This article first appeared in print in the June 2018 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Whether you are grunting under the relentless heat of a barren cut block, paddling along an exposed lake, barreling through the humidity on your bike, lifting at CrossFit, or kicking up dust for summit sunrise, Revelstoke summers get hot and sweaty. That heat makes the briskness of glacial-fed water sweet solace, and that sweat helps our inner body temperature stay within safe limits. But during strenuous exercise in hot or humid conditions, your body could be losing up to two litres of fluid per hour. If this fluid is not replaced quickly, blood volume decreases and body temperature rises, placing extra strain on the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. This equates to a drop in performance and earlier onset of fatigue. Prevention is the best cure; it’s ideal to start exercise well-hydrated, so read on to boost your H2O IQ.
Water, the most abundant, vital substance on our planet and in our bodies, is a solvent carrying minerals and others substances along our lakes, rivers, and bloodstreams. As the mainstay of digestive juices, urine, tears, blood, lymph, and sweat, water is involved in almost every bodily function.
Water requirements vary greatly according to age, gender, size, health status, temperature, humidity, activity level, and diet. Because of this, the eight glasses of water/day suggestion is a gross oversimplification; instead, thirst should generally be used as the most reliable guide. Aside from ingesting high doses of B vitamins or beets (which turn urine bright yellow and pink), urine color is another indicator of hydration level. Urine which appears pale yellow indicates you are within 1% of optimal hydration.
Caffeinated beverages, sugary drinks, alcohol, and some herbal teas are diuretics that increase urine flow and flush water from the body, eventually leading to water and electrolyte loss and subsequent dehydration. Processed, overly salted foods (hello potato chips!) can lead to a loss of fluids as extra water is corralled to the gut to dilute all that sodium. This is called net secretion and can be avoided by abstaining from processed foods and salting homemade food to taste with Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, which are rich in trace minerals and electrolytes.
Breakfast (breaking the fast) should start with a tall glass of water to hydrate cells and get the body ready for another day of digestion and activity. Throughout the day, it is best to drink water in between meals to avoid diluting digestive juices (which reduces food digestion and nutrient assimilation).
Eating seasonally helps us stay hydrated throughout the summer. Nature made no mistakes in providing us with juicy, hydrating fruits and vegetables during these hot months. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, and peaches contain over 90 percent water, as do vegetables like zucchini, radish, celery, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, cabbage, cucumber, and lettuce. Shopping at our local farmers market takes much of the guesswork out of nutrition! Try using these local treasures by doubling your morning smoothie and freezing half in a popsicle mould for a fun way to hydrate throughout the day or adding fresh fruits and herbs to a pitcher of water to infuse with tempting flavors and colors.
Quite possibly the most important and simple change for many is to purchase a good quality, stainless steel or glass water bottle. Fill it up and bring it with you before leaving the house, and you will never be without water again! This is a surprisingly life-changing habit.
Sweat causes a loss of electrolytes, which are mineral salts dissolved in the body’s fluid that help convey electrical currents in the body and regulate the fluid balance between different body compartments and the bloodstream. Water movement is controlled by the concentration of electrolytes on either side of the cell membrane. Thanks to strategic marketing, many of us think of electrolytes, which include sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as elusive gems that can only be attained by purchasing electrolyte tablets, powders, or artificial color, flavor, and sugar-laden ‘sports drinks.’
In fact, there are many simple ways to boost electrolytes naturally. Bone broth is a great choice for athletes, as it is naturally full of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which help with muscle contraction and relaxation, as well as amino acids to assist muscle and joint repair. Coconut water has a good mix of electrolytes and simple sugars to aid in sports performance, although an extra pinch of salt is required. A shot of juice from fermented sauerkraut or pickles can increase hydration while also providing probiotics which boost gut health. Snacking on seaweed provides electrolytes including calcium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Nori can be brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and lightly toasted for a satisfying snack.
This drink is meant to be consumed during extended strenuous exercise (especially in hot weather), when rapid fluid replacement is the main priority. This is considered a hypotonic drink; it has a relatively low osmolality, which means it contains fewer particles (carbohydrate and electrolytes) per 100 ml than the body’s own fluids. As it is more dilute, it is absorbed faster than plain water. During exertion, sodium loss is far greater than any other electrolyte; the sea salt here increases thirst, helps ensure proper muscle and nerve function, and prevents water intoxication, or hyponatremia, which can occur from heavy sweating for long periods (which depletes sodium) combined with high water consumption (which can further deplete sodium).
1L warm water
1-2 TBSP honey
A pinch to ¼ tsp sea salt
Juice of ½ lemon, lime, or orange (optional but does increase electrolytes)
Mix in jar or water bottle and store in fridge for up to three days.