Article at a Glance:
- Even health-conscious folks make subtle mistakes that lead to less-than-optimal hydration.
- One-size-fits-all hydration recommendations don’t work because of individual factors that influence hydration, like your activity level, diet, and how much you sweat.
- Your body needs hydration before, during, and after workouts, as well as throughout the day.
- It is possible (and dangerous) to drink too much water.
- You need to balance your water intake with plenty of electrolytes.
After all the meal prepping, workout planning, and supplement managing you probably do on the reg, staying hydrated seems like the simplest part of the health equation. All you have to do is keep your big, reusable water bottle handy, sip on it all day, and you’re good to go.
But even though staying hydrated isn’t as hard as, say, figuring out whether you’re getting the healthiest ratio of omega fatty acids in your fish oil supplement or as time-consuming as chopping up a week’s worth of veggies and dividing them into little Tupperware containers, it still requires more thought and planning than a lot of us (even us health-conscious folks) put into it. As a result, we end up making subtle mistakes that lead to less-than-optimal hydration.
Part of the reason we make these mistakes is that we don’t fully understand how the whole hydration thing works. So, we interrupt this blog post for a super quick hydration science lesson (it will be just as fun as an episode of Bill Nye, we promise).
The Science-y Side of Hydration
Let’s jump right into this science stuff and take a look at hydration on a cellular level…
Around two-thirds of the water in your body is inside your cells (intercellular). The rest is outside your cells (extracellular). The extracellular stuff is located in your blood and in the tissues between your cells.
Your body’s water is stored in intercellular and extracellular compartments. Each compartment not only contains water but our all-time favorite natural compound salt too (we run a salt company, after all). You usually have an equal balance of salt in intracellular and extracellular compartments, except when you’re dehydrated. When you’re dehydrated, salt decreases or increases in one of the compartments. This causes a change in pressure that triggers a shift in water from one compartment to another.
When the body doesn’t have enough water, for example, the extracellular compartment takes water from the intercellular compartment, which causes cells to shrink worse than that wool sweater you accidentally threw into the dryer. This gets detected by two brain sensors, which make you feel so thirsty you’d do anything for an ice-cold Evian. When the body has too much water, more water enters the intracellular compartment causing cells to swell. This triggers reactions in the brain (to drink less water) and kidneys (to get rid of more).
In other words? Your body is a finely-tuned machine that’s trying it’s best to keep you perfectly hydrated. But there are things you do that throw a hitch in your body’s plan for ultimate hydration. Here are the four hydration mistakes you could be making even if you’re living a clean and healthy lifestyle:
#1- Following one-size-fits-all hydration guidelines
Somewhere along the way you probably heard that you should drink eight cups of water per day. Eight cups isn’t a bad amount of water to drink per day. It may even be the right amount of water for you. Or it may not. It’s hard to say without knowing you personally, because there are so many factors that impact how much water your body needs…like how much you exercise, whether you drink diuretic beverages like coffee or alcohol, your diet, whether you’re pregnant or nursing, the temperature where you live, how much you sweat, even how much mental energy you’re using (your brain needs water too).
Basically, optimal hydration is a puzzle with a lot of pieces. But here’s some simple advice that should help those pieces fit together as beautifully as that Thomas Kinkade puzzle your grandma has framed on her wall:
- Think about thirst. Like we mentioned earlier, your brain has sensors that make you feel thirsty when the water and sodium levels in your body start to get low. So, thirst can be a good way to gauge hydration. Letting thirst guide water intake works best for sedentary folks, though. Once you throw vigorous exercise and heavy sweating into the mix, the hydration equation gets more complicated. And since, you’re a health nut, I’m guessing sedentary living isn’t your style. So…
- Pay attention to pee. Paying attention to your pee is another way to evaluate your hydration levels. If your pee is colorless or light yellow, you’re probably well hydrated. If it’s dark yellow, start swigging because that’s a sign you’re dehydrated. But you’ll also want to…
- Hang on to that water weight. A lot of us think it’s a win if we weigh less after a workout, but that’s all water weight you lost. Your goal should be to weigh the same (or slightly less) after your workout as you do before your workout. If you lose more than 2 percent of your bodyweight during a workout, it means you haven’t re-hydrated well enough. If you weigh more, you may be drinking too much water (more on that below). You can also weigh yourself every morning to see how well-hydrated you’re staying from day to day.
So, to sum this whole hydration formula up, if you want to stay hydrated, ask yourself three questions every morning:
- Am I thirsty?
- Is my urine dark yellow?
- Did I lose a pound or more since yesterday?
If you answer yes to any of those questions, grab that water bottle.
#2- Drinking all your water after your workout or at the end of your day
Let’s say you’re 15 minutes into your 45-minute boot camp class. You slept past your alarm, so you pretty much tumbled out of bed, threw on a T-shirt and yoga pants and ran out the door without so much as taking a sip. You have a full water bottle ready and waiting for you after class, but your mouth already feels as dry as a pile of fall leaves, which means those thirst sensors are kicking in. The next stop is dehydration station.
That’s because, by the time you start feeling thirsty during a workout, you’re already one to two percent dehydrated. And as you keep working and sweating, you get even more dehydrated (and you probably don’t have a ton of time for water breaks while your instructor Ken is barking at you to get deeper into that kettle bell sumo squat).
That’s why you don’t want to wait until after your workout to drink all your water. You want to drink water before your workout to get one step ahead of dehydration. And depending how hard you’re working and how much you sweat, stop a few times during your workout for a water break too (Ken will just have to deal with it). And hey, added bonus….staying hydrated before and during your workout will improve your endurance.
But even if you’re not heading to butt-kicking boot camp classes, it’s a good idea to space your water intake out rather than drinking it all at the end of the day. Why? Because mild dehydration can mess with your concentration, energy levels, and mood all day long. Plus, drinking too much water at one time is harder for your kidneys to process. It can even have serious consequences on your health (see below).
#3- Drinking too much water
Did you know that drinking too much water throughout the day (or too much water all at once, like after a workout) is just as bad for you as drinking too little water? Your kidneys can only filter out so much water at a time. Drinking more than your kidneys can handle can trigger a condition called hyponatremia, where your sodium levels get dangerously low. This causes your cells to swell and can lead to a variety of symptoms ranging from headaches and fatigue to seizures and coma. It’s serious stuff. So, you’ll never want to guzzle a gallon of water at the end of the day to make up for the water you forgot to drink earlier. You can also weigh yourself after workouts or in the morning to see how much water weight you’re gaining or losing. You’ll want to make sure you replenish electrolytes like sodium by drinking more than just water too (more on that next).
#4- Only drinking water
If you’re into healthy living, water is probably your beverage of choice whether you’re at a restaurant, typing away at the keyboard, or heading out on the trail for a power walk. But you can’t rely solely on water if you want to stay hydrated and healthy. Hyponatremia, the dangerous condition we mentioned before, only becomes an issue when you’re drinking tons of water and not increasing your electrolyte intake. It’s also aggravated by excessive sweating from heat or exercise, which depletes your body’s electrolyte supply even more (here are some helpful tips for replenishing your electrolytes after exercise). All this means, if you’re only drinking water, you’re not as hydrated as you could be, particularly if you’re exercising regularly (which us health nuts have been known to do).
Now, many healthcare and fitness professionals of the non-health nut variety will tell you to drink sports drinks to keep your electrolyte levels up, especially if you’re doing serious work outs. But we know you better than that, because we’re two peas in an organic, non-GMO pod. You don’t want added sugar, blue 1, and artificial flavoring in your drinks. We don’t either, which is why we made Re-Lyte Hydration.
Re-Lyte Hydration is an electrolyte mix that keeps you healthy and hydrated without any of the junk— no added dextrose (there is less than 1g naturally occurring sugar from coconut water powder), artificial colors, or chemicals. Most electrolyte mixes don’t contain enough sodium to restore what you lose during a vigorous workout. But Re-Lyte contains two times more sodium than other electrolyte products, along with an optimized blend of other electrolytes to keep your water and electrolyte levels in perfect balance.
Ready to take healthy hydration to the next level? Give Re-Lyte Hydration a try.
- Drink Up!: The Science of Hydration— ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal.
- Water, Hydration and Health— Nutrition Reviews.
- What Happens to Your Cells When You Are Dehydrated?— Sciencing.com
- Water: How much should you drink every day?— Mayo Clinic.
- Hyponatremia— Mayo Clinic.
- Is There a Best Time to Drink Water?— Healthline.