Staying Hydrated the Right Way
We can’t state enough how important water is. Water is absolutely necessary to your optimal health and physical state. You are made up mostly of water, and keeping a fresh supply leads to more effective muscle growth, eliminating toxins and wastes from your body and keeping your organs working in tip-top shape. However, drinking enough water in your daily life can be a little bit different than staying hydrated during intense physical expenditures. Newbies to the running/racing circuit, for instance, are often confused at races to find volunteers handing out salt packets, and advising against plain water. Say what? Isn’t salt bad? Isn’t water good? Well, all of this is true for certain applications, but one word is missing- electrolytes. When your body is expending to the top of its ability, stuff is happening! Sweat, predominately. You are sweating, and in doing so, you are losing way more than just, water. If it was just water, you could drink it, right? But no, ew. It is not just water. It is fat, salt, waste products, toxins and electrolytes. Your body is a delicate balance, and it needs to maintain that balance to perform. If you replace lost sweat with pure water, you are upsetting that balance, which can lead to dizziness, nausea and even death. Think of your body like a car engine. When you run out of gas, you can’t just add back any liquid. It must be gas for your engine to work. And, on top of that, it must be properly process, unleaded fuel. Your body is the same. Liquid out liquid in does not work.
So, the question becomes, what is the best way to stay hydrated during intense physical expenditures, and keep your body in a proper electrolyte balance. Here are some of the best.
Coconut water is full of natural electrolytes, and has been found to be easily accepted as hydration by the human body. Meaning, it goes to work quickly, and gets you back to work. Unfortunately, many manufacturers of coconut water add a lot of sugar. Try to find a variety that does not have added sugar. The water has a naturally slightly sweet flavor, and doesn’t need the extra. Bonus points for finding a raw variety, but be prepared to pay double, even triple, and refrigeration becomes more of a factor.
In general, juices are not really the best hydration, and should be drunken sparingly. Juices have all the sugar of juice, but with all the natural fiber of fruit stripped away. This means your body loses its “cue” to know when it has had enough. You would never eat 10 apples or oranges, and yet, we easily consume the juice- and all the sugar- of them in one sitting. Not the way to go. That being said, some juices, in limited quantities, are great for quickly adding back what we sweat out, and giving good fuel to keep going. Cherry, noni and acai are all super juices, and great for re-fueling. Add an equal amount of not-from-concentrate, no sugar added, preferably organic, juice to pure water or coconut water. This helps extend the hydration factor while giving you the benefits of good juice.
Milk is a great way to quickly add back essential vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. It helps reduce inflammation and it feeds muscles quickly. For vegans or vegetarians, it can be tempting to think that almond, soy or coconut milk are easy substitutions, but they are not. Depending on the variety, they can be calorie and sugar bombs. Read your labels carefully, and don’t think that just because it’s “natural” it’s healthy.