If you watched Game 4 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, then you no doubt remember this startling moment late in the fourth quarter. LeBron James, working towards his first championship, tripped and fell while driving to the basket. While he was able to score a couple more points on the night, including a huge three-pointer, he struggle through massive cramping in his leg for the final minutes of a huge game. While LeBron James may be one of the most physically gifted basketball players of all time, there is a valuable lesson to be learned in hydration. By not properly hydrating and preparing his body for the rigors of the game, he put his team in danger of losing a crucial game at home. Sure he hit a big three pointer that put his team up for good, but he left his team to fend for themselves for the final :55 seconds of the game. James’ cramps are indicative of a crucial aspect of exercising and sports: whether you’re playing in the NBA Finals or just trying to get back in to a workout routine, hydration is the key to success – because without adequate amounts of fluid, your body will literally shut you down like it did James.

For starters, the human brain is 95% water, blood is 82% water and lungs are 90%. Water is the most vital nutrient for life – for health, growth and development. Losing up to 2% of body water can cause impaired neuromuscular coordination, headaches, poor concentration, and reduced neuro-processing (thinking, coherency, problem solving, etc). Dehydration can also take a toll on endurance, strength and fast twitch muscle response.

Effects dehydration aside, the benefits of being well hydrated are vast:

– Healthier Joints, Bones and Skin
– Healthier Digestive System
– More Energy
– Easier Weight Loss/maintenance
– Less Fluid Retention
– Stronger Muscles
– Reduced Risk of Disease

If you are working out in a hot climate, you can easily lose a gallon or more by the end of your workout and cardio session. Make sure you’re hydrating before, during and after you work out. If you get thirsty during your workout, listen to your body and drink some water. Many of us are chronically dehydrated so shoot for drinking eight ounces of water each hour you’re awake – not just when you’re working out. And no, soda doesn’t count. Water is critical to your body’s ability to repair and recover so make sure you drink water before bed and even once during the night if you wake up to go to the bathroom. Make sure that if you’re in the car, in a meeting, watching TV, etc. that you always have water with you so that whether its the game of life or the fourth quarter of game four of the NBA Finals, you’re hydrated well enough to compete at your best and finish the game on the court, not on the bench.

Do you know how to recognize your body’s thirst signals? Did you know those migraines could just be a cry for more water? Here’s a great resource for further reading. Drink up!