Electrolytes: The Hidden Key to Summer Hydration
Staying hydrated is key to many functions in the human body, and in summer heat, it can be difficult to maintain your hydration. One of the largest roles that water plays in the body is regulating internal temperature. Other benefits include maintaining oral health and preventing bladder cancer. The body’s ability to stay cool in hot weather is dependent upon proper hydration. But hydration isn’t maintained by water consumption alone.
Electrolytes are also required for hydration. The body cannot fully absorb the water you drink without electrolytes. In addition, electrolytes are required for nutrient absorption. You must have sufficient electrolytes in the body to absorb the vitamins and minerals from the food you eat.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that possess an electric charge, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium. The balance of these minerals is what allows the body to regulate the functions of muscles and nerves, as well as deliver hydration straight to your cells. Electrolyte imbalance or a lack of electrolytes can lead to dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration
The symptoms of dehydration are fairly common, especially in the summertime, so most people don’t realize they are experiencing dehydration until they are thirsty. And that’s a sign of dehydration! If you’re thirsty, there is a strong possibility that you are either dehydrated or on your way to being dehydrated. Other symptoms of dehydration include:
The symptoms of fatigue and headache are common complaints, and most individuals don’t attribute them to dehydration. One study found that dehydration can also affect the ability to think.
One way to learn if you’re dehydrated is by looking at your urine. If you notice that you have not been urinating frequently, that could be a sign you’re dehydrated. Your urine color should be pale yellow to clear, but when you are lacking hydration, the urine is dark yellow and cloudy. This is a great way to self-check during the day to see if you might be dehydrated.
Follow these simple steps to make sure you’re well hydrated this summer.
1. Drink Plenty of Fluids
First and foremost, drink water consistently throughout the day. Drinking water consistently is important, but how much water is actually required? The Institute of Medicine recommends 3.7 liters per day for men 19 years and older, and 2.2 liters per day for women 19 and older (things like your weight, and the climate and weather may affect these averages—check with your healthcare professional for personal recommendations).
The majority of your fluids should come from beverages, but you can also get hydration and electrolytes from food. Foods that are water-rich—like cucumbers (96.7 grams water/100 grams cucumber), watermelon (140.8 grams/cup), and romaine lettuce (44.5 grams/cup)—are excellent additions to your diet. Remember that hydration doesn’t come from just water alone.
2. Consume Electrolytes
Consume plenty of electrolytes since they are the key to absorbing water you drink. Unfortunately, there is not one simple recommendation for how much to consume each day as electrolytes are a category of minerals. The USDA is a good place to find individual daily mineral recommendations.
Products like Liquid I.V. are a convenient way to get adequate amounts of electrolytes. Liquid I.V., for example, is the equivalent to drinking 2–3 bottles of water! So if you find yourself struggling to drink enough water throughout the day, add an electrolyte drink mix like Liquid I.V.’s Hydration Multiplier. It combines sodium, potassium, and glucose to deliver water directly into your bloodstream faster and more efficiently than water alone. Without electrolytes, water can pass through your digestive system without being absorbed.
3. Get Ahead of Dehydration
You also have to pay attention to things that dehydrate the body. Simple bodily functions like urination, sweating, bowel movements, and even breathing cause the body to lose water. Beverages that have alcohol can also lead to dehydration. According to the Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, dehydration is a short-term result of drinking alcohol. Be sure to replenish your electrolytes to maintain hydration levels. (Note: Research shows that drinking moderate amounts of coffee does not lead to dehydration.) Also, after exercising, drinking water with added electrolytes (like Liquid I.V.) is helpful in maintaining hydration.
Hydration is complex. Moving forward, don’t just focus on gulping down as much water as you can, but be sure you’re consuming electrolytes as well.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.