The Truth About Hydrating
There are a lot of different ideas thrown around when it comes to getting and staying hydrated, many of them straight from the mouth of product advertisers. So how do you sort through all the different ideas that are thrown around about different hydrating products and know what you really need besides that glass of water? One way to think about it is to break it down by your physical activity level.
When you are not working out or engaging in anything particularly extraneous in a day, you can probably get by with your average water intake. There’s no need to throw a sugar laden sports drink into the mix when you’re not burning a ton of calories or losing electrolytes at a rapid speed. The average suggestion for water intake is about eight glasses a day, but that can be a little arbitrary and does not hold for everyone.
Most people who are generally healthy meet their water requirements just by responding to their normal thirst levels. To be sure, you can check your urine color and make sure it’s more on the clear to yellow side than anything else. It doesn’t have to be completely clear, but dark is not ideal.
If you’re out shopping, sweating at the beach, or doing yard work most of the day, you might be able to benefit from a little extra electrolyte action but you still probably don’t need a sports drink. Instead try bringing along a dose of electrolytes that dissolve into your water bottle to give you a little extra bump without the excess calories.
While drinking caffeine is thought to be a diuretic, it might not be when it is followed with some mild exercise. When you get up and move the body some of the blood flows away from the kidneys and into the muscles, and there might not be a change to the amount you urinate at all.
When you are really working out and sweating at significantly high levels, then hydrating should be on the mind. Low calorie sports drinks or coconut waters can be a good choice, since they both provide a good balance of liquid, electrolytes, and a little bit of carbohydrates to boost up your energy levels. You don’t want to overdo it with the calories from sports drinks or other electrolyte drinks however, because it can cause your body to go into digestion mode. When your body is trying to digest it will pull water from the blood to aid in digestion.
When you drink alcohol it directly dehydrates the body so keeping up with your water intake is going to be ideal. When you dehydrate the body you might start craving salt, which is actually because you need it. When you lose water in the body you also lose salt. This doesn’t mean that you need to go crazy with the salty hangover snacks though, since if you over do it you will just end up dehydrating yourself some more. The amount of salt in a sports drink should be plenty.
While staying hydrated is important for your health in the long and short term, you can absolutely drink too much water. When you drink too much water you can dilute the sodium levels in the body too much and cause the condition symptomatic hyponatremia. It isn’t super common, but when it does happen it most commonly happens to marathon runners. The best way to prevent it, is to simply listen to your thirst levels.
About Kate Ferguson Kate Fergus is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer for a variety of blogs and online magazines. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce.