You work hard at the gym; sweat runs down your face and you drink water. Good idea! However, just drinking water will not hydrate your body properly. In fact, the combination of losing sweat and replacing it with just water can dehydrate you and even make you sick.
Yes, water is essential, we would die without it and had to drink it daily, but the truth is that if you don’t replace and replenish lost minerals, your body and your health will suffer.
With summer fast approaching, your sweat rate will increase and therefore you won’t need a proper replenishment. Here, Noah Alldredgepresident of Hydration health products shares his knowledge on how to properly hydrate your body, which will boost energy, promote faster recovery from exercise, and simply make you feel better.
Drinking too much water can actually harm you
Water is good for the body, so keep drinking it. But, if it’s plain water, not infused with electrolytes (or if your diet is lacking in certain minerals), it can start to negatively impact your health.
Drinking only plain water will drain your body of its stores of minerals and electrolytes that are essential for bodily functions such as a regular heartbeat. And drinking too much water is a recipe for disaster. “Your kidneys can process about 32 oz of water per hour; after that, you run the risk of getting hypokalemia or the more common hyponatremia which can cause irregular heartbeats and, in the worst case, lead to death,” Alldredge warns.
“Drinking too much water alone dilutes your blood electrolytes,” he adds, which can then harm your body and cause some scary symptoms. Simply put, overhydrating with water alone leads to dehydration.
The best way to avoid this is to make sure you’re getting the right electrolytes and minerals every day, especially if you exercise regularly.
Minerals that promote hydration
Electrolytes are minerals your body needs to function properly. Be aware of these 4 essential electrolytes:
Hydrating drinks and food options
“The average person loses about 2,500 mg of electrolytes per pound of sweat,” says Alldredge, making these hydrating drinks and food choices a perfect method to stay hydrated.
- Coconut water: A cup of unsweetened coconut water contains 9% of the potassium daily value (and contains only 45 calories).
- Watermelon (and other melons): These fruits are loaded with water and mineralsmaking it a great post-workout choice for hydration.
- Smoothies: Berry-focused smoothies are high in fiber; pack plenty of vitamin C and you can add your favorite electrolyte powder. Add a frozen banana for texture and a potassium boost.
- Milk: Milk contains protein, fat, potassium, magnesium and calcium, a perfect addition to your protein shakes due to the many minerals and vitamins.
- Yogurt: With an 85% water content and milk-like benefits, yogurt is packed with probiotics and minerals to help your body stay hydrated.
- Cucumbers: made from 96% water and loaded with minerals, add them to your salads or dip them in hummus to keep your hydration on point.
Alarming facts about dehydration
Alldredge shares some important dehydration facts that focus on getting properly hydrated.
- 3% dehydration equals a blood alcohol level of 0.08, which reduces your reaction time by 17% or makes you five times more likely to have an accident.
- 3% dehydration reduces cardiac output by 20%.
- Dehydration is the number one cause of reduced athletic performance.
- Dehydration is why OSHA regulates hydration in the workplace to help productivity and reduce the likelihood of you getting injured.
- For every milliliter of alcohol consumed, your body produces 10 ml of urine; due to excessive urination, your brain shrinks and this is how a headache or a hangover occurs.
- Seventy percent of Americans walk around dehydrated daily this is the number one reason for daytime fatigue and headaches often hunger is misdiagnosed when it comes to dehydration as you lose cartilage in the joints, dehydration exacerbates joint problems.
Signs of dehydration
Although these symptoms may mean that you are dehydrated, this is not always the case. If you experience these symptoms, it is best to contact your doctor.
- Dark colored urine or very light colored urine if you are overhydrated
- Dry or cracked skin
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure
- Altered mental state or poor concentration
How to know your hydration level and what your urine should look like
If you’re not feeling well and want to know your hydration level, Alldredge recommends getting tested.
“The best way to find out your hydration level is to do a hydration test — they have pretty savvy saliva tests these days,” he says. Contact your doctor or a registered dietitian for more information on this.
Another way to tell if you are hydrated or not is to look at your urine. “The ideal color for urine is pale yellow, clear means you’re too hydrated,” says Alldredge.
Keeping track of your urine color and how you feel can help you navigate your hydration journey and keep you on track or back on track.
What to look for in a hydrating drink
Like everything else, not all hydrating drinks are created equal, so it’s important to check what’s on the labels. “The average American consumes 161 pounds of sugar per year,” says Alldredge. “To burn that many calories, you would have to walk 53 days without stopping.”
But here’s the thing, electrolytes need a delivery method to cross the intestinal membrane to be absorbed. “Sugar is effective but also has its downsides, such as blood sugar abnormalities, bacteria feeding, and calorie content,” Alldredge says.
If you don’t need the extra calories, Alldredge suggests looking for a product that’s sugar-free and has a delivery system.
Now That Your Minerals Are Up, Here’s How Much Water You Should Be Drinking
“Sweat rates increase when it’s 68 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer,” says Alldredge. He adds that when it’s at least 80 degrees outside, the sweat rate can reach 4 to 6 pounds per hour depending on the intensity of the work being done. It is therefore essential to give importance to good hydration and the amount of water your body needs (or does not need).
When it comes to hydrating with water, “a big goal is to try to drink half your body weight in one ounce of fluid per day,” says Alldredge. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, try drinking 100 ounces, he says.
“Bodybuilding and fitness readers like to work hard in the gym and sometimes play hard outside the gym; focusing on hydration/rehydration will speed up recovery and enhance the gains they seek in the gym,” he adds, motivating to keep your body hydrated and gaining the most.