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July 10, 2020

Proper Hydration is the No. 1 Way to Boost Recovery, Plus Tips to Stay Hydrated

A recent analysis of WHOOP data shows that proper hydration is the No. 1 thing our members do to improve their daily recovery.

By Mark Van Deusen

It’s no secret that keeping the body hydrated is an essential aspect of human performance. And while drinking water is a very easy thing to do, many of us still fail to adequately hydrate on a daily basis.

A recent analysis of WHOOP data shows that proper hydration is the No. 1 thing our members do to improve their daily recovery (a metric for how ready your body is to perform on a scale of 0-100%) beyond simply getting more sleep.

Why is Hydration Important?

Roughly 60% of your body is made up of water. How hydrated you are affects the volume of your blood, and the less liquid you have in your system the harder it is for blood to circulate and deliver nutrients and oxygen to your body.

Additionally, your body uses water for thermoregulation (maintaining its temperature), keeping organs working correctly, lubricating joints, removing waste and preventing infections. Studies show that dehydration also negatively impacts mood and cognitive functioning.

“The fundamental basis of hydration is it helps circulate oxygen to your working muscles.” – Podcast No. 21: The Importance of Hydration & Recovery

Benefits of Hydration

There are a great deal of benefits of drinking water. Among other things, it helps to:

  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve physical performance
  • Make your skin smoother, softer and healthier
  • Boost immunity
  • Aid the digestion process
  • Prevent and alleviate headaches
  • Promote weight loss
  • Relieve constipation
  • Avoid kidney damage and kidney stones

But most importantly…

Hydration Improves HRV, Resting Heart Rate & Sleep: It’s Your No. 1 Recovery Booster

The WHOOP Journal feature enables you to track various behaviors and observe the effects they have on sleep and recovery. The data is also analyzed in personalized Monthly Performance Assessments that break down exactly what impact these behaviors may have.

Among things like specific diets (keto, paleo, or plant-based for example), recovery modalities (such as sauna, massage therapy, cupping, ice baths or acupuncture) and other wellness-promoting activities (meditation, blue-light-blocking glasses before bed, intermittent fasting, etc.), the No. 1 behavior that correlates with an increase in recovery (besides just sleeping more) is when members report that they hydrated sufficiently.

WHOOP data shows adequate hydration improves heart rate variability, resting heart rate, sleep, and next day recovery.

A screenshot of data representing everyone on WHOOP:

When our members say they are appropriately hydrated (answering “yes” as opposed to “no”), they average an increase in heart rate variability of 3 milliseconds and a decrease in resting heart rate of one beat per minute. They also average 6 more minutes of sleep per night, including 2 more minutes of REM and 1 additional minute of slow wave (deep) sleep. All of this translates to a 5% improvement in daily recovery (62% vs. 57%).

How Much Water Should You Drink to Prevent Dehydration?

Recommendations for how much water to drink per day vary, usually ranging from 0.5 ounces to 1 ounce for every pound that you weigh. So for a person who weighs 160 pounds, that’s about 10-20 glasses of water (8 oz glass) to prevent dehydration.

For athletes or anyone who sweats regularly, suggested daily fluid intake is generally on the higher side of that scale. To ensure that you are always properly hydrated, aiming to consume 1 ounce of water per pound that you weigh is a great daily goal.

How Do You Know if You are Hydrated?

There is a very simple way to tell if your body is fully hydrated–just check your urine. It should be clear and odorless. If there is any color to it at all, it is a sign that you are at least somewhat dehydrated and should make an effort to drink more water.

Tips to Stay Hydrated

The following hydration tips can help make it easier for you to reach your daily goal of water consumption:

WAKE-UP WATER

Have a glass of water as the first thing you do when you get up each day. Make it part of your morning routine.

SET A REMINDER

Maybe it’s an app to track your fluid intake, or just an alarm on your phone that goes off once an hour (if you’re up and about for around 16 hours a day, that could be 16 glasses). Either way a regular reminder to drink water will go a long way towards keeping you hydrated.

ALWAYS BRING A WATER BOTTLE

Beyond when you’re exercising or working out, whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, a drive to the store, or even just sitting at your desk, if you have water with you at all times you’re naturally going to drink more of it.

INCORPORATE WATER INTO YOUR BREAKS

Whenever you stop what you’re doing to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, clear your head, or rest from physical activity, drink some water too.

CHOOSE WATER FIRST

Whether it’s coffee at breakfast, other beverages at lunch and dinner, or maybe something recreational to drink with friends or at any social gathering, have some water before anything else you drink.

DRINK WATER WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY

Oftentimes we feel as though we are hungry when in fact we are actually dehydrated. Rather than having a snack right away, drink water first before you eat.

ADD FLAVOR

Many people don’t drink as much water as they should for no other reason than they aren’t excited by the taste (or lack thereof). A slice of fruit, splash of juice, flavor tablets, or even frozen berries instead of ice cubes may do the trick.

HYDRATE WITH FOOD

Lots of fruits (like melons, peaches, strawberries, oranges and grapefruits) and vegetables (examples include cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, cauliflower and bell peppers) have a very high water content, as do cottage cheese and oatmeal as well.

WATER WHEN AIR IS DRY

In places where humidity levels are very low, the dry air dehydrates you. This includes airplanes, high altitude in general, and anywhere with air conditioning running regularly. If you feel that AC blasting, have a glass of water.

And lastly, it’s worth adding that alcohol is a major contributor to dehydration. Per the data analysis discussed above, it’s no coincidence that alcohol consumption is the behavior most associated with a decrease in WHOOP recovery (-8% on average).

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Mark Van Deusen

Mark Van Deusen is the Copy Manager at WHOOP. Before joining WHOOP, Mark served as the Managing Editor and Head Writer for CelticsLife.com. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. A former tennis coach, Mark graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies.

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