Of all the things I’m really, really bad at, staying hydrated is probably at the top of the (extensive) list.
Or at least, it used to be.
Even though I knew how much I needed water to not only survive, but also perform at my best as an athlete, I still only drank it when I was dying of thirst. Even during intense BJJ classes, I still avoided drinking water because I’m messed up and like to make myself as miserable as possible sometimes.
Recently, though, I decided to make a change by actively trying to drink more water not only during training, but throughout the day. I started each day with an eight-ounce glass of H2O, then followed up with a minimum of two more liters of the stuff throughout the day (which sometimes ended up being more during particularly hot or strenuous training sessions). For me, as a 130-lb, 5’2” woman, this felt sufficient enough for me to never be thirsty without overhydrating. I also squeezed the juice from half a lemon into my 40-ounce water bottle each time I refilled it for some added flavor and vitamin C.
As a very active jiujiteira, I was curious as to how this change would affect not only my daily life, but also my training. So for a month, I paid close attention to any changes I experienced as a result of my increased water intake. It’s important to note that I’m not a doctor and this was not a scientific experiment; it’s just a personal account of my own experience. If you don’t really make an effort to drink enough water every day, take a look at how it changed my day-to-day experience as an athlete and consider if it might benefit you to get sipping.
The first thing I noticed (completely unrelated to BJJ, but whatever) was that my lips were soft as all getout. It makes sense that if I was dehydrated, my body might be drawing water away from less important parts like my lips to make sure my organs didn’t shut down. Now that I was hydrated, my body got to chill out and put some of that water back in the less necessary parts of me.
I also noticed that I had way more energy during training. I felt like I was getting tired later on and could push myself harder than when I was unknowingly dehydrated. As much as I believe in learning to get comfortable in hell during jiu-jitsu practice, it was nice to be able to train smarter as well. I was more focused on my training instead of how miserable and exhausted I was, and I feel like this can only benefit my BJJ game.
I used to think I just didn’t sweat that much, but as it turns out, my pores will turn into biological faucets if I give them the opportunity. Once I started drinking more water, my body didn’t have to worry about conserving it so much, so it was free to use it a bit more liberally to help keep me cool. The result was that I turned into That Person who was literally dripping sweat all over her teammates and had a light gray gi that turned dark gray by the end of class. It was kind of satisfying, in a gross way.
I was surprised at how much drinking more water affected my diet. I began to recognize that a lot of my “hunger” was actually thirst, especially when it came to my cravings for cold, sweet things after I finished training. Getting into the habit of drinking more water cut down a lot of cravings and helped me make dietary choices that benefited my athletic goals.
Additionally, my body became so used to drinking more water that I started to really feel the consequences on the days when I didn’t drink as much as I needed to. I was more sluggish, I tired out much quicker while rolling, and I just felt like my body wasn’t working as well as it could.
For me, though, the best part about keeping up with my hydration goals is that I now have a habit that I follow every day. Putting a fresh bottle of lemon water in the fridge is part of my nightly routine, and I do it just as naturally as I brush my teeth and wash my face. What used to be a chore is now just something I do, and I’m pretty pumped about it.
If you’d like to get started on drinking more water, here are a few tips that made the process a bit easier for me:
Invest in a nice water bottle. Not only is it better for the environment, but for me, there was something about spending $20 on a water bottle that made me think, “This was kind of expensive, so I’d better use it.” Get something that’ll hold up if you absentmindedly toss your gym bag on the floor, and I recommend finding one that shows you how much water you have in the bottle so you can keep track (although you can also just mark it with a Sharpie later if it doesn’t).
Add some flavor. While you don’t want to go overboard with artificial sweeteners, infusing your water with fruit can keep things interesting and get rid of any unwanted flavor you might be getting from your tap water. One of my friends mentioned squeezing lime and adding just a tiny bit of salt for a mix that’s both tasty and helps keep your electrolytes in check.
Don’t overdo it. Yes, there is such a thing as being overhydrated (though it’s hard to get there unless you’re really going crazy with your drinking habits). If you’re not sure where you stand on the scale of hydration, check your pee. It should be a very pale yellow — too dark means you need more water, and if it’s completely clear, you should scale back a little.
Keep your water with you all the time. You’re going to forget to drink water if you rely on the glasses in your cupboard at home. Dragging around a bottle all day might not seem like fun, but again, it becomes second-nature once you’re used to it. Keep it with you at work and the gym and just sip whenever the thought occurs to you. You’ll be more likely to do it if it’s right in front of you.
Remember to take it slow and steady. I’ve tried to meet my water goals by chugging a bunch at a time, and it just doesn’t work. If you rely on drinking a ton of water with your daily meals, you’re just going to get full and not have room for any more water. You’ll get more out of your hydration habit if you sip throughout the day. Plus, this will get rid of that uncomfortable bloated feeling a lot of people complain about after they drink too much water in one sitting.
We participate in a pretty rough sport. The least we can do to help our bodies deal with all the trauma we put them through is to give them the water they need to both survive and thrive.