Our bodies function off of water. Every cell, every tissue, every organ- requires and thrives off of adequate water sources. I’m sure we have all experienced dehydration at some point in our lives, and it’s not fun. Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, sleepiness, dry mouth are just a few of the unpleasant results of not drinking enough water.
Pretty much every time I work out in So-Cal I feel like I’m shriveling away. I like to imagine the most dramatic situation possible….it’s just kind of fun to act like spongebob for five seconds when you’re dying of thirst.
Did you know, while you may not exactly look like a shriveling sponge on the outside- inside your body may be a different case.
The cells in your body actually function off of proper water and electrolyte balance. Water and electrolytes are divided into two different locations in our bodies: intracellular (inside the cells) and extracellular (outside the cells).
Water can be exchanged between these two compartments when necessary, and is drawn to whichever side has the greatest concentration of electrolytes. This is done so to keep your body in the best balance possible as these levels are changing. This occurs often, as the body uses up extracellular sources in the process of sweating, and has to draw on the intracellular sources to maintain body function.
When water is scarce outside of your cells, electrolytes become more concentrated outside of the cells because of the lack of water. Water will exit your cells, to maintain balance and to be available for the body’s use. When this happens, your cells will become hypertonic, or will literally shrivel from the lack of water (see the photo below).
Drinking water to replace the loss of water in your system is so important! This will help to balance that loss, and refill cells with water. However, in the case that your electrolytes are also depleted, such as in cases where you are sweating excessively, or working out for extended periods of time over an hour- you should probably also consider replacing electrolytes (or salts) as well.
When you drink too much water, and don’t have enough electrolytes extracellularly, the majority of the water will travel into your cells where the majority of the electrolytes currently in your system, are residing. This will cause your cells to literally swell with water, or become hypotonic (see photo above).
In extreme cases (such as after marathons when a large amount of only water is consumed) a thing called hyponatremia can occur. This is when your cells can become distorted, swell, or burst because of too much water. This is why, in cases like these, an electrolyte sports drink, such as Gatorade is recommended! Sports drinks will replace both water and electrolytes at the same time!
In order to avoid these extreme situations, I recommend staying on top of your hydration throughout the day! These are the general recommendations to follow throughout the day, and when exercising:
Stay hydrated. It’s recommended to drink approximately 8 cups of liquids or fluids throughout the day. This is a good way to upkeep how you feel, and to prepare you for whenever you are going to add exercise in.
It’s recommended to drink 16 ounces of water 4 hours before exercise, and an additional 8 ounces of water 15 minutes prior.
Drink 3-8 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise up to 60 minutes.
Any exercise exceeding 60 minutes, drink 3-8 ounces of electrolyte sports drink, every 20 minutes.
Check your body weight after intense exercise, the goal is to replace whatever was depleted within the following two hours. For each pound depleted, 20-24 ounces is recommended.
Obviously, most of us don’t follow these guidelines. But if you want to feel great when you exercise, and want to keep your body fresh and hydrated, I recommend giving this a try! I also recommend getting a water bottle that is marked with amounts on the side, this makes it very easy to keep up with how much you are drinking throughout the day, and you can set goals for yourself based on the time.
PK Fitness Program Coordinator