Health Tips: More Water Equals Better Performance
A year-and-a-half ago, I began a journey toward better health after I was scared-straight by a pre-diabetes diagnosis. Sadly, Sonic Drive-In’s bottom line probably took a significant hit that day, as my Route-44 cherry Coke addiction was the first thing to go.
Its replacement? Water. Lots and lots of water.
My goal was to cut back the amount of sugar in my diet in an effort to lose weight and prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. But I wondered how something so simple really could make a difference in my health, and how much water is enough? Many have heard the popular 8x8 rule – drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water every day for optimal hydration. While it’s a popular suggestion, there isn’t much definitive science behind it, I learned, because just as our bodies all are different, so are our hydration needs.
Regardless, along the way to a now 65-pound weight loss, I also learned water is a much bigger key to overall health than I realized. Yes, drinking water and eliminating full-sugar sodas from my diet directly influenced my weight loss, but it also impacts everything from proper organ function and metabolism levels to overall energy and mental focus.
“Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight,” according to an article written by Mayo Clinic staff. “Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.”
At the Department of Criminal Justice Training, we recently launched a campaign called Check Your 6. The purpose of the campaign is to keep officers thinking daily about the things that will keep them healthy and headed home to their families at the end of each shift. You’ll hear much more about that campaign in coming weeks, but the point is one of those six items officers should consider is fitness.
So what does water intake have to do with fitness and law enforcement? The answer is, everything.
“We all know the old cliché about cops and their coffee,” said Joe Jumper, DOCJT physical training instructor. “While coffee does have benefits and, to some officers, is good to drink, it is not a substitute for water.”
Muscle is about 80 percent water. So is your brain. Therefore, proper hydration is an important element of officer survival, Jumper said.
“We already know as little as 2 percent fluid loss can impair an officer’s performance by increasing fatigue,” Jumper continued. “This could be detrimental to officers trying to control an uncooperative subject. Not only does improper hydration hinder an officer’s performance, it also can impair an officer’s decision making. Research has discovered a link between hydration and critical thinking.”
A 2 percent fluid loss in a 150-pound individual equals about three pounds of body weight.
“This easily can occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat,” said Dietitian Joe Leech in his article, ‘7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water.’ “Dehydration can have a noticeable effect if you lose as little as 2 percent of your body’s water content. However, it is not uncommon for athletes to lose up to 6 to 10 percent of their water weight via sweat.”
High-activity, hot weather and even heated-indoor air can lead to a loss of hydration, according to the Mayo Clinic. Officers working in these conditions on the beat should pay special attention to their water consumption.
Just how much water you need to drink depends on multiple factors. The Mayo Clinic cited research from the Institute of Medicine that encourages roughly 13 cups of total fluids per day for men, and about nine cups for women. If you exercise, those numbers should increase by about two cups.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends a sports drink that contains sodium during extended, intense exercise to replace the sodium lost through sweat. However, be cautious of added sugars. One good option could be Gatorade’s G2 beverage, which offers 115 milligrams of sodium, but only 5 grams of sugar.
If you find yourself grabbing a drink from a gas station cooler while on your shift, do yourself a favor, pass over the soda or coffee and drink some water. If you need a little flavor boost, try a water-flavoring mix, which has no added sugar. Your body will thank you!