Dehydration- More complex than you realize.
An important but often overlooked component to nutrition is proper hydration.
For sedentary people or during minimally periods, simply drinking water will suffice. However, during active periods when we’re sweating, water may not be enough. You don’t need me to tell you that sweat contains more than just water.
Those salts, namely sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride, need to be replenished as well. A deficiency of these electrolytes, and especially sodium, lead to a condition called hyponatremia. Symptoms of hyponatremia include headaches, nausea, overly frequent urination, and in extreme cases even death.
For those of us who are very active, or even moderately active in hot, humid climates, putting those electrolytes is imperative. Unfortunately the industry that has latched onto this fact is doing it wrong. “Sports drinks” are little more than non carbonated sodas. While your sweat contains a lot more than water, it certainly doesn’t include artificial colors, chemical flavorings, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS,) or preservatives. The caloric load in these drinks can be astounding- try 310 calories for a 12 oz. serving.
What about refueling, you may ask? Realistically, you probably don’t need to refuel during exercise unless the activity will be 3 hours or more. Either way, you’re better off getting calories from real food than a HFCS-laden “sports drink.”
Absorption is another, possibly bigger factor. The osmolality, or solute density, of the liquid will make a huge difference on how well it will hydrate you. Not to get too far into the chemistry of this but basically if what you’re drinking is “thicker” or has more stuff dissolved in it, then it actually will draw water from your bloodstream into your intestines.
If you’re interested in getting documentation and greater detail, here’s more science than you can shake a stick at. Disclaimer- Skratch Labs sells hydration drink mixes, but there’s some great info!
If you don’t want to buy a drink mix for whatever reason, or if you just like making stuff yourself, here’s a basic recipe for a hydrating drink:
1 Tablespoon of organic, local honey
1-2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice (to taste)
1 small pinch of good quality, unprocessed sea salt (not table salt or kosher salt!)
16 oz. filtered water
Dissolve the honey in a small amount of hot water, add remaining ingredients, stir well.
I like to scale up and make a pitcher of it so that I can just fill water bottles for rides.
This recipe gives a roughly 3-4% carbohydrate solution, which is about the maximum for absorption, The sea salt has the full complement of electrolytes, and the honey has glucose, which speeds water absorption in the intestines.
As with anything, listen to your body. If you get bloating or digestive issues, try scaling back a bit on the honey. And obviously, if you’re diabetic, you need to be cautious when using honey or any other sugar source.