Our bodies are around 60 percent water. Hydration is critical to every function our body performs, including nutrient absorption, muscle repair, oxygen transport, and more. Most of us have heard that in a survival situation you can last weeks without food but only a few days without water. Still, we often overlook proper hydration in everyday life.
For boxers, proper hydration is just as much about their health as it is about performance. A dehydrated body simply cannot perform athletically. All athletes, including boxers, need copious amounts of water when training to compensate for water loss through sweat and breathing.
Fluid intake needs vary based on height, weight, age, and physical activity, among many other factors. Though there is ample advice in circulation such as the common 8x8 rule, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that there is no official recommendation on daily water consumption.
Dangers of Dehydration
When your body loses as little as 1% of its water weight, you may start to feel thirsty and realize it’s time to have some water. Experts warn that you can’t use thirst as the only indicator of dehydration for three (3) main reasons:
Once you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated
Dehydration can manifest in other symptoms besides thirst
Factors such as cold weather can stunt your thirst sensation
If an athlete is even slightly dehydrated, it immediately impacts their physical and mental performance. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) found that dehydration can decrease strength by 2 percent, power by 3 percent, and endurance by 10 percent. Dehydration has further negative impacts on cognitive functions like coordination, decision making, response time, memory, and focus.
When fluids are still not replenished at the earliest warning signs, dehydration can dangerously impact an athlete’s health.
Blood volume decreases, less oxygen is transported to the muscles and vital organs
Toxins are not flushed out of the body
Core body temperature increases
Loss of coordination
Decreased response time
Greater risk for injury
All of us need to make a conscious effort to sustain healthy hydration every day. Keeping these simple tips in mind can help maintain a good baseline of fluid balance in your body.
Track fluid loss by weighing yourself before and after training
Drink at least 2 cups of water for every 1 pound lost
Increase water intake on hot or dry days and after intense workouts
Keep a bottle of water with you throughout the day to sip even when you aren’t thirsty
Incorporate drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates during workouts
Monitor your urine color
Dark yellow = dehydration
Pale yellow = proper hydration
Clear = overhydration
Limit water intake before, during, or after a workout - if you feel thirsty, drink more
Rely solely on drinks with high sugar content for hydration
Consume high amounts of caffeine as caffeine can be dehydrating
Drink carbonated beverages when working out (to avoid gastrointestinal upset)
Depend on thirst as the only indicator that you need to drink more water
Training: How Much You Should Drink and When
On top of always maintaining healthy hydration, boxers need to pay especially close attention to water intake when training. While there may be some debate over our individual daily fluid needs, research studies have provided enough feedback to develop recommendations for athletes.
The following fluid replacement guidelines are from the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine:
Before: 14-22 ounces around 2 hours before a workout
During: 6-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes
After: 16-24 ounces for every pound lost during workout
If you are inconsistent in your hydration habits, you don’t need to worry about meticulously measuring your fluid intake. Sports bottles with convenient measuring increments on the outside can help give you a better idea of how well you’re hydrating so you can adjust accordingly.
Why Do I Get More Dehydrated When It's Cold?
It is easy to remember to drink fluids when it is hot because you are sweating more – and you feel thirsty more often. When it is cold, not only do we still sweat, but one study found that our body’s natural thirst sensation may be stunted by up to 40 percent, making us feel that we need to drink less. Additionally, cold air holds less moisture, effectively zapping our bodies of even more water just by breathing the dry air. These factors can create an increased risk of dehydration in colder months.
Again, never rely on thirst alone as a reminder to drink more fluids. Don’t let the winter months trick you into letting your guard down about hydration.
Are Sports Drinks Better Than Water?
Many sports drink brands make bold claims about their benefits to athletic performance, and they have been widely marketed to the general public for all our hydration needs. While there are definitely some benefits to sports drinks, it’s important to remember that not all sports drinks are created equal. Moreover, experts still don’t agree on whether they provide better hydration than other beverages. Knowing what to look for in a sports drink and when to choose them over water is key.
Some experts recommend that sports drinks with a 6-8 percent concentration of carbohydrates (in the form of sugar) are most effective in maintaining fluid levels and providing more fuel for muscles during intense exercise.
One such recommendation suggests that an ideal sports drink will contain the following per 8-ounce serving:
14 grams of carbohydrates from glucose, sucrose, and/or fructose
28 mg of potassium
100 mg of sodium
The potential benefit of sports drinks for athletic performance is also their downside. While the calories from sugar may be just what you need during a particularly intense or long boxing workout, it isn’t ideal for your body outside of training. Practice moderation by only consuming sports drinks on training days to ensure your body is burning through the added sugars.
Alternatively, there are other drink options that perform many of the same tasks as sports drinks with less sugar.
Fruit Juice (No Sugar Added)
Fruit juices without any added sugars will provide your body with fluids and carbs in the form of natural sugars.
Though it contains lower amounts of carbs and electrolytes than sports drinks, the natural goodness in coconut water may give it an added edge over plain water.
Not recommended before or during a workout, milk can be a great low sugar post-workout drink for replenishing carbs, protein, and electrolytes.
As a general rule, any fluids are better than not enough fluids. If you find it difficult to stick with a hydration routine by drinking flavorless water, finding something that is more palatable for you is most important!
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water, but it is not easy. Drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia, or water intoxication. Hyponatremia is a rare but serious condition in which an excess of water consumed in a short period of time dilutes the body’s sodium to dangerously low levels.
The kidneys can process around 20–28 liters of water each day, but they cannot excrete more than 0.8 to 1.0 liters per hour. Different studies have shown the development of hyponatremia after drinking anywhere from 3-5 liters of water in a short period of time, typically under 3 hours.
Drinking that much fluid would likely make you very physically uncomfortable before you reach the danger zone. While the risk of hyponatremia is something all athletes should be aware of, it’s not something you generally need to worry too much about if you are monitoring your hydration and listening to your body.
Water is life, and our bodies are living proof. With over half of our bodies made up of water, it’s no wonder that maintaining proper hydration can impact our physical and mental health. Athletes know that staying hydrated will directly affect their performance – and boxers incorporate their fluid intake as part of a foundational healthy diet.
Individual fluid requirements may vary but following a few hydration tips can help you develop healthier hydration habits and get a better idea of your body’s needs. For more insight on creating a healthier lifestyle, check out FightCamp’s fitness advice for boxers and kickboxers and head over to the FightCamp YouTube Channel to try a free workout. Just remember to bring your water bottle!