Now that we're headed into the dog days of summer, let's talk about how to stay safe and healthy while you're working up a sweat -- even if it's just lounging by the pool. The main way your body cools itself is through sweat. As sweat evaporates from your body, it takes some of the heat with it.
Unfortunately, our bodies can't store vast reserves of water or electrolytes. To keep up this cooling system, we must continue to consume water and electrolytes or risk heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Here are my top five tips for staying hydrated:
Tip 1: Ditch the eight-glasses-a-day rule
This rule is too generalized for most people. That number doesn't take into consideration your diet, body weight or genetic predisposition or the temperature and humidity of your surroundings. Rather than blindly follow a specific number of glasses, I recommend that you listen to your body. Notice when you are thirsty or fatigued, as these can be a sign of mild dehydration. Also pay attention to the color of your urine. Your urine should be clear, not yellow or orange, which is a sign of dehydration.
Tip 2: Do a sweat test
If you're an athlete, a sweat test is crucial to knowing whether you're staying well hydrated. While it may sound a bit scientific, it's actually very easy to perform at home (or at your gym). Simply weigh yourself immediately before and after your workout -- naked. Subtract your weight after exercising from your weight before exercising. The difference is from what you lost in sweat. Drink two cups of water enhanced with an electrolyte-rich powder for every pound you lost. Ideally, drink this within a couple of hours after finishing your workout.
Tip 3: Don't waste water: add electrolytes
Yes, it is possible to overdo it by drinking too much water. If you don't also replenish electrolytes, the water you're consuming is wasted. Together, water and electrolytes paint a complete hydration picture. Being well hydrated keeps your blood at the right consistency and volume, allowing for efficient delivery of oxygen to muscles and removal of waste. Electrolytes are responsible for fluid regulation, muscle contraction, heartbeat and nerve function. Calcium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and sodium are the main electrolytes that you can consume through food or an electrolyte-based beverage.
Tip 4: Sip consistently
I recommend sipping an electrolyte-rich beverage every 10 to 15 minutes during exercise (or even more frequently), depending on variables like heat and humidity, the intensity of your workout and your personal physiology (some people simply sweat more than others). If you know you are an especially salty sweater -- after a workout, you can feel or even see gritty powder on your skin -- make sure you're consuming more sodium than the average individual. Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator has a balance of all electrolytes -- including sodium. It can be sipped during your workout or throughout the day and has zero calories and sugar.
Tip 5: Eat your water
Eating a diet that is rich in whole, plant-based foods is also a good way to stay hydrated. Fresh fruits and vegetables not only provide water, but also essential electrolytes. Chew on these sources of water and electrolytes:
- Sodium: Sea salt, seaweed (kelp and dulse)
- Potassium: All fruits and vegetables
- Chloride: Celery, olives, seaweed (kelp, dulse, wakame), tomatoes
- Calcium: Blackstrap molasses, bok choy, broccoli, figs, green leafy vegetables
- Magnesium: Broccoli, buckwheat, celery, cucumber, kale, nuts, quinoa, seeds, spinach
Readers -- How do you stay hydrated in the summertime? Can you tell when you're dehydrated? Do you hydrate with any of the foods mentioned above? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete, a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, the creator of an award-winning line of whole-food nutritional products called Vega, and the best-selling author of the Thrive book series. He is also the developer of the acclaimed ZoN Thrive Fitness program and the creator of Thrive Foods Direct national meal-delivery service. He also just launched Thrive Forward, an online video series on wellness.