If you’ve ever experienced dehydration, you know how important it is to drink water. Hydration is essential for better cognitive function, improved energy levels, smoother digestion, better skin, fewer headaches, restorative sleep, and much more.
The question is: Is drinking water enough? Some studies have shown that drinking too much water may actually negatively affect your health. Now, health experts are more interested in the balance of water intake and electrolyte intake to ensure hydration throughout the day.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are essential minerals found in your blood, sweat, and urine. These minerals dissolve in fluid and create positive or negative ions that are used in metabolic processes. These ions are electrolytes.
Electrolytes are involved in many essential functions of your body including muscle contraction, nervous impulse control, and regulating your body’s pH levels. You need electrolytes to function properly.
Some of the electrolytes found in your body are:
Is overhydration real?
It’s standard knowledge that we should be drinking around 8 glasses of water per day. This is a recommendation that originated in the 1960s and has since been slightly debunked. In fact, recent studies have shown that there wasn’t much data collected surrounding that theory.
Have you seen fitness lovers carrying around those giant water bottles? It can be pretty easy to be influenced by someone so fit. However, most people do not really need to be drinking a gallon of water per day.
Thirst is a signal from our brain that lets us know we need to hydrate. It is the result of your body measuring your blood volume. When you need more fluids in your blood, your brain signals you to drink water.
If you are consuming water when you’re not thirsty, your blood electrolyte level may become diluted - especially your sodium levels. Low sodium looks a lot like dehydration in that it may cause headaches, low energy, and confusion.
So if drinking water when you’re not thirsty does not help your hydration levels, what does? The answer is electrolytes.
How to increase your electrolytes
Increasing your electrolyte intake isn’t as challenging as it may sound. Nowadays, there are plenty of electrolyte powders that you can simply mix into your water to boost the balance that your body needs.
Other than that, the best way to consume and retain electrolytes is through a healthy diet. Foods that provide electrolytes include:
- Pickled foods
- Table salt
- Seeds and nuts
- Green leafy vegetables
- Sweet potato
A well-balanced diet typically includes the proper amount of electrolytes you need each day. However, if you’ve been depleting electrolytes quickly through extreme exercise or illness, it may be in your best interest to supplement your electrolyte intake with an electrolyte drink mix.
Your body naturally keeps you balanced. When you increase your water and electrolyte intake, your will excrete it through urine. Your body is also constantly measuring your blood volume so it can signal your brain to remind you to drink when fluids are needed in the bloodstream.
When you drink water when you are not thirsty, you may risk overhydration which can negatively affect your health with symptoms similar to dehydration. The key to keeping hydrated is to balance your intake of water and electrolytes. You can do this by eating a well-balanced diet complete with electrolyte-rich foods or by adding an electrolyte supplement powder to your water throughout the day.