a young man resting during a gHow To Hydrate For Optimal Performance 
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How To Hydrate For Optimal Performance 

How To Hydrate For Optimal Performance 


Dive deep into this comprehensive guide to unlock the untapped potential of hydration for superior health and peak performance. We’ll uncover compelling evidence that illuminates why water is not just a thirst-quencher but a pivotal component for fat loss, muscle gain, efficient recovery, and overall well-being. Whether you’re a fitness novice or a seasoned athlete, this article serves as your essential roadmap to enhancing your bodily functions and achieving your performance goals through optimal hydration.

Our bodies are awe-inspiring reservoirs of water, with water compositions ranging from 55% to 78% across various physiological systems. Take a moment to appreciate the role water plays in essential organs and tissues: the brain is 75% water, the lungs are at 83%, our blood courses through us at 90% water, our skin retains a 65% water composition, and our bones—even as solid as they are—comprise 30% water. Vital organs like the kidneys, liver, and muscles maintain an impressive water content of around 80%. Given these remarkable figures, it’s clear that water is more than just a basic human need; it’s the linchpin of our physiological and cognitive functions.


Delve deeper into the fascinating world of hydration as we explore the scientific underpinnings that make water the elixir of life. While it’s common knowledge that water is critical for maintaining good health, the ‘why’ is often less understood. The answer lies in the physiological and biochemical roles water plays, from balancing electrolytes to aiding in cellular functions. Striking the perfect balance is crucial, as both excessive and inadequate hydration can lead to adverse outcomes, ranging from electrolyte imbalances to, in extreme cases, fatality.

Water’s reach is extensive within the human body, serving as a vital co-factor in myriad processes. One area where hydration gains particular prominence is mental functioning. Studies show that even mild dehydration can impact cognitive abilities, including attention, memory, and mood regulation. When optimally hydrated, the brain functions more efficiently, thereby enhancing decision-making, focus, and emotional stability.

In this article, we’ll demystify not just the well-documented benefits but also delve into the lesser-known advantages that optimal hydration brings. From supporting metabolic rates to enhancing nutrient absorption, the ripple effect of adequate water intake is monumental.

Furthermore, we’ll guide you through the maze of recommendations to pinpoint your ideal daily water intake. Personalised hydration strategies can be your secret weapon in achieving your unique health and performance goals. Whether you’re aiming for fat loss, muscle gain, or peak athletic performance, understanding your hydration needs can be the missing puzzle piece in your journey to optimal health.


Water is life. Depressed young businessman holding bottle with water and looking at it while sitting on sand

Discover the multifaceted roles that water performs in our bodies, each contributing to our overall health, wellness, and performance. Adequate hydration serves as the linchpin for a multitude of physiological processes, such as:

Waste Management & Digestive Support

Water is indispensable for effective digestion and waste elimination. It aids in breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and facilitating smooth bowel movements.

Joint Health

Hydration is key to maintaining the elasticity of the cartilage in your joints, thereby reducing wear and tear and minimising discomfort.

Hormonal Balance

Water helps in the optimal functioning of glands and ensures a stable hormonal environment by aiding in the synthesis and transportation of various hormones.

Oxygen Transport

It acts as the primary medium for blood, which is about 90% water, to carry oxygen and essential nutrients to every cell in the body.

Temperature Regulation

 Adequate hydration enables efficient thermoregulation, ensuring your body maintains an ideal core temperature.

Bone Strengthening

Contrary to popular belief, bones are about 30% water. Proper hydration ensures efficient delivery and utilisation of essential minerals like calcium, thereby fortifying bone structure.

Protective Cushioning

Water acts as a cushion for vital organs such as the brain and spinal cord. Additionally, for those who are pregnant, it plays a role in amniotic fluid that protects the foetus.

The importance of hydration escalates with varying intensities of external and internal variables, such as:

  • Heat: The hotter the environment, the higher your water requirement to counteract the effects of increased perspiration.

  • Exercise: Physical exertion, particularly intense workouts, significantly increases your hydration needs to compensate for fluid loss through sweat.

  • Daily Movement: Even basic daily activities can influence your hydration status.

  • Perspiration Levels: Individuals with higher perspiration rates will naturally need to consume more water.

  • Age: As we age, our ability to sense thirst diminishes, making adequate hydration even more crucial.

  • Weight: Body mass can influence water requirements, with larger individuals generally needing more fluids.

During exercise, your muscles generate heat, thereby increasing your internal body temperature. This triggers the body to sweat, a combination of water, amino acids, and salts, as a heat-regulating mechanism. As sweat evaporates from the skin’s surface, it cools the underlying skin and, by extension, the blood circulating close to the skin. The more you sweat, the more crucial it becomes to replenish lost fluids to prevent overheating and maintain optimal body function.


When it comes to hydration, the go-to source is, unequivocally, water. However, hydration doesn’t begin and end with a glass of H2O. A range of fluids can contribute significantly to your daily water intake, and, perhaps surprisingly, certain foods also offer excellent hydrating properties.

Fluids Beyond Water for Hydration: While water is irreplaceable for pure hydration, other fluids like herbal teas, milk, and even some sports drinks contain high water content and can be beneficial. However, it’s essential to be cautious with beverages that have added sugars or caffeine, as they can have a diuretic effect, potentially negating their hydrating benefits.

Food as a Source of Hydration: Many people overlook the hydrating power of foods. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, and oranges, and vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, and zucchinis, are composed mainly of water. Incorporating these into your diet not only provides essential nutrients but also contributes to your overall fluid intake.

By diversifying your hydration sources, you can make the process more enjoyable and sustainable, all while meeting your body’s diverse nutritional needs. Here are some food and fluid related sources known for their hydrating properties.

Watermelon drink in glasses with slices of watermelon

FOOD RELATED SOURCES *water content 

  • Lettuce – *96%
  • Celery – *95%
  • Cucumber – *95%
  • Courgette – *94%
  • Watermelon – *92%
  • Strawberries – *91%
  • Cantaloupe – *90%
  • Peaches – *89%
  • Oranges – *88%


  • Pedialyte 
  • Coconut Water 
  • Homemade Electrolyte     Drink
  • Hypotonic, Hypertonic & Isotonic Sources 
  • Calorie Free Sodas 
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Skimmed Milk
  • Fruit Juices 

hydration benefits

So staying hydrated is very important. Heres a list of all the positive benefits from good hydration levels.  


OK sounds obvious and it is. You need to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Dehydration can kill, but what are the earlier signs of dehydration? These include: Feeling Thirsty, Dizzy, Light Headed, Tired, Irritable or Lethargic. Also having: A Headache, Dark Yellow Coloured Urine, Dry Mouth, Lips or Eyes and urinating less than 4 times per day. You can also experience: Muscle Cramps, Hot or Cold Sensations, Swollen Feet, Red / Flushed Skin, Constipation, High Heart Rate, Low Blood Pressure, Sugar Cravings, Confusion & Low Appetite. 


Water bottle


  • Make it a freezing cold glass of water. Your body uses energy to heat this to your core temperature. This increases your energy expenditure a little, by increasing thermogenesis.
  • Drink 500ml water 20 minutes before food meals to help regulate your appetite. If you feel less hungry you eat less food.
  • Staying hydrated helps fat mobilisation by increasing mitochondrial activity, which increase lipolysis.
  • Refer to the end of this article for more information on water intake for fat loss.


You’ve probably heard the myth that drinking water whilst eating negatively affects nutrient absorption. Largely because it waters down the PH and digestive enzyme effectiveness.  In fact the opposite is true. Studies have shown the ingestion of water with meals to have a negligible effect. It helps to dissolve and transport essential vitamins and minerals.



Drinking water with food can aid gastric motility. As water is emptied from the stomach it leaves a nutrient rich layer that is digested and absorbed by your body. Drink water before, during and after meals. It’s beneficial and not negative for digestion and absorption. Studies have demonstrated these positive effects  


Hotter days and using your muscles can create increased sweating. Which is designed to cool you down. Your water intake needs to be higher on these days if your to successfully regulate you body temperature.  


Good hydration increases performance. As little as 2% decrease in hydration can be detrimental to athletic performance. That 1.4kg weight loss in a 70kg male.

In contrast drinking too much water can impair performance also. Although this is much harder to do. You’d first experience considerable stomach discomfort before over hydrating. Which would also degrade performance. 


Water helps maintain your skins elasticity. Regularly drinking enough water can reduce the risk and signs of: ageing, skin sagging, scaring, acne, spots and clogged pores. Studies demonstrate drinking 2.5 litres of water per day increases blood flow to the skin, skin thickness and density. Skin health and drinking enough water becomes more important to those who are older or obese. 

Perfect skin. Beautiful young shirtless woman touching face and looking at camera while standing against grey background


Chronic constipation is often caused by dehydration. Staying hydrate helps to soften stools and improve gut motility. Some research has been done which draws a correlation between intestinal constipation & inadequate water intake. Constipation can be very debilitating  & reduce your quality of life. It isn’t though limited to low water intake. If you have persistent constipation seek medical advice 


Is a complex bodily fluid that is essential for good oral health and  required for the release of digestive enzymes. Staying hydrated can help reduce a dry mouth. Seek GP advice should you be hydrated and have a persistent dry mouth   


Many studies highlight the importance of water and preventing disease. A good hydrated state can reduce hypertension, UTI’s, Kidney Stones and Constipation amongst many other health benefits. As we age our bodies water content lowers, but staying hydrated is important irrespective of age. 


Staying hydrated improves blood flow. Our blood is made up of water predominantly dehydration can impact the speed in which blood is circulated. Warm water helps to expand veins which increases the ability of better blood flow. 


Drinking plenty of water is great for your kidneys. Your kidneys help to maintain optimal mineral balance such as calcium, sodium, phosphorus and potassium. Kidneys remove waste such as acids produced by cells. Increased water intake assists blood flow and the rate at which toxins can be processed and expelled. Through urine, faces and sweat predominantly 


Your brain is around 73% water. A decrease in just 2% of water can impair your cognitive functioning for tasks that require alertness and concentration. Performance will likely decline as a result.


Research demonstrates that a higher water intake can reduce cortisol (the stress hormone).  Which in turn can promote recovery and therefore encourage more activity through movement and exercise. Feeling good can lead to increased motivation to move more. 

The sweat test

Using this technique can help you understand your necessary fluid intake during and after exercise. Professional or very serious athletes often use this strategy to optimises their performance. Heres how it works.

  1. Empty your bladder and weigh yourself in minimal clothing. Directly befit you start you training or sporting activity. Record the results.
  2. Take part in your session or event pan consume water normally.
  3. Once your session / event is over, empty your bladder, shower and dry. Now weigh yourself again. 
  4. The difference in weight indicates your weight lost through sweat (not body fat). 

Performance hydration

tired sportsman drinking water in sports hall

To perform at your best for a workout or sporting event, you must ensure you are adequately hydrated before, during and after the event. The diminishing performance affects from being overly hydrated are far less than being dehydrated. Signs of over hydration include: headache, mental fogginess, nausea, vomiting, being bloated, lethargy and muscles weakness. Whereas being well hydrated will mean your: urine is clear / pale yellow, urinating regularly, feel alert and energised.  

The amount you need to drink often depends on a few key factors. Your sweat rate (refer to sweat test), the occasion / event type and temperature.

To adequately replace your fluids post exercise you should consume between 125% to 150% of the weight lost over the next 3-6 hours. This is because during this time you will loose even more water through continued sweat loss and urination mostly. So say you lost 1kg of weight.  For example let’s say on average a rugby player loses 2kg of sweat during an 80 minute game. the they would need to drink back around 2.5 to 3kg over the next 3-6 hours.

Thirst is not an affective way to gauge hydration. If you feel thirty you’re already in a state of dehydration, even if just slightly. When rehydrating, your thirst will be quenched well before depleted fluids have been fully replaced.


Ordinarily water in itself is and adequate source of hydration, more than effective at keeping you hydrated. However during intense exercise or considerable exertion for 60 minutes or more your body depletes electrolytes and minerals. Potassium, sodium, magnesium are amongst some of the main minerals depleted during this type of activity. For optimal performance these need to be replaced. 

Sports drinks such as Powerade Zero, Lucozade Sport,Gatorade Zero and Wow Hydrate are all greta sources for electrolyte replacements. There are many more brands and types. Brands such as High 5 and Phizz make dissolvable tablets you can add to plain water. 

However my advice is to make you own. These are cheaper and just as effective as well known brands, despite what drinks companies may claim. You can find one of our sports drink recipes here.

Sports drink however don’t just come in one type. and depending on your sport and goals you may benefit form one particular type over another. 


There are 3 types of performance fluids. These are:

  • HYPOTONIC – Compared to blood, has a lower concentration of salt, sugars and fluids.
  • HYPERTONIC – Compared to blood has a higher concentration of salt, sugars and fluid
  • ISOTONIC – Compared to blood has a similar concentration of salt, sugars and fluid. 


These are absorbed at a quicker rate for rapid hydration and electrolyte delivery. Typically these are used to quickly replace fluids lost by sweat without additional carbohydrate intake. Important shorter events, to use at systematic intervals during longer events (like cycling, cricket etc)


These provide a carbohydrate hit. They have a slower absorption rate compared to hypotonic drinks. These are typically used in the lead up to long event like marathons, sportive style cycling.  Also as part of a rehydration strategy post event, in order to help replace fluids and carbohydrates at a steadier rate.


These are absorbed much slower than the other two options and require additional energy to help get glucose across the gut wall. Which means the release of energy and electrolyte is much slower and sustained. Typically used for average duration events like football, netball, rugby etc. Often the most popular amongst athletes. These supply good hydration as well as a boost of carbohydrate. If weight loss is a goal Hypotonic options would be more beneficial. These types can cause GI irritations, cramps and bloating. Again opt for a Hypotonic source should you tend to experience these symptoms after consumption. The higher sugar content also makes them less favourable for people with diabetes.  

Hydration for fat loss

As we’ve already touched on water can aid fat loss. Not because it burns fat, but because it can positively impact your satiation levels, help fat mobilisation and increase energy levels. Combined these essential mean you’re likely to eat less and move more. Which overtime can equate to fat loss. 


  • Increased Lipolysis (fat burning) – Further research is needed but, one small study found that staying hydrated can increase the breakdown of body fat. High water intake combined with a high protein diet was shown to increase mitochondria amounts and size in the liver.  This aids energy production which can increase your energy expenditure. Being in a dehydrate state has the opposite affect. Lipolysis slows and energy burned decreases. Stay hydrated to promote energy production. Note also that these studies where conducted in mice, human research needs more observation.
  • Energised – Staying hydrated increases mental alertness and physical activity. because water better enable you to feel motivated and energised to move, your more likely to do so compared to feeling lethargic and weak. Increased activity can lead to weight loss.
  • Increased Excretion – Higher water intake can help your waste removal systems become more efficient. Being able to urinate and defecate more often helps remove toxins and keep the transit of nutrition and energy flowing more optimally. 
  • Hormonal Balance – Hormones seem to be better balanced when in a hydrated state. Cortisol reduces which may increase your bodies ability to recover and adapt from exercise.In doing so better maintaining lean body mass. Muscle is metabolic, with the increased metabolism you are better able to burn fat and sustain fat loss. 

The run down

  • Staying hydrated is vital for good health, performance energy, cognitive function and can assisting weight loss. 
  • Drink at least 2 litres of water for an average day. This demand increases based on your activity, its intensity and your body temperature. To better understand your hydration for performance, use the “sweat test” to find out out more.
  • To increase your water intake ensure to keep a water bottle with you throughout the day and evening.
  • Create positive drinking habits. As soon as you wake drink a large glass of cold water, this can kick start your metabolism. Practice sipping water regularly throughout the day, before, during and after meals.  
  • Fluid consumption does’nt just have to be plain water. Low calorie squash, low calorie fizzy drinks, tea and coffee all count towards your daily total. Food high in water content also add to your overall fluid consumption. Random fact. Did you know meerkats don’t drink anything! All of their water demands are meet through food alone. Caffeine is diuretic which increases fluid depletion whilst coffee and tea go towards your daily needs any fluids containing caffeine will result in an increase in fluid demands.
  • Before, during or after exercise (especially intense or long events), drinking a sports drink can better help replace depleted minerals, electrolytes and carbohydrates. 

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