Staying Hydrated – What’s the Big Deal?

Here at Fixed on Fitness, we get questions throughout the summer about hydration.  60% of the average adult human body is made up of water, so clearly, we can't say it's not important.  Staying hydrated is vital for your health, as hydration is necessary for brain function, digestion, muscle contraction, circulation, and many other bodily functions.  

At Fixed on Fitness, our workouts are held outside, so working out with a heat index of 110 degrees becomes the norm during summer.  Hydration seems so simple.  However, staying hydrated can be difficult when you combine heat and vigorous exercise.  You can find opinions on the best ways to stay hydrated all over the internet, and they vary from one expert to another.  Today, we want to share what has worked best in our experience of 10+ years of outdoor workouts throughout the summer in Florida.

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How Much?

How much should you be drinking to stay hydrated throughout the day?  Experts seem to disagree on exactly how much water we should be drinking each day.  People following conventional wisdom believe in the guidelines of at least 64 oz of water per day.  Others believe that our thirst is a better cue.  It's important to note that many of our hydration needs are met through foods (fruits and vegetables) if we are eating a Primal type of diet or real, nutrient dense foods.

If you are a casual exerciser, and most of your exercise is short in duration and done inside, you can likely get away with simply drinking when you are thirsty.  However, if you are exercising at a high intensity, especially outside, you can't always just drink when you are thirsty.  Your exercise performance can be influenced heavily if you are not properly hydrated.  We know that if you begin a workout even slightly dehydrated, that dehydration can carry over into your workout and even following the workout.  Dehydration is serious, and it is important to note the signs of dehydration: headache, dizziness, dark urine, dry mouth, dry skin, decreased urine output.  

If you are exercising on a regular basis, and much of that is done outside, it is important to consume fluids throughout the day.  We don't believe you should force a gallon of water down each day, but you do want to make sure you are drinking small amounts all day long.  When it comes to how much you should drink, it varies from person to person.  You will need to experiment and take into consideration the intensity level of your exercise, your environment (hot, humid), your experience in the heat, and your diet.  

Get off to a Good Start

Research has shown that we are chronically dehydrated in the morning.  Have you ever noticed that you typically weigh a little less when you first wake up?  Many people wake up weighing 1-2% less than the night before.  This is simply a loss of water.

For us, it has become a great practice to replenish that lost fluid as soon as possible upon waking.  Instead of running for the coffee pot (trust me, I used to sprint that way in the morning), reach for a glass of water first.  Josh has actually started drinking a morning mineral cocktail that was recommended by Aubrey Marcus in his book, Own The Day, Own Your Life.  It consists of 16 oz of water, 3/4 tsp of sea salt, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.  He shakes it well and consumes it as soon as he wakes up.  For me, I stick to about 10 oz of water first thing.  I'm working on adjusting my tastebuds to salt in my water, but I'm just not there yet.

Make a rule for yourself - water, or the morning mineral cocktail before you have anything else to drink in the morning.  Your body will thank you.

Electrolytes

When it comes to summer workouts, water just doesn't cut it.  While we are huge proponents of drinking water, sometimes the body requires more than water alone...enter, electrolytes.  So, what are electrolytes anyway?  Electrolytes are simply minerals that carry an electrical charge.  Seven of the major electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate.  These minerals each have a specific function, and they are key components when it comes to your exercise performance.

If you are performing an hour of an intense workout, a run, or even a FOF workout outside, we believe that electrolytes are a good idea for you.  Also, if you sweat more than the average Joe, electrolytes will help you stay hydrated and continue performing during your workout.  Finally, if you are following a keto diet, you NEED electrolytes.  Not only are electrolytes a good addition during a workout, they can also be consumed pre and post workout.

Salt

What's the big deal with salt?  Everyone thinks that we get plenty of salt with diet alone.  If you are following a Standard American Diet (SAD), and you are eating a lot of processed foods, you probably are getting plenty of salt through food alone. But, if you are following a Primal diet, or simply eating real food, you don't need to be afraid of salt.  Sodium is an important nutrient, as it helps transport water through the walls of your small intestine.  

Not all salt is created equal.  When at all possible, we replace regular table salt with sea salt.  According to Own The Day, Own Your Life, "Sea salt contains upward of sixty trace minerals above and beyond the sodium, chloride, and iodine in regular table salt, including phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromine, boron, zinc, iron, manganese, and copper."

We prefer the pink Himalayan salt.  We cook with it, Josh uses it for his morning drink, and I add it to my coffee.

So, What Should you Drink?

Obviously, you should be drinking water throughout the day...we already touched on that.  When it comes to exercise, and you need electrolytes, we have a few options that work for us.  For maximum water absorption, sodium and glucose / sucrose are necessary.  Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, recommends a solution of 16 oz of water, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of maple syrup during exercise.

Unfortunately, I can't swing the taste of water, salt, and syrup.  It just doesn't do it for me.  If it doesn't work for you, you are often left with sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, or even coconut water.  In our opinion, these drinks are not ideal.  They contain dyes, preservatives, and usually have way too much sugar (1 small container of coconut water contains 15g of sugar) .  If you take in a sugary drink and you combine it with exercise, you can often experience some not so pleasant side effects.  These drinks can sit in your stomach, and once they enter your digestive tract, the body draws stored water into the intestine to dilute them...yikes!  

We have been searching out a great electrolyte for years, and the best one we have found so far is called Ultima.  It is sweetened with stevia leaf extract, contains a good electrolyte balance, and it is colored with natural colorings such as beet juice.  It tastes great, and it is clean.  You can find it on Amazon as well as the Vitamin Shoppe.  Another option to consider are electrolyte tablets such as Salt Stick.  While these capsules do not contain all of the electrolytes, they are good for people that might have trouble with the taste of electrolyte mixes.

Final Thoughts

Proper hydration is a vital component of your health and wellness.  Always drink when you are thirsty, but don't feel like you should force yourself to drink.  If you will be exercising, it's a good idea to consume fluids before, during, and after exercise.  Electrolytes are extremely important for those that exercise for extended periods of time, at a high intensity, or in the heat.  Avoid engineered sports drinks if possible due to the added sugar, dyes, and preservatives.

Start your day with water, drink throughout the day, add electrolytes, and then experiment.  Ideal hydration will vary from person to person, so try a few different things, and see what works best for you.  Cheers!

Kenzie Presnell

Loving life, enjoying the ride, and trying to live life as healthy as I can.

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