If you're not properly hydrated an intense workout that leaves you sweating like crazy, can dehydrate you faster than you know.
In order to recover you'll need to rehydrate...fast.
But drinking plain water alone, won't do the trick.
In this article, we'll review the importance of adequate hydration and how to hydrate fast.
IMPORTANCE OF HYDRATION
Adequate hydration is fundamental to our overall wellness and fitness goals.
Actually, adequate hydration is essential to our survival as water carries important nutrients throughout our bodies that help every cell, tissue, and organ function properly. So much so that even mild dehydration can disrupt your system.
Certain medical conditions may affect your individual fluids needs, but hydration plays a role in all of our bodily functions.
Drinking enough fluids each day affects sleep quality, cognition, and mood, but it is absolutely crucial for many other reasons, including
- Regulating body temperature
- Preventing infections
- Keeping joints lubricated
- Controlling heart rate and blood pressure
- Maintaining healthy metabolism
Hydration plays a role in heart health, digestion, mental cognition, and even body weight.
A recent study showed a connection between hydration and body mass index (BMI), where an improved hydration status resulted in a lower BMI.
Because of water’s essential role in our day-to-day body function, we know that staying hydrated also plays a significant role in our fitness performance. Drinking enough water throughout the day helps build and maintain muscle by ensuring that we have adequate blood flow to bring necessary nutrients to our muscles for growth.
For your body to perform at its optimal performance level, in life and in workouts, it's essential that you stay hydrated by supplying it with enough water and adequate electrolytes.
WHY DEHYDRATION OCCURS...
Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluids than you consume, and it can occur as a result of many factors, including
- Sweat loss from spending a lot of time outside on a hot day
- Illness resulting in sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Inadequate water intake during pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Drinking diuretics such as caffeinated drinks or alcohol
- Sweat loss from intense exercise
Even if we stay hydrated through our regular day-to-day intake, we may deplete our body’s fluid levels during an intense workout. When we sweat, we not only lose fluids but we lose electrolytes as well. If we don’t replete those electrolytes, this is when we can see dehydration occur.
The electrolytes we lose when we sweat are critical for cell communication and muscle contraction. Therefore, when we experience an electrolyte imbalance, the body cannot operate properly.
It’s important to drink water daily, but how much water is enough?
We’ve long been told we should drink eight glasses of water each day, but there’s actually not much research to back up that claim. In fact, we all have individual hydration needs based on lifestyle, physical activity, and pre-existing medical conditions.
There are a few ways to gauge your hydration needs. Of course, if you feel thirsty, you may already be experiencing some level of dehydration. You can also monitor your urine color, knowing the darker the color is, the less hydrated you are. A clear or light yellow color indicates that you are well-hydrated, while a dark yellow or brown color indicates dehydration.
You may also notice a loss in body weight after a heavy sweat session. This indicates fluid loss, which can result in dehydration.
It’s important to monitor for symptoms of dehydration, such as
- Dry mouth
- Mental confusion
- Muscle cramps
- Dry skin
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling dizzy
Dehydration can become a very serious concern if left untreated. Drinking water throughout the day is the first step on the journey to maintain hydration, but rehydrating after a workout may require a bit more.
HOW TO HYDRATE FAST
Drinking plain water will treat dehydration over time, but in order to rehydrate quickly after a hard-hitting workout, you need to replenish your lost electrolytes.
Interestingly enough, f you are feeling dehydrated or showing signs of dehydration after a workout, drinking excess amounts of water can work against your hydration status when you need to hydrate fast. Too much water can flush your system and cause low sodium, otherwise known as hyponatremia.
Certain foods like fresh fruits and vegetables have a high water content that can give an extra boost to your fluid intake. However, like water, they do not offer quick hydration.
To rehydrate fast, it is important to drink the right fluids at the right time. Rehydration drinks, sports drinks, and other oral rehydration solutions can be very effective ways to get hydrated quickly.
Thankfully, research continues to improve our understanding of our electrolyte needs. With a better understanding of electrolyte balance, oral rehydration is more accessible now than ever. Electrolyte replacements can be mixed directly in your water bottles to drink before, during, or after a workout, allowing you to plan ahead and go to the gym prepared.
Hydrating fast can be crucial to an effective recovery after a tough, sweat-drenched workout. Replenishing lost electrolytes keeps your body moving and gets you ready for your next gym session.
ELECTROLYTE BALANCE AND HYDRATION
During times of increased sweating, it’s important to pay attention to your electrolyte and fluid intake. Electrolytes are naturally occurring chemicals in your body’s fluids, but when they become depleted, you are at risk of suffering from severe dehydration.
These important electrolytes include chlorine, potassium, sodium, calcium, and phosphate, and they each play an essential role in normal body functions and athletic performance. Your body relies on these electrolytes to survive and train at peak performance.
Research has shown that even a 2% loss of fluids can negatively impact your performance level, so it’s important to start your workout well-hydrated and replace any lost electrolytes once your training is complete.
If you have low levels of electrolytes, you may feel dizzy, have mental confusion, experience muscle cramping, or have an irregular heartbeat. Certain foods and beverages like coconut water, bananas, oranges, strawberries, and others can help replace electrolytes. However, oral rehydration solutions are designed with electrolyte replacement in mind.
Sports drinks and other electrolyte replacement products combat dehydration by replenishing electrolytes and helping the body retain more fluids.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF MILD DEHYDRATION?
Dehydration occurs when you consume fewer fluids than your body excretes. Some ways mild dehydration can occur from an acute illness, sweating while outside on a hot day, or even from sweating during a workout. Signs and symptoms of mild dehydration include
- Dry mouth
- Bad breath
- Muscle cramps
- Dark yellow urine
- Dry skin
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF SEVERE DEHYDRATION?
Severe cases of dehydration can result from excessive fluid loss during a workout, prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, or other body disruptions. Signs and symptoms that you may be severely dehydrated include
- Very dry skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling dizzy or fainting
- Very dark-colored urine
WHAT IS AN ORAL REHYDRATION SOLUTION?
An oral rehydration solution is a beverage made of water, sugar, and electrolytes (specifically sodium and potassium). In times of moderate dehydration, an ORS can be a very effective tool to rehydrate efficiently.
The sodium and glucose combination in an oral rehydration solution maximizes water absorption in the gastrointestinal tract by acting as carrier proteins in the intestinal cells and helping move substances across membranes.
Skim milk is a common grocery store food that compares to oral rehydration solutions to maintain hydration. However, oral rehydration solutions, such as sports drinks, are more effective when the aim is to treat dehydration.
DOES DRINKING WATER HAVE THE SAME BENEFITS AS DRINKING ELECTROLYTES?
Drinking enough water throughout the day is important, but plain water may not cut if you’re showing signs of dehydration after a workout. In order to rehydrate quickly, it’s important to replete the electrolytes you lost through your sweat. Electrolyte replacement can come in many forms, including certain fresh fruits and vegetables, coconut water, skim milk, or an oral rehydration solution.
If you’re looking to hydrate fast, it’s important to include electrolytes in your hydration choice. An adequate electrolyte balance helps the body retain more fluids through the gastrointestinal tract and meet the body’s fluid needs more quickly.
In short, keep drinking water, but remember that your body has increased needs after a significant sweat, and they can only be met through electrolyte replacement.
Staying hydrated is extremely important to the body and its performance on all levels. Hydration plays a key role in cell communication and muscle contractions, meaning it is essential to our survival.
Your body is an incredible machine. Supplying it with the fluids and electrolytes it needs allows it to function correctly and enables you to meet or exceed your training goals. So, prioritizing fluid intake as part of your recovery is critical.
Hydrating fast after an intense workout helps you avoid severe dehydration. Drinking enough water is a great place to start, but including electrolytes in your recovery has been proven to help you rehydrate quickly. Options such as an oral rehydration solution can help you quickly hydrate by improving your body’s water absorption capabilities.
After a challenging workout, monitor your body for any symptoms of dehydration such as dry mouth, headache, muscle cramps, rapid heart rate, confusion, or dark urine. If you find that just drinking water isn’t helping you stay hydrated, consider incorporating an oral rehydration solution.
As always, it’s important to discuss your needs and any medical conditions with your healthcare provider before adding a new supplement to your routine.