Are you feeling dehydrated during the day, or worse, during your training sessions? No matter how much water you seem to drink, you feel like your body's just not getting the memo. You up the ante by chugging down another litre and all you get is more trips to the bathroom.
What should you do?
Your cells need electrolytes:
Your body has a delicate electrolyte balance. When you drink too much water (or not enough), imbalance sets in and all kinds of havoc can ensue.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals in your body. They are found in your blood, urine and sweat.
You may recognise these:
Electrolytes are essential for vital processes in your body, including helping to keep your nerves and muscles working, and to maintain a water and acid-base balance in your system. When you start messing with fluid intake too much, these functions start to suffer.
Electrolytes are key for your hydration! If you're drinking tons of water but not replenishing electrolytes through means like eating fruits and veggies, your cells can't absorb water well. You might then think to simply drink more water, because you're thirstier (and more dehydrated!).
Signs you may be drinking too much water:
Clear pee + always needing to urinate: Did you know that clear pee is a sign you’re overdoing it? Water is great for you, but there can be too much of a good thing. If you’re needing to urinate over 8-10 times a day, or getting up more than once in the night to pee, it could be a sign of too much water.
Feeling tired or with headaches: An early symptom of overhydration, when the water-to-sodium ratio is compromised. You can feel fatigued, 'headache-y' and even a sense of brain fog. Nausea or muscle weakness can also result. Note that these can happen from not drinking enough water too, so tune in to your body to make sure you get the balance right! Harvard sports experts recommend being logical about drinking water, letting thirst be a guide. Instead of having your water all at once, take sips throughout the day so you get the most benefits.
Fluid retention: Drinking a whole litre of water at once can be hard for your body to process – though adequate fluids are essential for reducing water weight, if you go too hard, too soon, then you’ll feel like a water balloon!
Feeling a little ‘backed up’: Obviously, you need water for smooth digestion and to prevent constipation. However, if you do find yourself constipated for whatever reason, filling up with more and more water could be doing you a disservice. Your body needs to retain that delicate electrolyte balance that is needed for proper bowel movement. Potassium is a key electrolyte that is needed to help move things through. This is one of the reasons why prune juice is a common remedy for constipation!
When you take it to the extreme…
Symptoms can be vomiting, disorientation, seizures, unconsciousness or coma due to hyponatremia, excessively low sodium levels in the blood.
What to do?
Whether you're a seasoned athlete or a regular gym-goer, hydration is something you want to get right. Endurance athletes are at higher risk of overhydration, so if you love your marathons, hikes, ironmans, endurance cycling and an other endurance activities, you must pay extra attention to your electrolyte balance.
The most important way to ensure you're properly hydrated is to get your fruits and veggies in!
Food for hydration:
Aside from quenching that thirst with water, look to fill your diet with hydrating foods that are replenish electrolytes:
- Coconut water
- Sweet potato
- Leafy greens
These foods are great natural sports aids that contain energising macronutrients and electrolytes that keeps your body performing at its best.
Avoid: Heavy use of laxatives or diuretics. If you're dieting down for a bodybuilding competition and manipulating sodium and water to extremes, be extra careful!
For extra hydration support:
Look to a sports electrolyte formula, which you can find right here. Electrolytes are also lost during sweat, so if you’re going all out on those training sessions, you may want to pay special attention to replenishing your electrolytes.
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