A Little Less Watered Down Look at HYDRATION

Let’s talk hydration.

It might seem like a simple thing, but simple and easy are never the same… 

There’s a lot more that goes into staying hydrated than just drinking water. Not only do you want to make sure you’re taking in the right stuff (water *ahem*), you want to make sure you’re not consuming things that will detract from your level of hydration. So let’s take a look at a few of these and how you can avoid falling into a trap.

First, let’s start with talking about the number one hidden killer of staying hydrated – sugar.

Refined sugars or one of the biggest killers of your hydration factor. In fact, your body processes sugar and alcohol very similarly in respect to your hydration levels. If you’ve ever eaten too many sugary treats you might notice you get a bit of a headache almost like you’re dehydrated. That’s because you probably are… This is one of the many reasons we want to cut out as much processed food as possible for your health and fitness goals.

Not only does it promote storing excess energy (a.k.a. body fat), it is also highly addictive and has been linked to many metabolic syndrome‘s as well as being damaging to your organs, effecting how your brain functions, increased joint pain, and a host of other health problems we literally don’t have time to get into.(it would take entirely too long unfortunately…)

On the list of things to limit/cut out would definitely be alcohol. Here, there is almost a double whammy of negative factors that come into play. First, your body processes alcohol much like sugar, except it burns alcohol first. It is the fastest thing to metabolize and spikes your blood insulin quickly, which is what makes your body want to store more fat. Second, it ravages the hormones in your body. Alcohol is a depressant and literally messes with the chemical balance in your brain(hence the phenomenon of “feeling drunk”) which can mess with your serotonin and cortisol levels leading to not only increased body fat, but lost muscle mass.

The best thing you can do when it comes to alcohol are to limit consumption to 7 or less drinks per week, don’t drink on an empty stomach, drink extra water with your “adult beverage”, stick with wine or beer. (I know, a guide on how to drink booze and stay healthy, who would have thought you’d ever see this from a fitness coach!)

Again, elimination would be the best course, but if I’m being honest, everyone deserves to enjoy a few beverages here and there. I’m a fan of trying new things, to drink for enjoyment of the beverage and not to alter my state of consciousness(i.e. getting drunk).

Next, let’s talk about electrolytes. It’s no secret that electrolytes help you stay hydrated, but did you know what they are? So let’s start with one of the more demonized electrolytes – sodium. Sodium is one of the biggest electrolytes to blame in weight gain… It’s the reason you’ll tend to retain water weight if you eat too many high sodium foods. While this is an important electrolyte to have, it’s also important to remember that there are other electrolytes that you want to have and help balance out the equation.

Magnesium is another electrolyte that most people don’t often think about. This is probably one of my favorite electrolytes because it is in the recovery process so thoroughly. If taken before bed as a supplement, magnesium can help relieve sore and achy muscles better than almost anything that I can think of. That’s the reason Epsom salt bath works so well, they’re mostly magnesium and the skin is great at absorbing it. Your body makes use of it in the recovery of your muscles in addition to the heat from the bath helping increase blood flow. It’s a win-win. (Although I wouldn’t recommend drinking the bathwater!)

Next, potassium. The favorite source of this for most people is bananas, but they’re not the best(or most plentiful) source necessarily. Coconut water is a great source of potassium and an excellent way to stay hydrated, especially if you’re out and about, getting organic coconut water is a great way to go. I definitely wouldn’t cheap out here though. There are some things you can get away with cutting cost on, but if you choose to include this in your hydration, don’t skimp.

Some less common electrolytes are bound to be calcium, bicarbonate, and chloride(I know, sounds like a bomb, right!). Not only are these important to have in addition to the more commonly talked about electrolytes, most people think that if it’s hard to pronounce or looks like a chemical name you shouldn’t eat it. While that’s mostly true, in this case it pays to be a bit educated on it. For example, I never knew calcium was an electrolyte until years after I was involved in training people full time(in martial arts). I actually though gatorade and Powerade were good hydration beverages, boy was I wrong!

Something else to consider when taking in electrolytes from these sources is what you’re mixing it with. Distilled water is not the best choice and can actually leach some of these minerals from your body. In fact, they call distilled water “dead water” in Japan and it’s not used to drink. Go instead for reverse osmosis water, it’s pushed through a membrane that filters out impurities instead of being vaporized and turned back into water leaving the minerals naturally in it behind. It’s a cool concept, but in practice it’s not the healthiest thing to do. (check out more on distilling and reverse osmosis)

Now that you are armed with a little more knowledge on how to stay hydrated you can start putting this to use in practice. It’s great to have the knowledge, but it’s even better to apply it, the results are much better 🙂 Happy drinking(water that is)

Yours in Strength,
Justin