With temps in NYC going to places far more uncomfortable than they should be, it’s high time I spoke about my experience with water and true hydration. In my Nourish&Nurture series I started last fall, I spoke about why the topic of hydration matters and why it’s about more than just drinking enough water.
From my own experience, I have been drinking more water than anyone I know at times and still feeling dehydrated; from muscle cramps to dry eyes and never really feeling like I could get enough water. After running tests with my doctors, I looked into what my other options could be and if my theory around needing more salt, trace minerals, and even sugars could be helpful.
It’s drilled in our head to ‘drink enough water,’ and the range of benefits that come from being hydrated; from our skin to digestion to most all bodily functions. These are all correct and just reasons. Dehydration can even be dangerous at it’s most extreme, but if we are drinking water or eating the right foods, you will typically be alright. However, what about when you’re doing the things you need, as I was, and still feeling thirsty or even lightheaded at times?
Hydration is actually a matter of personal experience. For some, the old 8 glasses of water rule doesn’t even apply. It’s not about amount of water (with the 8 glasses rule being somewhat propaganda) but more so quality of the hydration. Water can come from food, especially water rich fruits and vegetables which offer not only water but sugars, vitamins, and minerals…which are more impactful on the body’s hydration as a whole than just plain water, as I will go into next.
It’s not about drinking excessive amounts of water but about drinking a more correct balance. There is even a practice for runners called “hyper hydration’ that includes a sprinkle of salt in water before runs compared to guzzling large amounts. But does it help? Read about it here.
For me, the sweet spot of not feeling dehydrated became more of a hydration-matrix. I learned to accept that not by water alone could I feel my best, especially when I was sweating a great deal. It was more sustainable for me to choose water mostly but also include things like coconut water and vitamin C electrolyte packs, as well as a sprinkle of salt in water. I’m now using trace mineral drops some days and feeling far better and supple as a result.
In the health and wellness space, it’s common to hear that salt is terrible and so is sugar. I don’t think either are bad when you eat a whole diet of real foods. Salt needs to exist in the body in a special balance with water, as does sugar for optimum health. The problem is salt and sugar are often eaten in excess in this country as they are often added to foods unnecessarily and are super high in processed foods. For those of us eating “clean” types of whole foods, as well as exercising past 30 mins or so, we might actually need to replenish with a little salt in water or even a hint of sugar like naturally occurring sugars in coconut water (my favorite is Vita Coco.)
I think when it comes to hydration, it's about being aware and paying attention to your body if you are drinking plenty of water and still not feeling so great. Once you're ruled out other potential medical issues, it might be as simple and creating a more diverse hydration plan as I did. Little salt there, electrolytes as needed, water rich foods, sugars in balance and not just relying on copious amounts of water alone (which can be problematic in it's own right.)