When you're thirsty, you can't perform your best. Period. Simple things like a light jog or a warm-up suddenly require an intense effort – forget pushing yourself to go faster or lift more than your last workout. Hydration is often the last thing on an athlete's mind – thinking about drinking water is as interesting as it sounds – but it couldn't be more important. After air, water is your body's most immediate need, and if you're not getting enough, it's that much harder for your muscles to push past the bare minimum. Which means if you exercise while dehydrated, you're less likely to see gains.
Our bodies are some 60 percent water, but if you lose even 1 percent of body weight in fluids, you're clinically dehydrated. That means a 180-pound guy can be dehydrated if he's down just 1.8 pounds of fluid. Now consider that you can sweat nine pounds during a typical hour-long workout in the heat, and you may have an answer to why you hit fitness plateaus sooner during the summer.
Living year-round in hot climates like Hawaii and California has taught me how to integrate hydration habits seamlessly into my day. See what works for you.
1. Create a Visual
You want to drink about three liters of water daily. Easy to say, but hard to do if you're just sipping from a glass now and again. Every morning, I fill up three one-liter water bottles to knock back, so it's clear by day's end whether I've had enough to drink.
2. Take Hunger Cues
Often when we feel like snacking, what our bodies actually need is water, not food. Next time a craving hits, try drinking eight to 10 ounces, then see how you feel.
3. Try Coconut Water
When I'm at my house in Kauai, I drink from coconuts every chance I get. Their water has electrolytes, such as sodium, which help replace the nutrients you're sweating out, so it can keep you hydrated – without the added sugars often found in sports drinks. Off the shelf, I like Harmless Harvest: It's an organic version with no additives. You don't want to hit your three-liter goal chugging the stuff – the calories add up – but I think it's the best nonwater option to help get you there.
4. Eat Your Liquids
Your body can't tell whether the water you've ingested comes from beverages or solids, so eat fruits with a high water content to help quench your thirst. I love melons, peaches, and papayas, all of which are mostly water.
5. Never Get to Thirsty
Once you feel like you need water, your body's already dehydrated. During exercise, especially, but even at work or at home, gauge your thirst, and if you're feeling good, that's when you should drink more.
Beyond Water: 3 Laird-Approved Drinks
H20 Plus: Mix a teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt in chilled water to hydrate and replace any sodium lost through sweat.
Iced Espresso: Pour a shot over a couple of ice cubes. Caffeine is proven to make exercise feel easier, and it won't dehydrate you in small quantities.
Coconut Water Protein Shake: Freeze a carton of coconut water overnight, then throw it in your blender in place of ice chips for a post-workout smoothie; the potassium in coconut water can help muscles recover faster.