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Food tips, myths and facts, Improving wellbeing

Water – elixir of life

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Without food, man can live for two months, without water just for a few days. Water is the main component of our body and its fuel. But how much water is needed? We gathered opinions from leading sports scientists and explored these.

water
Humans are made up of 70 percent water. The human head alone is 80-85% water.

To maintain and clean our body and keep it in balance, it is necessary to drink enough water. An adult should drink between 1.5 -2.5 liters of fluid throughout the day. To many it may be surprising that the above figure includes both, coffee and soft drinks. Contrary to popular belief, coffee does not cause dehydration. Thus caffeinated drinks can, according to the Professional Association of German Internists, be included in the daily fluid balance. In general, up to 550 milligrams of caffeine (approx. 5 cups of coffee) daily should not have any averse affects on one’s health or hinder the fluid balance. As far as thirst quenchers are concerned coffee, black tea, and other highly caffeinated drinks are not recommended. Furthermore, you should not forget other indirect sources of water in your diet such as fruits, vegetables, and also sauces.

Overall, it is important to drink regularly. Since our intestines can absorb only about 0.2 liters of water for every 15 minutes, it makes no sense to drink the recommended amount at once. If we drink too much fluid too quickly, the majority is excreted through the kidneys and thus the fluid is not useful for our body. Before doing any sport, sports scientists recommend that practitioners drink 0.2 to 0.5 liters of water, in order to start with a good water balance. However, one should not drink too much during exercise, because too much fluid during exercise can lead to an increased sodium deficiency, i.e. a salt deficiency. After marathons up to 13 percent of athletes have low sodium levels. The consequences are also not to be underestimated. An extremely low level of sodium is often the cause of cerebral edema or kidney failure. The absorption of water amounting to just two percent of body weight can result in edema. In contrast, researchers from Oxford University headed by Carl Heneghan confirmed this in a 2012 publication. (https://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e4848)

Studies have also shown that contrary to expectations even fluid loss up to 2.3 percent of body weight does not diminish the performance of an athlete or cause any complaints. Quite the opposite of what was expected occurred in the study — performance actually increased. Furthermore, the belief that it is “too late” to drink when you get thirsty, as so many “experts” claim, has also been proven false. One feels thirsty when blood concentration rises by two percent, but dehydration only occurs at five percent.

One rule applies in any case:

Drink according to your personal fluid needs. A healthy fluid intake during physical exercises is usually 0.4 to 0.8 liters of fluid per hour. Neither too little nor too much is performance-enhancing. Unlike in professional sports, hydration during leisure sports is often less important if you start an activity well hydrated. Man and woman drinking water An optimal drink for athletes should not only quench one’s thirst, but also deliver electrolytes and minerals. An excellent thirst quencher is still the normal water. Plain water contains many electrolytes and minerals such as sodium. According to the German Nutrition Society the ideal concentration of sodium is approximately 300-1000mg per liter.

Still water is considered better than carbonated water. While the carbonic acid in sparkling water is usually perceived as refreshingly, it can agitate or damage the intestinal wall, which can be especially unpleasant when doing sports. Fruit juice spritzers that are very low in potassium such as apple juice or blackcurrant juice are also recommended. However, the ever-popular apple juice spritzer, mixed in a ratio of 1:1, is not optimal for  fluid exchange as it contains too much fruit sugar that can act as a laxative if consumed in large quantities. The high proportion of juice makes this juice spritzer a real calorie bomb. It is therefore recommended that athletes wishing to consume a fluid with a little flavor mix juices to water in the following ratio: 1:2 — apple: grape juice: water mixed in the ratio 2:1:6.

Natural isotonic and low-calorie sports drinks of different fruit juices are also ideal. After a workout an alcohol-free beer provides the body with plenty of electrolytes, which thanks to the effervescence are absorbed faster. Pure fruit juices and “soft drinks” are too rich in sugar (10% percent) and impede fluid absorption in the body. According to the opinion of Prof. Dr. Stehle from the Institute for Nutritional Sciences, University of Bonn, specialty sports drinks are not necessary for weekend warriors: “Only with extended training periods lasting longer than an hour are additional supplies of carbohydrates in beverages recommended.” High-energy drinks that have been designed for professional athletes, lead weekend warriors to easily consume more calories than they burn and negate part of the health benefit from doing the sport. In this context it is also noted that in a survey conducted in 2000 by the German magazine “Öko-Test”, only 3 of 22 tested drinks were classified as “recommended drinks”, whereby twelve of the tested drinks were even classified as “not recommended”. Some of the tested products also have side effects like diarrhea, vomiting and water retention. The most expensive product is not always the most suitable product in the individual case…

Veronika LechlAbout the Author:  Veronika Lechl studied business administration and works as a sports journalist and presenter. She is passionate about food, sport and health and started early with ballett. Later her passion for running brought her as a teenager to athletics.In addition, she started competitive swimming and worked as an lifeguard instructor. Due to celiac disease, she started to be interested in the food sector, where she is keenly interested in nutrition for athletes with food intolerances and chronic diseases. She is convinced that there is the perfect sport for every one.

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