Hydration: the 411 on H20
To kick off the Spring into Summer challenge– we’re diving into the topic of hydration. Hydration is the replenishment of fluids we lose through breathing, sweating, and elimination. As the weather heats up and more time is spent outdoors, it’s important that we stay well hydrated to help our bodies achieve optimal performance during our workouts, maintain healthy body functions and keep us feeling our best!
Water goes beyond quenching our thirst; it’s essential for survival. Not only are we made up of nearly 60% water, it plays a major role in many of our body’s processes, such as:
- Supports proper digestion, helping break down food and keeping things moving along smoothly so our intestines stay happy
- Regulates body temperature
- Delivers oxygen and other nutrients to all of our lovely cells
- Removes waste and toxins from the body
- Assists with our metabolism in converting food to energy
- Lubricates joints and cushions vital organs
- Helps the brain produce important neurotransmitters and hormones
- Nourishes our skin—and much more!
On the flip side, dehydration can negatively affect our well-being. It can strain our cardiovascular system, forcing the heart to work harder. When dehydrated, we are more at risk for heat stroke. Our mood can be impacted by dehydration causing us to become more irritable or grumpy. We can’t think as clearly, energy levels dip, and productivity slows. Often, we confuse hunger and thirst cues leading us to munch away when we may just need to sip a cool drink. In fact, being thirsty is already a symptom of being dehydrated! Thus, prevention is key.
So how much water do we really need to consume each day?
Needs vary by individual (for example, breastfeeding or pregnant women require more fluid) and by climate, activity level, diet and fiber intake, etc. but the average recommendation is to consume between 8-10 cups (1 cup = 8 oz) per day. The best way to know if you are well hydrated is to observe the color of your urine as it should be a pale yellow color and not dark yellow or amber. Another good guideline is to consume 50% of your weight in fluid ounces, adding several additional cups if you exercise.
What should I be drinking and eating to stay hydrated?
While water is the best option for drinking—it has zero calories and is often free—you can also get fluids from other drinks (yes, coffee and tea do count) and from hydrating foods, too. Yogurt, smoothies, and soup broth are excellent ways to boost your water intake through meals or snacks.
Examples of raw foods with high water content include:
- Fruits: watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruit, tomatoes, strawberries, grapes
- Vegetables: cucumber, broccoli, celery, zucchini, lettuce, spinach
Should I supplement with electrolytes? What are they anyways?
Sweaty workouts (especially in hot conditions) cause you to lose both fluid and electrolytes—minerals that have an electric charge and maintain fluid balance. They transmit electrical impulses vital for muscle contraction and nerve function. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Sodium and potassium are lost the most through sweat. An imbalance of these chemicals can lead to muscle twitching, cramping or weakness.
While we do need to replenish our electrolytes after exercise, simply adding hydrating foods (listed above) to our diet along with drinking regular water should be sufficient for the average athlete. For intense physical activity lasting beyond 60 minutes, however, sports drinks or tablets can aid recovery by providing electrolytes and carbohydrates in addition to water. Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes, though low in sodium. Simply adding a dash of salt to your food can help you replenish sodium levels. Do steer clear of the many “flavored” drinks on the market that contain added sugars and chemicals our bodies just don’t need.
This week, we challenge you to amp up your hydration! Strive to get the recommended servings of water per day, adjusting based upon your activity level and individual needs.
Here’s our top tips for staying hydrated:
- Drink a full glass of water (preferably with lemon) upon waking.
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day so you always have a drink handy. Sipping continuously throughout the day is better than chugging a full glass at once.
- Get creative! Add some flavor to your flat or sparkling water (lemon, frozen berries, mint, cucumber, or lime are great additions).
- Drink before, during, and after your ride to properly refuel (we’ve got water at the studio if you forget!).
- When hunger strikes, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes before eating to see if you’re just thirsty or truly hangry!
- Remember to keep a watchful eye on that pee color.
Check out our Green Recovery Smoothie Recipe & Bottoms up!
Blogpost written by, Ascend Content Expert, Ashley Hart