By Ryan Trautz, DPT
You probably will not receive the diagnosis of dehydration from a physical therapist. Yet, chances are you and 75% of adults are dehydrated at any given time of the day. The old rule of thumb was 8 cups per day. However, the Institute of Medicine recommends 9 cups for women and 13 cups for men. That is a lot of water: 3 liters for men and 2.2 liters for women (102 ounces and 75 ounces respectively). Take a look at your favorite drinking vessel and then plan accordingly. Here is a new rule of thumb: water should be the most frequent beverage that you reach for during the course of a day.
As a physical therapist, we consider a patient that is dehydrated is a patient that is not healing efficiently. Water is the facilitator of our body's vital systems; removing waste products and damaged tissue cells and providing oxygen and energy to promote tissue healing. For example, an aching and overused upper back muscle is taxed, energy depleted, and perhaps spasming and is riddled with metabolites and scar tissue. Your physical therapist will first educate you concerning why your muscle is in crisis and then proceed to use many methods to restore the muscle health and strength. This process involves massage, stretching, and movement training for the appropriate muscle firing patterns in your upper back. To optimize all of the work that you and your physical therapist will do you, it is in your best interest to supply your body with the nutrients and water required to improve the metabolic process of tissue healing.
Your water intake depends on your activity level, what you are eating, and even what the climate is for the day. And much like every strengthening exercise, stretch, and cardiovascular routine you perform: you get out what you put in. The American College of Sports Medicine's update in 2011 recommended drinking 16-20 ounces of water or sports drink at least four hours before exercise and another 8-12 fluid ounces of water 10-15 minutes before exercise. These are general recommendations and more specific hydration plans can be created using a brochure that can be accessed on the ACSM's website.
Drink plenty of water and help your body do what you are asking it to do. Whether, you want to improve your body's vital systems function, improve tissue healing from injury, or maximize strength and conditioning gains with exercise, water is the essential component for success.