Did you know that water is most common nutritional deficiency among the American population? In fact, studies show that about 75% of Americans walk around dehydrated on a daily basis. (1)
The studies do not share if these individuals are active or not, but as an athlete, you will need to consume more water and balance your electrolytes more than a non-active individual. In fact, your needs are far more greater for calories, water, electrolytes, sleep, and recovery when you are active.
We hear it all the time, “stay hydrated”, but do we really understand what this means or how to get there? And does it just mean drinking more water?
Well, sort of.
More than just drinking water alone, we need electrolytes, and we need to replenish electrolytes after sweaty and intense efforts of exercise and performance. Sodium is lost in our sweat and it’s very important to replenish sodium in the body to help maintain proper fluid levels. Now, this doesn’t mean you should go out and start chugging bottles of electrolyte drinks (full of sugar might I add) and tablets that aren’t necessarily giving you the minerals that you need. Instead I suggest going straight to the source and supplementing with a good quality sea salt.
Sea salt is an easy, less expensive, healthy, and more convenient way to restore electrolytes in the body than say, over dosing on a sugary bottle of Gatorade.
In fact, electrolytes are comprised of a handful of macro-minerals essential to your body’s needs. They are called macro minerals for a reason, because these minerals are needed in larger quantities in your body than many other minerals (known as micro-minerals).
For some of you, using sea salt in your water is nothing new, but for many of you this is blowing your mind. Yes, quality Himalayan sea salt is full of over 80+ trace minerals and it even contains the electrolytes, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium that we need in our body. We don’t see many of these minerals in our food today because our soils have become so depleted on nutrients thus making our food supply undernourished. Supplementing with quality sea salt in our meals and our water is a great way to restore electrolytes and minerals in the body. This helps to maintain good sodium levels and therefore balance the sodium-potassium levels (essential to proper fluid balance) in the body. When we sweat during exercise we want to make sure to restore these levels.
When the temperature rises during the summer months it’s important to stay on top of your hydration and electrolyte balance. It is in our sweat that we lose most electrolytes and sodium. Those white, salty lines you see all over your jersey and bibs at the middle or end of a ride are actually a build up of the sodium you are losing in your sweat.
Some of you reading this will think this is crazy talk as you’ve been told by your doctor(s) to cut out salt or avoid salt for various health reasons. I understand your fears.
While the American Heart Association views salt as a very unhealthy substance I just want to help clarify why. There is a big difference between processed table salt and good quality sea salt that is harvested from ancient primal seabeds. A true, unrefined sea salt actually supports the human body in essential ways and can truly be an awesome health promoter.(2) Processed table salt on the other hand is heated up to 1200 degrees during the manufacturing process, which alters its chemical composition and destroys any minerals and nutrients that it once had. We lose any and all health benefits from table salt and that is the type of salt that the AHA views as unhealthy. This is the kind of salt that your doctor is warning you about.
My favorite magic mineral is sure to do the trick for you!
Here are a few guidelines that will have you at optimal hydration status in no time!
1. Know how much water to drink daily, at minimum
Take your body weight/2 = daily fluid ounces (minimum)
Example: 150 lb. female = 75 oz./day, at minimum
200 lb. male = 100 oz./day at minimum
Remember, this is a guideline. This is not the end all be all, and it will vary for everyone.
2. Calculate in diuretics
Take your drink in ounces x 1.5 = ounces of extra water to add to your daily minimum
Example: 12 oz. Americano x 1.5 = 18 oz. water to add to your daily minimum
It’s pretty simple math. For many of you who cannot give up your morning or afternoon coffee, this is a way to ensure you drink enough water for YOU on any given day.
Diuretics play a big role in the loss of hydration as most Americans are drinking coffee, soda, packaged fruit juice, and alcoholic beverages on a daily basis. Did you know these are actually contributing to your dehydrated state? When you aren’t getting in our daily water needs (based off of your weight & activity level), and you are drinking diuretics, dehydration slowly begins to set in.
Commonly consumed diuretic beverages:
- some herbal teas like peppermint tea
- pre-packaged juices
Before a big ride or event (like Obliteride) I recommend cutting out all diuretics and caffeine beverages at least 24 hrs prior to your ride. This will help prevent you from losing liquids and it can speed your rehydration post ride.
3. Add a pinch of quality Himalayan Sea Salt to your water
That’s right, just a pinch for every 8-10 oz. glass of water. Don’t worry about salting your water all day, everyday. It’s not meant to taste like salt water either. It should have more of just a hint of flavor. If your water starts tasting like the ocean you’ve added too much. However, you could get really use to it and come to really like the taste (that was my experience). It can be very beneficial to try this with a few glasses/day, and to add it to your water bottles during your training and events.
If you don’t salt your food already, I highly recommend adding a few pinches here and there for the added benefits. You may even notice the flavors of your food increase exponentially (especially with avocados)!
Again, regular iodized table salt will not give you the mineral benefits of a quality sea salt. Himalayan or Celtic varieties are best.
4. Pay attention to the color of your urine
Your urine should be a light, pale yellow (almost clear) color when you are well hydrated. If it’s too dark, drink more fluids! Pretty simple.
So there you have it, a few great tips on how you can go about achieving optimal hydration. Remember that hydration is bio-individual to each of us. There are also many other variables that will affect your hydration and how much water you actually need in order to stay hydrated.
- Sauna use
- Living in a hot climate
- Exercising in a hot climate
- Living and training at elevation
- Airplane travel
- High blood pressure
- Females: being in the luteal phase of your cycle
For all the ladies out there, this is for you. Did you know that your core body temperature increases by .5 degrees in the luteal phase of your cycle? This is the last 2 weeks of your 28 – 32 day cycle (these number will vary by female/cycle). It is very important to note that during this time in your cycle you should increase your salt intake to help with hydration and to balance sodium/potassium levels in the body due to the rise in core body temperature. If you aren’t sure when you are in the luteal phase and you don’t have a way to track your cycle, I highly recommend the app MyFLO, as an easy way to track your cycle and hormones. This should help tremendously when training around your cycle!
So there you have it! Just a handful of ways the miracle mineral known as sea salt will support your hydration status.
Take note that I do not give recommendations of drinking Gatorade, PowerAde, or other “electrolyte drinks” that are on the market today. Those drinks will not support your body’s mineral balance and your performance efforts in a healthy, functional way. PowerAde is still made with high fructose corn syrup and pretty much any electrolyte drink or tablet out there contains some form of sugar. I teach my clients to use real, whole foods as a way to support their body and their efforts, which is why I recommend good quality sea salt or Concentrace Trace Mineral tablets for electrolyte balance and hydration support.
With that said, here is one of my favorite DIY hydration drinks that I make when it is hot hot hot out! It contains only natural sugar from coconut and is a great source of sodium and potassium. Perfect for a hot, sunny, sweaty day on the bike!
Coconut Lime hydration drink:
- 8 oz. organic coconut water (read the label to make sure there isn’t any added sugar)
- 12 oz. filtered water
- 2 pinches of Himalayan sea salt (1/8 – 1/4 tsp)
- Squeeze of fresh lime
Combine all ingredients into a short 21oz cycling water bottle and shake. Throw it in your water bottle cage and go!
*This recipe is for a short 21oz water bottle. Increase coconut water and filtered water by an extra 2 oz. each for a tall 24oz bottle.
Here’s to good hydration and happy training!
Laura McQueen, NTP