I had a new client the other day (bless his heart) who—in the middle of an 8-minute EMOM of burpees— freaked out because he ran out of water in his bottle. He abandoned his burpees and started sauntering toward the water cooler.
Not so fast!
I called him back because I wanted him to get back on his burpees at the top of the next minute, and I knew he’d survive three more minutes without water.
He looked genuinely scared for his life:
“But my mouth is so dry.”
“Nobody has ever died from a dry mouth,” I replied.
He’s not out of the ordinary. Many people don’t dare exercise without at least two litres of easily-accessible water in their vicinity.
Why? Because we have been bred to fear the very unlikely scenario that we become dehydrated.
Go to any start line of even a 5-km recreational run and you’ll see hundreds of people who aren’t even thirsty obsessively sipping on water, fanny packs filled with Gatorade around their waists.
Jerry Seinfeld’s piece about the fear mongering we experience around dehydration hits the nail on the head.
Do you know what can happen if you don’t hydrate?
You can get dehydrated!
Wouldn’t I get thirsty first?
No, according to the fitness people on TV, if you feel thirsty you’re too late!
What do you mean I’m too late? What do I do?
Just try and catch the pieces of your face as they dry up and crack off onto the floor!
Seinfeld was alluding to a concept most of us believe about “pre-hydrating.” This is why you see the water guzzlers at any run or triathlon event: They think they’re pre-hydrating to avoid dehydration later.
There’s some science out there, though, that challenges some of our commonly-held beliefs about dehydration, specifically concepts like pre-hydration.
Dr. Rosner, a nephrologist and professor of medicine at the University of Virginia, is one researcher who has been challenging theories about hydration. Rosner explained you should NOT drink when you’re not thirsty—that the idea of pre-hydrating is kind of bullshit. Instead, Rosner recommends using legitimate thirst to guide your drinking behaviour is the best way to go
If you think about it, it makes sense. Hunger, thirst and the need to pee tell you you’re hungry or thirsty or have to pee. Nobody tells you to eat when you’re not hungry or pee when you don’t have to pee (unless you’re a child), yet we’re constantly warning people to drink before they get thirsty.
Further, this 2015 study published in the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports even suggests that becoming mildly dehydrated has zero effects on athletic performance.
The study looked at the performances of 11 experienced long-distance cyclists under different hydration conditions. The cyclists were each connected to an IV. Some days, the IV replenished their lost fluid, and other days the IV was a placebo, so the cyclists didn’t know whether or not they were becoming mildly dehydrated as they cycled for 90 minutes.
The result: Hydration had no effect on their performance.
The head researcher of the study Stephen Cheung explained that the message of his study is that—even in distances as far as a half marathon—we do NOT need to drink as much fluid as we often think.
Regardless of what you believe, one thing I think most coaches can agree on is that you do NOT need to drink during a 7-minute workout!
So put your water bottle down and stop using your thirst as a reason to slack off.