The Importance of Hydration and Electrolytes
Water. The elixir of life. The universal solvent. Two-thirds of our body is made up of water, and we can’t live without it. In summer, it’s even more important to drink water, and electrolytes, to stay adequately hydrated. How do you know when you’re dehydrated, and how much should you be drinking? We explain it all. Drink up.
Importance of hydration
Water is one of the four essential nutrients, with carbohydrates, proteins, and fats as the building blocks of a complete diet. Water is vital and involved in every bodily function. We need water for:
- Moving toxins and waste products out of the body through your kidneys and bowels
- Transporting water-soluble nutrients to your organs
- Sending electrical messages between the cells
- Moistening lung tissues for oxygen intake
- Maintaining cognitive function
- Controlling body temperature
- Lubricating your joints
- Digesting food
- And more!
When adequately hydrated, you have more energy, improved brain function, smoother digestion, fewer muscle cramps and headaches, improved skin health, and better sleep.
Did you take a big gulp of water? Nice!
How to know when you’re dehydrated
Most mature adults lose about 2.5-3L per day from the kidneys, bowels, skin, and lungs. A drop in the body’s water content causes a decline in blood volume, which triggers the hypothalamus (the brain’s thirst centre) to demand water. This reaction causes a slight rise in sodium concentration in the blood, triggering the sensation of thirst. You need to drink beyond only quenching a parched throat to cover all water loss and prevent dehydration.
Did you know? Your sense of thirst dulls with age, and we have a lower percentage of reserve body water than when we were younger, so it’s more important to drink even when you’re not thirsty.
If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Other symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dark coloured urine (when you haven’t taken any supplements like B vitamins or eaten foods that can change colour, like beets)
- Muscle cramps
- Hunger (sometimes, when you’re hungry, you might be thirsty so see if drinking water or an electrolyte beverage helps)
- Dizzy or lightheadedness, delirium, or confusion with more extreme dehydration
What is an electrolyte?
An electrolyte is an essential mineral, such as sodium, potassium, or calcium, dissolved in the body’s fluids. Electrolytes regulate muscle contractions, control nervous system function, balance pH in the body, and keep you hydrated.
While drinking water is critical to our survival, consuming electrolytes is also necessary. The minerals in our food will provide electrolytes if you’re eating a well-balanced diet. You don’t always need to add electrolytes to your water, but they are beneficial when sweating excessively or working out on a hot, humid day.
Ways to stay hydrated this summer
A good general rule to follow is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces each day. So if you are 180lbs, consume 90 ounces, or about two and a half litres per day.
You want to stay well-nourished during your summer of activity, travelling and enjoying the sunshine with friends. Quench your thirst by:
Carrying your reusable water with you everywhere. You can also fill this up at most airport restaurants once you pass through security to save buying water or being thirsty on a flight.
- Consuming foods high in water content such as watermelon and other melons, celery, bell peppers, and oranges.
- Starting your day with a big glass of water. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated so start your day by heading that off at the pass. If you find it challenging to drink cold water, leave a glass covered and out overnight so it’s at room temperature by the morning.
Being mindful and intentional about hydration is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health and well-being. This summer, maintain energy levels and boost physical performance, mood, and brain function by drinking water and electrolytes. Gulp gulp, ahh.