Hydration is important for every single individual on the planet, athlete or not. Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, but not necessarily for athletes. The sports nutrition world puts a heavy stamp on drinks and powders but they're not all as clean and as beneficial as you may think. Many are pumped full of sugars, stimulants, and ingredients you cannot pronounce. If you're like most of us, drinking enough water through the day and staying hydrated might not be at the top of your priority list, regardless of how important science says it should be. So what are you to do to stay hydrated?
Dehydration & Your Body's Need For Water
You probably remember your grade school teacher telling you that your body is nearly 70% water, in addition to some blood, lymph, organs, and tissue. To put this in perspective, an individual who weighs 150lbs consists of some 105lbs of fluids (including blood, lymph, and cellular fluids). WOW!
Water doesn’t just take up space in the human body though – it provides a pathway for nutrients to be transported from one area to another. Another way to say that is: water plays a fundamental role in just about every cellular function of the body.
What Does Water Do For The Body?
Water in the body provides not only hydration but the lubrication needed for a multitude of functions. Water produces hydroelectric energy stored in the form of ATP (the energy your cells can use) to make energy. It also creates hydrolytic actions, signaling chemical reactions by decomposing substances and getting rid of waste.
The less water you consume, the thicker body fluids become, making it harder for biological processes to take place. The more water you consume; the more functionality your body derives to operate at a normal or higher pace. This is referred to as activating or inhibiting bodily functions.
Purification of the blood, by the kidneys, happens because of the pressure applied to the renal filter by the liquid carried there. Poor hydration = poor filtration (yes, this is a very bad thing). We like to call this elimination.
Water helps to thermoregulate the human body. When you work out, water evaporates on the skin (think sweat) cooling down the body. Without adequate water intake, your body cannot sweat efficiently, increasing temperature and places unnecessary stress on the organs.
Circulatory properties are also fueled by water and the quantity of water in the body. This function helps regulate blood pressure and how efficiently (or not efficiently) blood moves around.
Lastly, water exchanges take place between the inside/outside of cells as a result of the different fluid pressures applied to the cellular membranes. This is also referred to as osmosis.
Drinking more water and staying hydrated isn’t rocket science. Much like other healthful things we try to implement in our lives, staying hydrated doesn’t take too much effort, but it does require a conscious choice to make it happen until it becomes a habit.
Did you know that symptoms like lack of energy, poor mood, high and low blood pressure, high cholesterol, and premature aging are all factors of a chronic lack of water regulation in the body? Other symptoms of dehydration can be excessive thirst, chapped lips, fatigue, excessive sleep, dry skin, and dizziness.
How do you know if you're dehydrated?
Take a look at the ivory throne before you flush – what color is your tinkle? If it’s dark or a deep yellow, drink up buttercup! If it’s light, you’re doing good! If it’s somewhere in between, step it up.
Urine is a great visual indication of how you’re doing on your hydration meter. Observe the color, then reflect on your H2O intake for the day, and adjust accordingly. Simply put, your tinkle should look a lot like lemonade.
Can Dehydration Cause Harm?
Dehydration can occur quite quickly. Comparatively speaking, humans can go about six weeks without food, whereas we’re only able to go a few days without water. Past this, dehydration turns fatal. Serious problems can arise from not drinking enough water though, and dehydration can cause a lot of harm to the body, very quickly.
Take this scenario - say you’re working out three days a week, but you don’t have a very healthy diet, and you definitely don’t drink very much water (or any extra water) during the day. This is what will happen to your body: blood volume shrinks, surrendering water to the kidneys, sudoriferous glands, and other excretory organs to maintain the removal of toxins from the body.
By reducing your blood volume from a lack of water ingestion, you begin to lose consciousness and your cells lose the oxygen and nutrients they need.
So your body adjusts, again.
Water is taken from the cells, degrading their functionality. The blood continues to deteriorate, organ liquid supply is interrupted, interstitial fluid is thickened, and your cells literally give up.
Dehydration, whether mild, chronic, or severe, is no joking matter. The role of enzymes in the body is to perform all kinds of beautifully amazing functions, in an environment richly supplied with water. Your role is to supply your body with the fluids and nutrients it needs to do so. Why wouldn't you be drinking more water, if that's all that it takes?
Exercise and Dehydration
Ever wonder why you sweat when you workout? Intense periods of sweating and intense exercise will inherently increase the body’s water needs, as the body loses more water than normal. Muscles are about 75% water with the brain is about 83% water. Sweat allows wastes to leave the body while also regulating body temperature when it has risen due to physical exertion. Consequently, this also leads to the loss of water and can lead to dehydration in the body. Believe it or not, you can exert nearly 1 liter, or more, of sweat during an hour of intense exercise.
If you don’t drink enough water to make up for the loss, the liquid is no longer taken from the intestine, but from extracellular fluid (we talk about this a bit later). If intake still isn’t enough, it derives liquid from inside the cells (intracellular). When this happens over an over, dehydration sets in during our workouts. You have two options at this point - hydrate with water, or better yet, hydrate with BCAAs and Electrolytes.
We recommend this BCAA 2:1:1 because it has added electrolytes and glutamine for hydration and recovery.
Electrolytes for Hydration and Recovery
Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain alkaline pH and hydration, which are required to normalize pH balance following exercise, to help with faster muscle recovery. During exercise, alkalizing minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and bicarbonate) are utilized to help with normalizing muscle contraction and muscle function. Muscles require a substantial concentration of alkalizing minerals to function smoothly and maintain consistent blood flow. Without an adequate concentration of the proper alkalizing minerals, the inflammatory response of muscles can lead to a lack of recovery and increased pain and soreness. 1The last thing you want is to cramp during your training or competition. If I were you, I’d make sure to get an adequate amount of electrolytes, to recover faster and to stay hydrated better.
Why Don't I Feel Thirsty When I'm Dehydrated?
There are a couple reasons for not recognizing thirst. First, when you regularly refrain from drinking water, the sensation of thirst diminishes because the body realizes you don’t listen to it. Seriously! Dry mouth, constriction of the pharynx, and other indications of thirst aren’t recognized. Another way to say this – you build a tolerance to dehydration. While you may not feel thirsty, that doesn’t mean your subject to not receive the diminishing effects of dehydration elsewhere in the body.
Secondly, you may not feel thirsty because you've become so distant from your relationship with your body. Distinguishing between thirst and hunger is something that develops over time. Although the two are distinctly different, they’re sometimes commingled. This can lead to overeating and dehydration, both are big no-no’s in our book.
Next, we'll go over the two different types of thirst.
Two Types of Excessive Thirst
Excessive thirst is your body's way of sounding the alarms on dehydration. Thirst is a sign of dehydration, but we don’t always notice the other indications of dehydration before excessive levels. The sensation of your thirst is proportionate to your deficit. If you have chapped lips, you should probably drink a glass of water. If your kidneys are painful and your stool is extremely hard, chances are you're further along the dehydration spectrum than you think. Consequently, thirst disappears when you obtain hydration satiety. There are two main ways your body categorizes thirst when you become dehydrated: extracellular or intracellular thirst.
Or hypovolemic thirst if you want to get fancy with it, occurs when your blood volume and extracellular fluid becomes too low. Stick with me here – these are the fluids that guide toxins to the kidneys and the skin while also providing the body the ability to create urine and sweat. It’s a gradual loss of water and salt (sodium) resulting in a deficiency that cannot be corrected by simply drinking water for two reasons:
- Any liquid intake, no matter how much, is useless because the salt necessary to keep it there has been lost
- Consuming water only worsens the problem. The saline concentration of the blood and extracellular fluid has been greatly reduced.
Only the simultaneous consumption of salt and water is capable of remedying this situation. This type of dehydration can be incurred through excessive sweating by exercise or overheating in the sun for example.
Or osmotic thirst results from a deficiency of fluid in the cells. Cells naturally conserve as much water as possible. When we don’t get enough water from our diet and daily liquid intake, the body takes the liquid from our cells and delivers it elsewhere (digestive tract, muscles, etc.). This is done by the process of osmosis – transferring liquid out of the cells to restore the osmotic balance on the cellular membrane.
This is the type of dehydration that creates thirst satisfied by drinking water. This type of thirst can be quenched with unsalted water and promotes the transfer of toxins to the excretory organs. In other words, drink more water and supplement with electrolytes.
Balanced Hydration with Swolverine's BCAA Powder
During high-intensity exercise, alkalizing minerals or electrolytes are utilized to help normalize muscle contraction and function. Without an adequate supply of electrolytes, the inflammatory response of muscles can lead to a lack of recovery and increased pain and soreness. BCAAs delivers fast hydration with sodium, potassium and Vitamin B6, keeping you fueled with electrolytes throughout your workout. Purchase the powder here, available in Lemon Lime Flavor.