When you think about your health, do you ever wonder how many hours of exercise you should get each week? Do you worry about the amount of fat in your diet? Or how much salt you're consuming? What about the amount of water you're getting every day? It might surprise you to learn that good hydration habits can play an important role in all three of these areas, which means that what you drink and how much matters. Here are some tips on why you need to focus on hydration and what it can do for your body both inside and out.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids. This essentially causes your cells to shrink, and as a result you feel sluggish and weak. When you experience dehydration, you aren't able to function at your best; in fact, athletes are almost always instructed by their coaches and trainers that they need to stay properly hydrated before exercise. Dehydration has several effects on performance but is most commonly associated with loss of motor skills and impeded concentration. Severe dehydration can result in loss of consciousness or even death, especially if it occurs during exercise when sweat isn't readily available for re-hydrating.
The biggest reason why people don't drink enough water is because they don't understand how important it is to maintain proper levels of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle contractions—and losing them through sweating increases your risk of developing muscle cramps. When you exercise regularly or work outdoors in hot weather, make sure you drink plenty of liquids—especially electrolyte-rich sports drinks like KMC ISO MIX. More about this later...
When to Drink Water
If you're trying to make sure you're properly hydrated, but aren't sure how much water you should be drinking, you don't have to guess. Tracking your urine color and volume can help give you a better sense of how much water (and by extension, how many electrolytes) your body needs. It works like so: when your body is dehydrated, it will begin pulling water from places where it won't cause any problems—like your cells or organs—and redirecting it towards more vital parts of your body. These fluid-depleted zones include places like your eyes and mouth, and will appear dry or even cracked.
As far as hydrating goes, urine is actually an excellent source of information because most people drink water that contains lots of minerals that are necessary for normal bodily functions (including cell metabolism). Urine also doesn't contain waste products like blood does; which means its concentration level isn't altered by things like toxins or medications. You can use a Urine Chart to measure you hydration & electrolyte levels.
The Benefits of Drinking More Water
Drinking more water is widely accepted as being good for you, and it is—but there's a lot of science behind it, too. It's not just about health; keeping your body properly hydrated affects how well you work, too. A 2012 study showed that workers who drank two glasses of water before each meal had better performance at their jobs than those who didn't. When it comes to physical activity, another 2012 study found that drinking 8 ounces of water before a workout helped athletes sustain higher heart rates while exercising compared with when they only drank 4 ounces beforehand.
Our bodies are composed of anywhere from 50-75% water, and having enough water every day keeps us healthy and functioning properly. Drinking plenty of water helps with digestion, prevents constipation and other digestive issues, improves your skin, rids your body of toxins, regulates our body temperature and more. Your brain also relies on water to work at its best—with 80% of its content being made up of H2O, a decline in fluid can affect concentration levels and mental energy. On top of all that, dehydration can impair your performance in everything from work tasks to sports activities. An excellent rule is to drink 8 oz (250ml) for every 45 minutes you spend exercising or sweating.
Why you should be topping up your Electrolytes
Simply, electrolytes are electrically charged minerals which have a key role in many bodily functions, specifically fluid balance. Their charge helps pull water from your blood into your muscles. The important electrolytes for athletes are sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Electrolytes are necessary for a variety of things, like hydration, muscle contraction and blood pressure. Certain electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, are lost in sweat and need to be replaced to maintain the proper fluid balance in the body. Electrolytes help maintain and replace salts lost during sweating, avoiding cramping and early onset fatigue. Electrolyte minerals also restore water balance; help muscles contract and relax and aid the transmission of nerve impulses.
You need to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat in these scenarios:
- you exercise for longer than an hour
- your exercising in a hot environment! (Yes, sometimes the sun is out)
- you are a naturally heavy sweater
The difference in alertness when you are dehydrated is very noticeable and immediate. Other clear symptoms of dehydration are a headache, dizziness, extreme fatigue or muscle cramps. You can also use your urine colour as an indicator for whether you are hydrated enough throughout the day.
You can read more about electrolytes here.
As you lose water and nutrients through sweat, proper hydration will keep your cells healthy and help you rehydrate quickly. Drink electrolyte-enhanced drinks to stay hydrated during exercise.
For example, coconut water contains natural electrolytes that are lost when you sweat. In addition to consuming fluids before, during and after a workout, it's important to eat foods that contain sodium—like sea salt or avocado—and other trace minerals like potassium (found in bananas) and magnesium (in dark leafy greens). Many people are also deficient in vitamin D; getting outside can be a great way to get vitamin D naturally from sunlight.
When out and about or exercising, it's more difficult to consume these sorts of foods and drinks. Which is why we use functional and easy to consume products, such as our KMC Isotonic Drinks, Energy Bars & Energy Gels - All of which contain 4 essential Electrolytes.
Check out all of our Electrolyte-containing products here.