It can be so, so hard to stay hydrated sometimes! Especially if you live in drier climates (ahem, Colorado), it can feel nearly impossible. During high intensity training camps where the volume can mean wrestling 4+ hours a day, plus strength training and extra conditioning, I am usually seen lugging a gallon jug of water around. Not practical, but it does the job. Before this and after many lessons of being frustrated with pee the color of dead grass, I started working on ways to make sure that hydration was a thing of convenience.
But first, lets talk about the not-so-obvious reasons you should stay hydrated and what helps keep you hydrated.
If you are someone who is not always focused on hydration, but focused on higher levels of protein intake, then woa nelly you better work on hydration as a priority. When you intake protein, you need seven times the amount of water normally needed in order to process those aminos. And this doesn't just include those of you who take protein supplements. If your day to day diet is high in protein, your hydration level will decrease as your protein level increases. The suggested dietary intake of fluids for active adults are 2.7 liters for women, and 3.7 liters for men. If you are not close to this amount and you already increased or are thinking about increasing your protein, maybe it's time to start carrying your own gallon jug of water.
Salt and Potassium
We talk about electrolytes ALL THE TIME. Have you seen that movie Idiocracy? In the movie, the world is getting dumber because no one is educated anymore. EVERYONE drinks "Brondo," (basically Gatorade) and when the main character asks for water, he gets the answer, "you mean from the toilet??" They can't grow anything because they keep watering the plants with Brondo. Their explanation: "Electrolytes! It's what they need!!" Now the plants certainly don't need electrolytes, but you do! And do we actually know what electrolytes are? It's the perfect happy couple combo called salt and potassium!
Now, how to apply the yin and yang of "S&P" benefits to hydration. If you have been drinking a lot of water, but have not been able to get out of the dead grass zone, you may want to look at what you are drinking AND eating. Salt and potassium combined help regulate fluid retention and are major contributors to the normal functioning of your cells, digestion, and organs. Both are lost through sweat and urination. That means, we need to continually focus on drinking fluids that contain both, as well as eating the right foods. It is extremely common for the average American to have low potassium. Salt on the other hand is not typically something we are worried about, as American diets are heavy in convenience foods, and salt is used as a preservative (check the labels on your foods and start seeing how many miligrams of salt are contained!) Potassium is found in fruits like bananas, citrus, and melons, and vegetables like leafy greens and broccoli. If those are all things you avoid, start getting out of your comfort zone! It is so so important to eat the right things as an athlete and for the rest of your life for normal body functioning!
Whenever I travel internationally for competition and training, I would notice I had a hard time staying hydrated. It made staying hydrated for competition 10x more difficult as I was already dehydrated going in. I was advised to focus not only on my salt intake, but also my potassium. This was a real game changer in the way I traveled and was prepared for competition. I started focusing on foods rich in potassium, even going out of my way to grab a banana before a flight. I also started arming myself with the right hydration supplements. I wanted to find a supplement that was low in sugar, but higher in salt and potassium. Travel is difficult, so the easier I made the process to rehydrate, the better my chances became!
Hydration Convenience and Nuun
I love traveling light. The more I can streamline the tools I travel with, the less chance I leave something on the plane (and trust me, I've left too many things already on planes). Also the more streamlined, the more likely I will actually use the tools I bring! There was no way I was going to buy and bring an entire extra bottle of fluids on the plane, or lug that around while I'm traveling. That's expensive, time consuming, and risky if you cant find what you need in another state or country.
I wanted something that could last me an entire trip, had the right kind of ingredients, and was small and convenient. That's where Nuun came in! Wow, when I found Nuun tablets, I knew I would get myself on a whole new level of hydration. They come in a tube with 10 tablets, and each one makes a 16oz sports drink. I don't know how many times I dealt with messy powder in a plastic bag that would rip and then I'd be out my hydration method! I love that I can plop a tablet in a cup of water while I'm on the airplane or have it in my bag on competition day or at the gym. The flavors they come in are DELICIOUS, and the ingredient list does not have all the extra junk you do not need that show up in much more common hydration methods like Pedialyte and Gatorade.
Here's the listed ingredients for Nuun:
- Sodium: 360 mg.
- Potassium: 100 mg.
- Magnesium: 25 mg.
- Calcium: 13 mg.
- Vitamin C: 38 mg.
- 10 calories.
- 1 g of sugar.
Find the right method for yourself, but be aware of the many hydration options out there and why they may not be a good choice. It can be so easy to go towards mainstream products and brands you immediately recognize. Why choose Nuun over a product you know and you can grab at the gas station? Here's why: just as we've become more aware of what kinds of foods to put in our bodies, we can also cannot be ignorant about what kinds of sports drinks we consume. They are not all created equal. The big companies are not as worried about what kinds of sugars or additives are in their sports drinks. When you are consistently drinking high fructose corn syrup, dyes, additives, and flavoring, the rehydration benefits will not outweigh the nutrition losses. Why else do you think they taste so darn great?! Lots and lots of sugar! And in no way should you ever, EVER consumer sugary sports drinks as a normal daily beverage.
The big lesson here, read the labels and start doing your research. Once I made it a habit of having healthy hydration methods always in my bag or along with me for the day, I started having a lot less problems. I found a huge improvement in the way I felt and in my digestion. Start looking at your hydration from both a food and drink perspective, and you'll start reaping the benefits!