Staying hydrated is key for muscle aesthetics, weight loss and health but is an area of nutrition that's often neglected or poorly approached. In this weeks article we're going to discuss what impact hydration can have on your health and appearance as well as breaking down exactly how you're body regulates hydration.
Hydration is governed by electrolyte balance and any time your electrolytes are lower than what your body would like them to be, your autonomic nervous system will cause some kind of change to provoke you to reach for a bottle of water. But water isn't the only way of getting electrolytes on board - many nutrient dense foods also contain electrolytes and including them in your diet will help ten fold.
Electrolytes are substances that maintain balance in your kidneys, the body’s center of hydration. They are:
The richest sources of these substances are found in mineral water that you'll hear described as being "hard". There's no reason to fear these waters providing they come from a good source and as with fats, really it's about having a range of waters. If I am cooking with water I tend to use tap water, when I drink teas usually its filtered as you've already got some minerals in the tea, but when I drink pure water it's always a mineral water. And what is a good mineral water? All waters are not equal and fortunately it's easy enough to find out which waters have a higher mineral content. On the label it'll have a breakdown of mineral content and the only number you need worry about is that of the "dry residue at 180c". A water with high content will be upwards of 250-300 and there are about 4-5 of the most popular water brands that are like this - they're generally from France, Ireland and Scotland.
Apart from water the easiest way of increasing electrolytes is by adding salt to your food after a heavy training session. There's a bit of a stigma around salt in the diet but you needn't be overly cautious providing its from a good source and its at times when you're salt levels are already low. Good sources of salt include rock salt, sea salt and Himalayan pink salt - avoid traditional table salt as this undergoes far greater processing and won't be nearly so nutrient dense as the natural forms.
Last but not least, food! It's tricky to isolate foods specifically for electrolytes because as a general rule most of the foods in the below list will be high in other nutrients which makes people associate them with that, but that's not to say they aren't a potent source of electrolytes.
Sodium – spinach, carrots, celery, beetroot
Potassium – banana, baked potatoes, white fish, melon.
Bicarbonate – beans and legumes.
Chloride - lettuce, celery, olive, seaweed.
- Hydration is about balance; if you're so thirsty you can drink a whole bottle of water you're probably not doing a great job of being consistent. Keep a bottle of water near you and sip at it regularly.
- Not all water is equal and by drinking mineral rich bottled water you can ensure you're drinking from the best source.
- Add salt to your food after tough sessions to replace lost electrolytes - but ensure you're not using table salt, use a good natural source such as rock, sea or Himalayan salt.
- Foods hydrate you too! Be mindful of your diet and make sure following a heavy training day the above list of foods features in your diet.