The Biggest Mistake You “Might” Be Making About Hydration
Earlier this year, I had a kidney stone. My second. Trust me, it’s not a fun thing to deal with. It’s obviously something I want to avoid in the future, but how? The doctor told me the easiest way to prevent future stones is to consistently drink water and other fluids to stay hydrated. I said great, I can do that! And thus, staying hydrated became my new goal for 2023.
That occurrence led me to wonder for health in general, what does hydration really look like? What is the overall importance of hydration? And what’s the best way to stay hydrated? The same answer applies to this as anything else in life… “It depends.” So let’s dive into various situations and contexts in which you might need to use based on your goals and activities for the day. You can also find some quick tips on our Instagram.
First, the importance of hydration. Everyone knows their doctor tells them to stay hydrated, but what’s the reason behind it? 55-60% of our entire body mass is water! Water is essential for the human body to function, including temperature regulation, digestion, lubricating joints, and cellular function. Electrolytes (such as Sodium, Calcium, and magnesium) are also important for bodily functions that include muscle function, blood acidity and pH, and rebuilding damaged tissue.
When to Drink Water
The truth is, we should be taking in water no matter what activity we are performing, even when we have a relatively sedentary day sitting at our desk and work. The average person should have an output of 2 liters of water per day. Since it is difficult to measure output, it is recommended by urologists to intake that amount.
Believe it or not, there is a best way to drink water throughout the day. Drinking water in large quantities in short bursts of time is not beneficial, while sipping on smaller amounts throughout the day allows the body to retain more water instead of overloading the kidneys. Another tip is to drink water with a snack or meal rather than on an empty stomach. “Drinking water with amino acids or fats or vitamins or minerals helps the body take up more of the water” states David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University.
For those wishing to stay optimally hydrated, a slow-and-steady approach to water consumption and coupling water with a little food is a more effective method than knocking back full glasses of H2O between meals.
When to Consume Sports Drinks/Supplements
Another and more recently researched aspect of hydration includes sports drinks and more specifically, electrolytes. Not only does the body perspire water, it also loses electrolytes throughout the day. Minerals that are lost include Sodium, Chloride, Magnesium, and Potassium. This causes an imbalance in blood pH as well as light-headedness, nausea, and headaches. If exercise is performed for too long of periods without replenishing electrolytes, more severe symptoms can occur. The amount of electrolytes needed to replenish depends on the amount and intensity of physical activity and exercise performed. It is best to consume small amounts periodically throughout exercise instead of large amounts at one time to ensure proper absorption.
Hydration is also important after exercise to return to its homeostatic state. This is best done by refueling with a snack that includes some combination of protein and carbs. Ingesting water along with amino acids, fats and minerals seems to help the body take up and retain more H2O—and therefore maintain better levels of hydration—which is especially important following exercise and periods of heavy perspiration.
This is not to say you can only intake electrolytes or sports drinks during a relatively sedentary day. There is never any one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness questions, so it’s always best to see a professional or seek advice from a healthcare practitioner. A deeper dive on electrolytes can be found on Allyson’s previous blog. Allyson is our dietician on staff and can answer any questions you may have!
As you can see, hydration is such an important part of how our body functions, all the way down to the cells and minerals they use. Proper hydration along with adequate fueling from foods and nutrients can improve performance with sports performance or even work throughout the day.
Thanks for reading,
Andrew Maddox PT, DPT
Originally interested in architecture, Andrew loves getting to know people personally and helping them achieve their goals through that engineering mentality of human movement. Andrew lives in Stone Mountain Village with his wife, Stephanie. They have 2 dogs: Chipper (Lab mix) and Benji (Corgi/Blue Heeler). They enjoy a long walk in the park, camping, sporting events, and visiting coffee shops in the Atlanta area. You can catch him running with the Dunwoody Road Runners group to combine his passion with creating community.