Drinking an adequate amount of water each day is absolutely essential to your health and wellbeing. Water helps regulate body temperature, delivers essential nutrients to cells, keeps organs functioning properly, helps prevent infections, and keeps joints lubricated. Maintaining proper hydration also affects your brain – it can improve your sleep quality, energy level, mood, and even mental sharpness.
While you may have heard the age-old recommendation of consuming eight glasses of water a day, recommendations should be slightly more customized than that, taking gender and activity level into account. There may not be a one-size-fits-all rule for water consumption, but The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is approximately 15 cups per day for men and 11 cups per day for women. These estimations will increase if you’re losing water through sweat from exercise, spending time in a hot environment, and even have certain genetic factors.
Electrolyte supplements for hydration
When it comes to hydrating your body, where do hydration supplements fit into the picture? If you are losing a significant amount of water through sweat either from exercise (especially if it exceeds an hour) or spending time in a hot environment, replacing electrolytes with a supplement is key. Electrolyte supplements are available in a few different forms, including pre-mixed sports drinks and tablets, each touting their own convenience factors based on your preferences. Since sweat and electrolyte loss can vary based on individual factors, consider trying a few different sports drinks or tablets to help replace electrolytes to see what works best for your body. Temperature, humidity, altitude, clothing, genetics, and training can all affect electrolyte loss so it pays to take the time to explore different options.
There are a few key components to take note of when selecting an electrolyte supplement. The best hydration drinks focus on replacing sodium and chloride, the major electrolytes lost in a sweaty exercise session. Check the label to make sure your drink of choice contains at least 200 to 250 mg of sodium per 12 ounces. You may also notice potassium as part of your supplement, which is important to replace as well, but is not needed in as high quantities as sodium so you may be able to get away with replacing losses of it with food. Calcium and magnesium are also typically included in most electrolyte drinks in lower quantities, as these help regulate muscle contractions and heart rhythm, maintain good bone health, and help muscles relax.
In addition to hitting an adequate amount of minerals, pay close attention to the amount of added sugar in your electrolyte replacement. With the most popular sports drinks on the market containing more than double the recommended amount of daily sugar, you’ll want to check out the label for this unnecessary ingredient. Although you need to replenish salt, your goal is not to add a bunch of empty calories in the form of added sugar to your diet. You should also steer clear of drinks, tablets, and powders with a long list of additives, which can negatively impact the passive absorption of water.
Salt tablets, or supplements strictly made up of sodium chloride, can also help replace low levels of salt in the body and are another way to maintain electrolyte levels after strenuous exercise. Due to their highly concentrated levels of sodium chloride, overconsumption of salt tablets can lead to side effects such as dizziness, weakness, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, headaches and more, so be sure to take as recommended and consult with your health care provider before starting any new supplement in your diet.