis you realise you’re not taking in nearly as much water as indicated above, at least make sure you go into race day well hydrated. Do the wee test. Make sure you drink enough water for your urine to be running clear the day before the race. Even if you do nothing else, you will most likely see an improvement in your performance through this alone.

Reference: National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes J Athl Train. 2000 Apr-Jun; 35(2): 212–224. sited June 24th 2013
 Image courtesy of Marcus /


DISCLAIMER: Any information contained in this document is obtained from current and reliable sources and is solely for the purpose of interest and information.  Individuals receiving this information must exercise their independent judgment in determining its appropriateness for their particular needs. The information and training advice is general in nature and may not be suited to the recipient’s individual needs. Medical advice should always be sought when starting an exercise program. As the ordinary or otherwise use(s) of this information is outside the control of the author, no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made as to the effect(s) of such use(s), (including damage or injury), or the results obtained. The author expressly disclaims responsibility as to the interpretation of the views contained in this article, ordinary or otherwise. Furthermore, the author shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. The author shall not be responsible for any damages resulting from use of or reliance upon this information. Readers of this document are solely responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations applying to the use of the information, including intellectual property rights of third parties.