By Dr. Maegan Knutson
The rules of hydration have changed. The blanket recommendation of 8 glasses of water each day is old news. Yes, you do need to drink your water. However you probably need more than water to stay hydrated. You probably need some electrolytes. Electrolytes are not just for athletes, they are for everyone.
What are electrolytes you say? Well let me clear up the confusion, because I had to get a couple of college degrees before I figured this one out myself. Electrolytes are the minerals or salts that make up our body fluids along with water. The electrolyte minerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. These minerals are lost through sweat along with water. Humans lose fluids through sweat, urine, tears, and breathing when healthy. Ill people lose more fluids from fevers, vomiting, mucous, and diarrhea. So if you are losing fluids and minerals, then you are going to need to replace fluids and minerals. Especially since dehydration is the most common cause for fatigue
How do you replace electrolytes? To start you should simply start by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Then take a look at your salt and make sure it is not the classic table salt: sodium chloride. You should only consume table salt if you are performing a full marathon or ironman race. Otherwise throw it out and get some good sea salt. Sea Salt actually has other minerals in it like potassium and magnesium. The minerals in sea salt are balanced like the minerals inside your body. So sea salt is unlikely to cause increased tissue swelling or raise your blood pressure, like table salt. Therefore go ahead and sea salt your food. You might also try infusing your water with fruits like a squeeze of lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, strawberries, peppermint, ect. Soaking these fruits/herbs in water will add minerals and flavor to your drinking water. Herbal teas also add minerals to your water too especially nettles, mints, rooibos, and hibiscus. Consider the variety of drinking spring or mineral waters like San Pelligrino, Evian, and Smart Water. There of course are sport drinks but be careful to notice if they actually have anything beneficial. Many sport drinks contain only sodium and high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. You want a sport drink to contain minerals potassium and magnesium so check out the labels. There are minerals that you can add to your water like “Sport Mix” by Alcer (They make “EmergenC” which is also a good choice), or NUUN a local company that makes the tubes of tablets that your add to water.
For water intake I recommend that you take your weight in pounds and divide it in half. That is the number of ounces of water that your should consume each day. For example a 150 pound person should drink 75 ounces each day. And you should consume it slowly throughout the day, away from meals. This way it will get a chance to be absorbed without diluting your precious digestive juices like stomach acid. If you are going to consume caffeine then you will need extra water and extra minerals. The same goes for athletes (which is really everyone!) that you want to consume about 12 extra ounces of water with each hour of exercise. Endurance athletes must pay special attention to this because hydration will affect performance in events.