Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hydration for Every Occasion (Part 2)

Water, Exercise and Electrolytes
We all know that exercising leads to sweating and heavy breathing, and as mentioned in our last article, this leads to higher fluid losses and needs. Sweat also leads to electrolyte losses, which is why your skin tastes salty after a workout. “Electrolytes” usually include potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. Companies selling expensive sports drinks such as Gatorade, VitaminWater or coconut water target athletes to use their products before, during and after a workout to replenish their precious electrolyte stores. Are they actually necessary? It all depends on the intensity and length of the workout. Gatorade was originally created for football players that had trained twice a day in the Florida heat (Florida Gaiters… Gater-Aid… Gaterade). This is quite different from a 1-hour workout session done in a climate-controlled gym, isn’t it?

Indeed, these sports drinks were designed for athletes undergoing intensive training, while most of their consumers do not fit in this category. That is where the main problem lies, because these products are filled with sugar and sodium. The sugar is added for taste and for rapid-acting energy, but there is way more “energy” in there that one might need. There is roughly as much sugar in a Gatorade bottle as there is in a Coca-Cola can. Not to mention all the extra unnecessary sodium that you are getting and the intense petroleum-derived dyes linked to hyperactivity in children (as if the sugar wasn't enough).

1-Hour Rule of Thumb
A common rule of thumb is that if a high-intensity workout lasts for less than an hour, electrolyte replenishment is not necessary. In these cases, good old water does the trick. The only exception to this rule is if the physical activity is being done in a particularly warm environment. For example, after a session of hot yoga, your fluid losses will be far greater and proper hydration and electrolyte replacement can be necessary.

If your workout lasts longer than an hour, you might want to replace the lost electrolytes. However, this does not necessarily equate to downing a big bottle of Gatorade with 30g of sugar! The American College of Sport Medicine explains that the electrolytes lost can be replenished at the next meal consumed post-workout. This means that all you need to do is make sure that you include food items that have these electrolytes.

Where to Find These Electrolytes
Here are some food items that you can include in your post-workout meal:

Sodium: Found in salty foods. Note that on average, we eat enough and even excess amounts of salt, so don’t overdo it on the salt.
Chloride: Found in salty foods (see above), the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts), tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, lettuce, celery.
Potassium: Found in fruits and veggies (squash, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, watermelon, spinach, beets).
Magnesium: Found in dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, whole grains.
Calcium: Found in dairy products and dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, almonds.

Homemade Electrolyte Drink Recipe
While sports drinks can be a tasty way to stay hydrated, it’s best to not overuse them. Instead of breaking the bank on expensive sports drinks saturated with sugar, you can also make some yourself right at home for pennies! Here are two recipes for you to try!


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hydration for Every Occasion (Part 1)

Did you know that 55-65% of your body is water? Babies and children are usually around 65%, adult men at around 60%, and women at 55%. Every cell in our body relies on water to function properly. Adequate amounts of water are needed for proper skin health, kidney function, liver detox, body temperature regulation, proper digestion, physical performance, mental performance and basically any bodily performance. This is why only a 2% loss of total body water is already considered dehydration (1% of body mass). This may lead to headaches, fatigue, dry lips, thirst, irritability and even hunger signals as your body will try to obtain water from food items. At 10% water loss, your body will experience severe physical and mental deterioration. Needless to say that water is crucial to our survival.

How Much Do We Need?
Each person needs a different amount of fluids. We often set the guideline of 6 to 8 cups per day (1.5-2 liters), and Dietitians of Canada even says 2-3L per day, which aren’t bad guidelines, in my opinion. Another way of calculating it is to have approximately 30ml per kilogram of body weight. For example, if a person weighs 60kg, they would need 60x30 = 1800ml (1.8L) or water per day. However, our needs are constantly changing, so it is possible that you might need more than that depending on your daily activities. If you are sitting all day in a climate-controlled office at the computer, you will surely need less fluids than if you are fixing a roof in the blazing sun all day.

Our body loses water through urine, sweat and breathing. Does the last one surprise you? Our breath is heavy with evaporated water, which is what makes us able to see our breath outside when it’s cold. A simple trick to see if you are dehydrated is to check the color of your urine. If it is as dark as apple juice, I would recommend going to drink a big glass of water! If you are in a condition that will lead to a lot of sweating and heavy breathing such as hiking, for example, I would also recommend drinking a lot of water!

Don’t be too worried, what I spoke about above is the amount of FLUIDS that you need in a day. This doesn’t need to directly translate to water. Daily fluids include soups, juices (although not recommended because they’re full of sugar), tea and other liquids. There are also fluids in food items, but it becomes difficult to approximate and are usually excluded from fluid totals.

Tips and Tricks
Let’s face the facts: drinking 8 cups of water in a day can be hard. And boring. I personally know that I am dehydrated when water suddenly tastes delicious; but at that point, it’s too late. Here are a few tricks to make drinking water more interesting:

Ø  Carry a water bottle with you at all times. You’ll be more prone to taking sips throughout the day if it’s easily accessible. If investing in a cute water bottle that you love does the trick, then do that!
Ø  Don’t be afraid of tap water.
Ø  Keep your water cold with ice cubes or freezing half the bottle and adding water the next morning so that you can have a refreshing drink.
Ø  Add freshly sliced lemons or oranges, mint leaves, basil, lavender or any other infusion of your liking.
Ø  Add a drop or two of essential oils.
Ø  Add dried anise stars for a black licorice taste.

Stay tuned for next week’s article, Hydration Part 2: Water, Exercise and Electrolytes. We will be discussing the craze about Gatorade and coconut water at the gym.


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