Stop. Stop it now. Turn off Dr. Oz. Close that fitness magazine. Quit looking for the next supplement that's going to take you to the next level. It's right in front of your face: water.
So many people want to train like an elite athlete. They want to feel like an elite athlete. But these same people are not elite in their sleep, nutrition, or hydration habits.
Looking for the next big thing without paying attention to hydration is like someone walking up to me with a jack & coke in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and asking me if they should be putting flax seed on their yogurt (true story). He's missing the point. We need to stop being so stubborn, and acknowledge that some very simple and obvious changes can have a profound impact on our life.
During the 2014-2015 NFL Season, DeMarco Murray - then of the Dallas Cowboys - rushed an average of 115.3 yards per game. The next closest player was 95.8. Now we definitely need to give credit to the stout offensive line of the Cowboys. They definitely cleared some great lanes for DeMarco to run through. Nevertheless, how could someone keep up their energy to keep busting out explosive plays late in the game? When asked about any rituals to prepare him for each game, DeMarco answered plainly that he drinks 12 bottles of water in the 24 hours leading up to the game. 12 bottles. 144 oz. Over 4 liters. Damn. That's a lot of water.
But that's what it took to keep him performing at a high level throughout the game. Maybe you fade in that pick-up basketball game not just because you're out of shape, but maybe because you suck at hydrating.
Time and time again I will watch athletes and clients come into the gym and about halfway through their session, they start sucking down water. Too late, bro. It's gonna take far too long for that water to get into your system. It can take over an hour for water you've consumed to actually "hydrate" you. That water can't go straight into your cells. It has to be balanced with the rest of the fluids in your body. That means that salt and other minerals need to be pulled into that fluid for it to effectively hydrate you. Ever watch a boxing match? Why do they have the boxer spit out all the water? Because it's not going to help him in the match. The water he gulps down in round 1 won't even help in round 12. Not only that, but a bunch of water sloshing around in your gut will slow you down and make you feel sluggish.
You should be well hydrated enough so that hour before you session/match/game, all you're doing is sipping water. Pay attention to this simple metric of water consumption throughout your day. You'll find that it very closely correlates with your energy levels.
I think water consumption is a great habit to develop, because it starts us down the path of looking for the simple things that make BIG changes. This is definitely part of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.
Step up your hydration game. Act like you know what's up. No matter who you are, you can be an athlete! But you'd better hydrate like it.