Most of us have seen the studies that show how bad it is when we don’t drink enough water. And now many of us are familiar with the ones that have shown us how dangerous it is to over drink. Science has provided us with plenty of opposing views, dissenting opinions, data points, experiments, and case studies.
But for a moment I’d like to step back and look at a little anecdotal evidence that drinking more water is a good thing. A really good thing, in fact.
Take a close look at yourself and imagine a scenario that I believe we endurance athletes have all experienced at some point or another…
You’ve just done a hard workout or race, you’ve pushed hard, you’ve given your all, and you’ve fueled well throughout. You drank fluids during, and you even timed the caffeine intake well enough to push yourself at the end of your session or race. And then you’re done and you’re propped up on the couch, struggling to keep your eyes open. You feel sleepy, lethargic, and all you can do is dream about another cup of coffee or a latte. Or even a Coca-Cola. Your instincts and desires steer you toward a quick pick-me-up—you want that caffeine kick.
How many of us have felt that? How many of us have grabbed the cup of joe, downed it, and attempted to go about our day, only to continue fighting that fatigue and lethargy all day long? My guess is that it’s more common than we like to admit. The caffeine did not do the trick, but why?
While there are many symptoms of mild dehydration, one of the key clues that we are behind on our fluid consumption is sleepiness or tiredness. And one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways to beat that feeling of being stuck to the couch after a hard workout is to sip (or gulp) a bottle of water—and yes, bottle size depends on the individual in question.
For a 200-pound, heavy sweating, mountain of a man, a full liter of crisp, clear water will go down easily. For a svelte 120-pounder who glistens her way through a half marathon, 18 ounces might do the trick. But for nearly all of us, even when we feel we have very appropriately nailed our during-exercise consumption, there is often room to do a better job rehydrating after the fact.
As a lifelong endurance athlete, a coach, and a commentator and announcer at triathlons the world over, I have seen a lot of racing and training in my day. I have seen my share of breakthroughs and breakdowns, sometimes from the same person on the same day.
One memorable moment that has continued to be a reminder of the connection between sleepiness and hydration was the day I saw a top professional go from leading an Ironman on the run to lying down in a patch of grass noting that all she had wanted to do since halfway through the bike was “just curl up and take a nap.” After dropping out of the race, and downing a couple bottles of water, the athlete remarked “why do I feel so normal all of a sudden?”
My answer—and what hers should have been—just add water!
While this example is a pretty extreme case of how more fluid would have altered the course of that athlete’s day, there are numerous examples of how our daily intake of water is under-prioritized.
Throughout the day it’s normal to feel a bit hungry, to feel a bit sleepy, or even to just feel a bit empty. And a fairly typical response to each of those feelings is to drink coffee, grab a snack, eat some candy, or even take a nap. And I’m not saying that those methods won’t make a difference. I’m just saying that often the most effective and simple solution to those doldrums is to reach for a bottle, glass, or carafe of your favorite water.
For me it’s spring water from Eldorado Springs; for others it’s filtered water from the Britta; and in some locations, the choice is water straight from the hose out back.
However you chose to make it happen, my advice is simple: just drink the water.
And for those of you who don’t believe me, and you swear that the only way to stay awake post-workout is to order up a triple-shot Americano, I challenge you, no, I dare you, to test my theory.