Proper hydration is important for law enforcement officers. Even a slight state of dehydration can impair your ability to think and perform.
Dehydration can occur in less than 10 minutes and may cause muscle cramps, unnecessary fatigue which leads to fear, diminished strength and can affect an officer's performance under fire. Even at one-percent dehydration, you lose much of your fine and complex motor skills.
Many times, if you are thirsty, you are already in a state of dehydration. A simple way to gauge your water intake is by the color of your urine: if it is clear, you are probably taking in enough water; however, if it is dark and cloudy, you should increase your water intake.
In general, you need to consume at least half your body weight in ounces of water a day, and the more diuretics you consume in the form of coffee, tea, or alcohol, the more water you need. In reality, there is no reason to drink anything but water.
Also, the more you sweat, the more water you need. Police officers are chronically dehydrated due to the uniform they wear. The body armor does not breathe and it is worn in a nylon carrier. Again, proper hydration is imperative!
So if you weigh 200 lbs., you need to take in 100 ounces, or roughly 12 glasses of water a day. It takes discipline to drink this much water daily, but it makes a big difference in energy levels.
A good strategy is to fill your bottles first. For example, 12 glasses of water is equivalent to 3 1-liter bottles. Put these out on the counter first thing in the morning as your quota for the day. A simple way to accomplish this task is to drink 1 liter in the morning, 1 liter in the afternoon and 1 liter in the evening.
That takes care of the quantity next comes the quality.
The type of water you consume is very important. On one side of the coin you have tap water, which is loaded with chemicals, such as chlorine, fluoride, estrogens, etc., and on the other side is distilled water, which leaches minerals from the body. It is best to use either bottled spring water or filtered tap water.
Your water should contain at least 300 ppm (which is equivalent to 300 mg/L) of total dissolved solids. If the label on the bottle displays a lower number or you are using filtered water, then you can increase the mineral content by simply adding a pinch of sea salt.
You may not realize that only 1% of water in the world is actually drinkable by humans. Anything you can find in the medicine cabinet can be found in the drinking water supply. And bottled water is no better - only 10% of it comes from the original source, the rest is city water!
Not only can you (and should you) filter water to remove chemicals, but you can also purchase a special filter to make water more alkaline - the way it was thousands of years ago - or you can simply squeeze a fresh lemon into the water. Although a lemon may seem acidic on the outside, inside the body it has an alkalizing effect. This will reduce acidity, improve digestion and add flavor to the water. This practice alone will increase energy levels in a matter of days. Pure water filters filter out 98% of toxins but they do not make water alkaline.
Also, avoid cloudy plastic bottles as they leach chemicals into the water. Clear plastic is better and glass is the best. If you are drinking water from a plastic bottle, and it tastes like plastic, spit it out and do not drink that water! If you finish the bottle, you will consume a whopping dose of estrogen. You can purchase water in glass bottles, or if you are looking for a safer alternative, stainless steel containers are also available.
At home or even at the office, use filtered water stored in a glass pitcher at room temperature. Contrary to popular belief, cold water can actually hinder absorption; room temperature is best. Remember to squeeze half a lemon and add a pinch of sea salt for best effect.
Water is the most overlooked nutrient. It is both anabolic and anticatabolic, and enables chemical reactions to occur. Water dissolves substances, lubricates processes, regulates body temperature (i.e. perspiration cools the body), transports nutrients and removes waste products, and as you may suspect, body cells are composed of mostly water. In fact, water forms the greatest component of the human body making up 50-60% of its weight. Lean muscle tissue contains about 73% water and fat is about 20% water. Depending on how much fat has been stored, an adult can survive for about 8 weeks without eating food but only a few days without drinking water (we can neither store nor conserve water as well as we can the other components of our diet.)
Consider this: we start off in life at around 85% of the body made up of water, but by the time we die in our old age, the body is only 50% water. When water stores are dropping, it indicates something is wrong. In other words, we are breaking down muscle tissue.
Another way to look at it is that lean body tissue is high in water; therefore, a loss of water means a loss of muscle. When the loss of body protein exceeds 30%, survival drops to about 20%.
Now, there is a condition termed hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication, where consuming too much water can be dangerous. This can increase salt loss in sweat and make cells swell which changes brain chemistry, causes lung congestion and muscle weakness, and in rare cases lead to death. In fact, a 25-year-old police officer from Washington, D.C. died in August of 2005 after he apparently drank too much water while training to use a bicycle on patrol. However, this condition is very unusual as most individuals, especially police officers, are dehydrated!
As a police officer, it is critical to take a more holistic approach with your training - you need to cycle both stress and recovery! For example, if you drink four cups of coffee a day, that's the equivalent of working out four times a day, and you wouldn't do that. If you cut half of that out and every second cup of coffee is replaced with water, now you're in business.
Again, what is more important than water? You die after three days without it! The best suggestion for all officers is to stay comfortably hydrated and drink water as you lose it.
John Paul Catanzaro, B.Sc., C.K., C.E.P., is a Certified Kinesiologist and Certified Exercise Physiologist with a Specialized Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private gym in Richmond Hill, Ontario providing training and nutritional consulting services. For additional information, visit his website at http://www.BodyEssence.ca or call 905-780-9908.
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