With all of the commercials for sports drinks and constant talk about drinking enough water to stay hydrated, it seems like hydration is on everyone’s brain these days. While you may constantly be reminded that hydration is important, how many people actually know why it is important?
The reality is that maintaining proper hydration is critical in order for your body to function properly, but few people actually know what hydration is and why it matters.
Water and the Human Body
If you remember anything from high school biology, it’s probably one of two things: the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, and the human body is made up of about 60 percent water. In fact, you’ve probably heard the water statistic a thousand times, since it is one of the reasons why we’re told that hydration is so important.
Water is found in every cell in the body, which means it is part of all of the tissues, organs, and body systems that we need to function on a daily basis, feel our best, and thrive.
Different body parts are composed of different percentages of water; the brain and heart are about 73 percent water, the lungs are about 83 percent water, the skin is 64 percent water, muscles and kidneys are about 79 percent water, and even the bones are 31 percent water.
Clearly, water is an important component of the body, which means that proper hydration is critical to functioning properly.
Why Water is So Critical to Our Day to Day Function
With water making up such a large part of the human body, it is clear that it is critical to our daily function, but what does our body actually do with all of that water?
Water plays a role in a seemingly endless number of different functions in the body, including:
- Acting as a building material for each and every cell
- Forming saliva as part of the digestive process
- Allowing the cells of the body to grow, reproduce, and survive
- Breaking down food into the components needed for survival as part of the digestive process
- Helping to deliver oxygen to different parts of the body
- Lubricating the joints
- Flushing waste from the body, primarily via the urine
- Acting as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord
- Regulating body temperature through sweating and respiration
- Helping the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters
As you can see, the body relies on water to carry out a huge variety of different functions. Without proper hydration, not only are we unable to thrive, we struggle to survive. In fact, humans die from dehydration after about three days of no water, but can live without food for weeks.
Hydration Keeps Us Thriving
It’s clear that hydration is important for our survival, but being properly hydrated means that you can thrive, feel your best, and perform at your peak.
What exactly is hydration?
Hydration is the process of replacing water that your body loses through sweat, urine, blood, and carrying out daily functions. However, there is more to hydration than just drinking enough water.
Another key component of hydration is maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes.
You’ve probably heard about electrolytes in passing, but you may not have a clear understanding of what they are and what functions they perform. Electrolytes are minerals in the body that carry a positive or negative charge and conduct electricity when dissolved in water. These minerals play a critical role in maintaining proper function of the body and are primarily found in your sweat, blood, and urine.
Electrolytes play a key role in performing a number of different functions in the body, including maintaining the proper balance of fluids in the body, maintaining proper muscle function, maintaining proper nervous system function, and balancing internal pH levels.
There are seven different electrolytes found in the human body, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate.
Dehydration: Not Getting Enough of What We Need
The phrase “dehydrated” gets thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean to hit the different stages of being dehydrated?
In short, dehydration is a condition that occurs when the body does not have enough of the fluids it needs to sufficiently perform essential functions and tasks.
The body excretes fluids and electrolytes through urine, sweat, vomit, and diarrhea, and dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in or when the electrolytes in the body become unbalanced. However, dehydration occurs on a spectrum, and mild dehydration is much different than severe dehydration.
Mild to Moderate Dehydration
When most people experience dehydration, they have mild to moderate symptoms. It’s estimated that approximately 75 percent of people in the United States are considered chronically dehydrated, which means that the vast majority of Americans are not taking in enough fluids and may not be consuming enough electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
Even in a mild form, dehydration can cause uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with your day.
Some common symptoms associated with mild to moderate dehydration include:
- Dark yellow urine
- Dry mouth
- Diminished urine input
Did you notice how many of those symptoms are common feelings or experiences that many of us live with every day? Many people experience daily headaches or regularly feel more tired than they should, or they experience lightheadedness when standing up too quickly.
If you find yourself with a headache, consider how much water you’ve had to drink that day. You might be surprised to find that catching up on your fluid consumption can relieve the symptoms of a dehydration headache in a few short hours. If you suddenly realize that your urine is a dark yellow or you haven’t gone to the bathroom all day, make it a point to drink more water. Similarly, daily feelings of fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, or dry mouth can be signs of chronic dehydration.
Although mild to moderate dehydration is very common, severe dehydration is much more difficult to treat and can be dangerous and even fatal.
Severe dehydration is most likely to occur when you get sick, usually as a result of vomiting, diarrhea, or sweating. It also commonly occurs when you perform strenuous activities in the heat, such as going for a long run on a hot and humid summer day or working outdoors on a hot day without properly replacing fluids and electrolytes.
People who experience any of the following signs and symptoms of severe dehydration should seek medical attention:
- Feeling very tired
- Being too sick from nausea or vomiting to take in fluids
- Not urinating for eight or more hours
- Feeling dizzy upon standing
- Having a weak or rapid pulse
- Having a seizure
- Feeling confused or disoriented
Without treatment, severe dehydration can cause serious complications that can cause permanent damage, and it can even be fatal. It’s critical to receive treatment for dehydration when it occurs, but the best way to avoid the complications of severe dehydration is to prevent dehydration from occurring in the first place by taking in enough fluids and electrolytes.
Complications of severe dehydration include:
- Drop in blood pressure
- Sunken eyes
- Quickening heart rate
- Reduced elasticity of the skin
Rehydrating after severe dehydration isn’t as simple as drinking a bunch of water. Severe dehydration must be treated by a medical professional because rehydration must be done properly in order to avoid any further damage or medical issues.
Trying to rehydrate too quickly, or with the wrong fluids or without sufficient electrolytes, can cause the body to go into shock. Therefore, people must seek out medical treatment when suffering from severe dehydration rather than trying to rehydrate on their own.
Electrolytes and Staying Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water isn’t enough on its own to keep your body hydrated; replacing electrolytes is also important. Electrolytes are essential in order to maintain proper hydration because they direct water to the areas of the body that need it most, such as the digestive tract when you’re trying to digest your last meal or your muscles when you’re playing sports.
Electrolytes work within the cells to maintain the proper balance of fluids in the cells themselves, which allows the cells to function properly.
Electrolytes are important for even the most mundane of tasks in the body, but they are even more critical when you’re healing from surgery, recovering from a tough workout, or trying to fight off the effects of a hangover.
You might be wondering why there’s so much fuss about electrolytes and sports drinks now. After all, didn’t humans live without electrolyte supplements for thousands upon thousands of years?
They absolutely did, but that’s because humans were once able to get all of the electrolytes that we need to function straight from natural sources of water, like springs and rivers. Water naturally contains all of the electrolytes that our bodies need, but today’s water is purified to the point of removing all of those important minerals.
As a result, the water that comes out of your faucet or a bottle is majorly lacking in electrolytes and won’t give you everything you need to feel your best and combat dehydration.
That’s where electrolyte supplements come in.
The Electrolytes You Should Know About
As previously established, there are seven different electrolytes in the human body, each of which plays a unique role in maintaining proper bodily function and regulating the balance of fluids in the body. Each electrolyte, their specific role, and common nutritional sources are described below.
Sodium plays a critical role in maintaining the proper balance of fluids and is found in the body in large quantities. People need the right amount of sodium, as too much or too little of the electrolyte can be dangerous.
Sodium regulates the amount of water in the cells and ensures that muscles and nerves function properly, among other responsibilities.
Most sodium loss in the body comes from sweat and urine, but people can also lose sodium through vomiting or diarrhea. The kidneys play a critical role in regulating the proper amount of sodium to be expelled through the urine. Most people receive plenty of sodium from their diets because Western diets are heavy on processed foods and meats that contain a lot of sodium.
Most potassium, about 80 percent, can be found in the cells of the muscles in the body, while the remaining 20 percent of the body’s potassium is stored in the red blood cells, liver cells, and bone cells.
Potassium is critical in order for the muscles to properly contract, which is why the majority of the body’s stores of this electrolyte are found in the muscles.
Potassium also is needed in order to maintain the appropriate balance of fluids in the body as well as send and receive signals from the nerves properly. Although potassium is commonly found in foods like bananas, spinach, oranges, potatoes, and broccoli, nearly 98 percent of Americans do not receive adequate amounts of potassium through their diets. Potassium deficiency is most commonly caused by chronic diarrhea or chronic vomiting.
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 different cellular reactions in the body, including the regulation of fluids.
The body uses magnesium to regulate hydration, produce DNA, support healthy brain function, regulate muscle contractions, and maintain a healthy heartbeat.
When the body is deficient in magnesium, the cells of the muscles, heart, and brain can become overstimulated, which can result in permanent damage. An estimated two-thirds of people do not receive enough magnesium from their diets, but major sources of the electrolyte include leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Therefore, replacing magnesium with a supplement may be necessary to promote healthy body function.
Chloride plays several important roles in the body, including helping to regulate the amount of fluid both inside and outside of the cells in order to maintain a balance, regulating blood pressure, maintaining the proper pH of body fluids, and maintaining proper blood volume.
People who experience a chloride deficiency usually feel sick and dehydrated, while having too much chloride in the body usually means that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Most of the chloride in our bodies comes from consuming salt, which is a combination of sodium and chloride.
While nearly everyone knows that calcium is needed to support the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, few people realize that calcium is an important electrolyte.
The body needs calcium in order to properly circulate the blood, be able to move the muscles properly, and for the release of hormones. Additionally, the body uses calcium to help deliver messages between the brain and the body.
About 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, but the cells also contain a small amount of charged calcium. People receive calcium primarily from dairy products like milk and cheese, but it is also found in green leafy vegetables and fortified bread products.
Phosphate is a form of phosphorus. About 85 percent of the phosphate in the body is found in the bones and does not carry an electrical charge, but the remaining 15 percent is found in the cells and functions as an electrolyte.
The body uses phosphate to form strong bones and teeth and to produce energy, and it also serves as a building block for substances that the body uses to create energy, build cell membranes, and manufacture DNA.
Phosphate is commonly found in foods like cheese, chicken breast, lentils, and beef.
The body uses bicarbonate primarily to help maintain the proper pH balance in the body. Additionally, the mineral also works closely with other electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, and chloride, in order to maintain electrical neutrality within the cells.
If the body does not have the proper amount of bicarbonate, a pH imbalance can occur, which can result in potentially serious conditions such as acidosis or alkalosis, which can have serious health implications. The kidneys are responsible for regulating the concentration of bicarbonate in the blood. The best dietary sources of bicarbonate include bananas, potatoes, and spinach.
Factors That Affect Hydration
Although anyone can suffer from dehydration, there are a number of factors that increase your risk of experiencing the condition. That’s why it is so important for everyone to pay attention to their fluid and electrolyte consumption, regardless of whether or not they are a competitive athlete. Factors that affect hydration include age, diet, lifestyle, and illness.
Although people of all ages can suffer from dehydration, infants and elderly people are the most susceptible to the condition.
This is because these two groups are the most likely to have difficulty taking in adequate amounts of fluids, particularly when they are not feeling well. Parents of very young children need to monitor their children’s fluid and electrolyte intake, particularly when they are sick.
You might think of electrolytes as something you primarily get from fluids, but your diet also plays a role in keeping you properly hydrated. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content, which helps keep you hydrated, but they’re also packed with naturally occurring electrolytes to help your body meet its daily needs.
If your diet consists of a lot of processed foods and not many fruits and vegetables, you’re at increased risk of experiencing dehydration without the help of an electrolyte supplement.
One of the most important factors affecting your hydration is your lifestyle. People who regularly engage in intense or prolonged exercise, particularly in heated environments like hot yoga, may be more susceptible to experiencing dehydration if they are not careful about replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. Similarly, people who work outdoors or in hot environments for their jobs, such as construction workers, are also more likely to experience dehydration.
However, just because you don’t exercise regularly or work outdoors doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk of dehydration, too. How many of us spend three to four hours at our desks during the day without taking a sip of water or getting a snack because we’re simply too busy to get up and get a glass of water?
Our busy lifestyles often interfere with our ability to listen to our body’s demands, which can lead to dehydration.
You might be surprised to know that illness is one of the biggest culprits affecting hydration.
When you’re sick and experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, you are rapidly losing fluids, usually faster than you can take them in.
The same can occur when you have a fever and are sweating profusely. Similarly, nausea and vomiting can cause people to avoid drinking fluids because they can’t keep them down and don’t want to vomit. Illness is one of the most common causes of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.
How to Stay Hydrated
Now that you know how important it is to stay hydrated, it’s time to delve into exactly how to do just that. Staying hydrated doesn’t necessarily mean chugging water all day long (in fact, that can be counterproductive), but there are a few tips that can help.
It’s clear that you need electrolytes in order to stay hydrated and feel and perform your best, but many people don’t receive the electrolytes they need from natural foods and drinks alone. This is particularly true for people who work out for extended periods of time or do intense workouts, those who are heavy or salty sweaters, people who work outdoors, those who are trying to recover from a hangover, or people who simply want to feel their best.
However, not all electrolyte supplements are created equally. Many are packed full of added sugars, calories, and carbohydrates that do nothing to improve your hydration and can even harm your efforts.
That’s where Total Hydration comes in.
Total Hydration offers electrolyte concentrates and electrolyte capsules with no added sugar, carbohydrate, or calories, and their products are specially formulated to meet your hydration needs.
Why carry around a big, bulky sports drink that is packed with junk you don’t need like sugar, artificial colors, carbs, and calories?
Electrolyte concentrates like DayLyte from Total Hydration replace the electrolytes you lose through tough workouts, time spent outdoors, or from a late night out, and it’s also suitable for vegans.
Your body will recover more quickly once the proper balance of electrolytes is restored, and your immune system will be better equipped to beat back viruses and other germs. You need just a few drops of Daylyte to mix into any water bottle, which means that you can say goodbye to carrying around bulky sports drinks. Daylyte contains no calories, sugar, or carbohydrates and is precisely formulated to deliver the electrolytes you need to perform your best.
What if someone told you that you could receive all of the electrolytes you need to feel and perform your best by taking a couple of capsules? With Enhanced Electrolyte Capsules from Total Hydration, it’s possible.
These capsules are specially formulated to contain the optimal amount of natural electrolytes to replace electrolytes lost during your daily activities, but they contain no sugar, calories, artificial ingredients, or sweeteners.
They’re lightweight and easy to carry, which makes them perfect for the endurance athlete on the go or anyone who wants the convenience of an electrolyte supplement right in the palm of their hand.
Finally, we have electrolyte powders, and you can almost consider these a hybrid of concentrates and capsules. Like concentrates, you can mix powders directly into your drink, and like capsules, the electrolytes are pre-measured into the perfect amount for what you need.
Most electrolyte powders are ready to add to your favorite beverages, such as your everyday water bottle or even your morning breakfast smoothie, and are either flavorless or are lightly flavored to blend perfectly into what you’re mixing them into.
A word to the wise -- electrolyte powders are often grouped in the grocery store with other ready-to-mix powders like powdered lemonade or powdered fruit punch, so always check to make sure you’re actually buying an electrolyte-specific powder and not just some extra sugar and coloring for your water!
Be More Mindful of Your Diet and Food Choices
Dehydration is preventable if you take the right steps to ensure that your body receives the fluids and electrolytes it needs to function properly. Being more mindful of your diet and food choices can go a long way towards giving your body the support it needs.
Choosing electrolyte- and nutrient-rich foods that support healthy hydration, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources will pack your body with the electrolytes and nutrients you need to carry out day to day activities, and choosing beverages like water, milk, and limited amounts of coffee and tea can also be helpful.
Additionally, it’s important to be mindful of the diuretics you may casually be consuming without even realizing it. Some people need to take diuretic medications for health reasons, but many of us consume more diuretics than we should in the form of excessive caffeine intake, such as drinking more than two to three cups of caffeinated coffee or several sodas each day. Reduce your caffeine consumption to less than 250 mg a day to prevent a dehydrating effect.
Make an Effort to Drink More Water Through Your Day
To prevent dehydration, you’ll likely have to make an effort to drink more water throughout your day. After all, 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, remember? If you’re one of the people who sits at your desk all day enveloped in your work and are moving only when you absolutely have to, you might not be getting enough water.
Some people simply don’t drink, even when they’re thirsty. There are many reasons why this occurs, but often, it’s a matter of being busy and not wanting to invest the time or energy in getting up to get a drink.
That’s why it’s so important to keep water within arm’s reach -- you’ll find that you drink more when there’s a drink readily available.
However, not all fluids are created equal, so make sure that you limit unhealthy sugary drinks like sodas and commercial sports drinks and substitute water or a no-sugar electrolyte supplement instead.
In fact, drinks that are high in sugar can actually have detrimental effects on your hydration, particularly when it comes to electrolyte levels. High levels of sugar in the blood, or high blood sugar, causes water to leave the cells, depleting sodium stores. The body begins to flush this fluid through the urine, which can cause other electrolytes, including potassium and chloride, to become unbalanced. You might be hurting your hydration level more than you help it.
Once you understand how important proper hydration is to a healthy body and lifestyle, it becomes clear how much the majority of Americans who are suffering from chronic dehydration have to gain if they improve their habits.
People who want to look, feel, and perform their best can make simple lifestyle changes, such as keeping a water bottle within arm’s reach at all times, to improve their hydration, but some people will need more.
For those who lead active lifestyles, are recovering from an illness, work outdoors, or simply want to feel their best, electrolyte supplements from Total Hydration can help keep your body running its best. When choosing an electrolyte supplement, make sure to opt for choices that leave out unnecessary added sugars, carbohydrates, and calories and stick to the natural options like Enhanced Electrolyte Capsules and DayLyte Electrolyte Concentrate for all of your electrolyte needs.