Beyond Water: The New Rules of Replenishment
We talk frequently about the importance of a healthy, nutritious diet, but keeping our bodies properly hydrated is just as important. And when it comes to hydration, it can get a little complicated.
Most of us don’t drink as much water as we should every day, but we do usually drink other beverages, like coffee and tea. Unfortunately, it has been widely proven that most non-water liquid options do not positively add to your daily allowance of water, and many even leech needed water out of our bodies.
On the other hand, while clean and filtered water is certainly a crucial component to keeping our bodies performing optimally, we need other components from our liquids that water alone cannot provide. Our complex body systems need so much more!
This article dives into the different mineral components that contribute to sufficient hydration. To replenish all that you lose in a day’s work, you may need to focus on the entire spectrum of the sweat collective and hydration, including electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium.
In order to understand hydration, it is important to first understand what electrolytes are and what they do for the body. If you have ever suffered a Charlie Horse or muscle cramp, you know it’s not a fun feeling — and you usually can blame your body’s electrolytes for that!
Electrolytes are responsible for a whole lot, including the balance of the body’s pH levels. Anyone who has tried to maintain a fish tank knows how hard this is to do. Even a little bit of the wrong chemical mineral or the wrong temperature could harm the creatures that live in the tank. The most important electrolytes that need to be balanced include: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and phosphate.
The right electrolyte levels also help your body move waste out of cells and out of the body. Electrolytes also help to make sure that your nerves, muscles, brain, and heart are all working optimally and communicating with each other efficiently. We’ll take a closer look at the main electrolytes later, but let’s first look at sweat, which is one of the main ways we lose electrolytes.
One of the best ways for our bodies to cool themselves down and get rid of excess liquid toxins (besides elimination from kidneys) is to sweat. Sweating is healthy, but it is also one of the easiest ways for the body to lose key electrolytes. So learning how to replenish and hydrate after sweating is very important to help fight fatigue, prevent muscle cramping, prevent kidney stones and bladder issues, prevent headaches and dizziness, lower blood pressure and dry mouth, just to name a few. Certainly, sweating can feel very rewarding while exercising, and it’s even commonly thought that in order to get a good workout, you need to sweat a lot. But while some bodies naturally sweat a lot (men more than women) others do not, and there are a few key reasons for this. These factors include the environment in which people live, how acclimated to heat they are, and how hydrated they were prior to the workout or activity.
A key factor in achieving optimal hydration replenishment health is making sure that when you are working out or moving your body strenuously, you efficiently replace the fluids and minerals lost. If you are working hard in the gym or to burn excess calories and build muscle, proper and consistent hydration can be the key difference between getting stronger and feeling fatigued. Additionally, if you do not replace your fluids, your heart rate may continue to increase uncomfortably and you are at a higher risk of your body crashing, cramping, sustaining an injury, or slowing down during the workout. These are signals from your body, telling you that something is wrong.
While our bodies can survive relatively long periods of time without food, they cannot survive one week without fluids. Larry Kenney, Ph.D., discussing the importance of hydration, stated, "Hydration is important because the body is comprised mostly of water, and the proper balance between water and electrolytes in our bodies determines how most of our systems function, including nerves and muscles."
If we think of the body as a recipe for a special dinner, the final product is only as good as the ingredients that we put into it, as well as the time and process we use. If we are missing ingredients, we cannot expect the best results. So if we’re working all day and not drinking water, we can’t expect our bodies to function at the same level as they would with optimal hydration.
People with the highest risk of dehydration include: seniors, people who live in hot and humid areas, children, and pregnant women. In addition to symptoms we’ve already listed, dehydration can have other symptoms such as dry skin, sunken eyes, increased heart rate, not sweating, delirium, and unconsciousness in more serious cases.
If you or someone you love is in one of the high-risk categories, make sure to learn and share tips for proper hydration, to ensure you keep your body functioning at its best.
Having a water bottle around you all day, and access to clean water, is key to hydration success. Eating fresh salads and vegetables and fruits with high water content throughout the day is another great way to get water into the body. If plain water is not easy to drink, try infusing your water with a few lemon wedges, berries, or cucumber slices to jazz things up a bit. There are also hydration apps that can send you gentle reminders to drink up throughout the day.
Magnesium is an important electrolyte that helps the body’s muscles contract during exercise. Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 nerve impulses and enzymatic reactions in the body, and helps transport calcium and oxygen throughout the body (think strong bones). It also helps us relax and sleep better, fights depression, reduces insulin resistance, and much more.
Because magnesium is lost through sweat and urination, improper replenishing of this electrolyte can lead to cramps, low blood pressure, dizziness, and decreased muscular performance. High levels of magnesium can be found in dark leafy greens, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, and unrefined whole grains. Since it’s difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone, it’s also a good idea to supplement with a high-quality, seawater-derived magnesium.
Potassium packs a double punch when it comes to hydration. It is not only a mineral but also an electrolyte. When you have low potassium, you may notice that your muscles feel weak, crampy, or begin twitching. In extreme cases, your muscles could even become paralyzed, or you may develop an abnormal heart rhythm. Maintaining the right amount of potassium in your body decreases the risk of stroke, lowers your blood pressure, protects you against loss of muscle mass, preserves bone mineral density, and reduces the formation of kidney stones. You can find Potassium in various foods and drinks such as bananas, beets, or beans. Three types of beans specifically — white, soy, and lima beans — are major sources of potassium providers.
Sodium gets a bad rap, and though people with high blood pressure often need to follow a low sodium diet, not all sodium is bad. Excess sodium is certainly not healthy, but getting the right amount of sodium is a critical component in keeping the body fluids stable and the body hydrated. Similar to potassium, sodium is an electrolyte that our body needs in order to function optimally. Sodium is especially crucial in combination with potassium for maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Too much of either one or both can lead to high blood pressure (and vice versa).
Whether you are looking to build muscles, lose weight, have more energy, improve your mood, or get rid of headaches, all of them may be linked to proper hydration. But hydration is not limited to just your everyday water consumption. The body is a machine capable of great things. How it functions is only as good as its components and maintenance. If we don’t pay attention to our fluid intake, our perspiration, activity levels, and hydration and replenishing habits, we can miss out on what the body needs to perform optimally and avoid preventable discomforts.
Remember to look for foods and drinks that aid your body in its need for electrolytes, potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride each day. And take a well formulated multi-mineral supplement derived from real food sources each day to ensure you are getting what you need.