Stay Hydrated: The Importance of Cellular Hydration & Electrolytes

By Coach Lora Erickson, BlondeRunner.comWinter is often the time of year when proper hydration is neglected and dehydration is common. There are many reasons for this. The majority of the body's water is lost through breathing, so living in Northern Utah where the air is cold and dry takes even more moisture from the body. It is also not as tempting to drink icy cold water while running outdoor in a winter wonderland. I know for me frozen hands can prevent me from wanting to fumble around with a water bottle. For triathletes, like myself, cycling indoors with a fan blowing on me to keep me cool can also be a catalyst to rapid dehydration. The same thing happens with treadmills indoor; notice how hot you get and how much you perspire indoor? It's important to rehydrate and more importantly maintain a adequate level of cellular hydration (more on this later). But let's start with good 'ol water.How much water do we need on a daily basis?The answer is different for everyone and depends on body composition, amount and intensity of exercise etc. But if you need a number, a good rule of thumb is half of your body weight in ounces. If you are like me, and you'd rather look for body indicators then the best indicator is urine color. (Please note, urine color can be effected by medications, food or vitamin supplements). If your urine is a dark yellow color then you are dehydrated; clear is an indication of over-hydration and can lead to hyponatremia (basically a dilution of the blood electrolytes and can be deadly). The urine color you are aiming for is light yellow. No formulas or numbers to remember, just self-awareness.So how do you get all the water in your need?For some people it can be challenging to get enough water, so instead of trying to cram it in at the end of the day and being up all the night visiting the restroom, I recommend drinking regularly through out the day. You could sip on a water bottle through the day or, for me, I have made it a habit to drink a glass of water with electrolyte before each meal. It is also wise to make it a habit to drink while exercising (especially indoors when you have a fan blowing on you). Make sure you have more than one water bottle available for those longer indoor rides or treadmill runs.Food doesn't supply enough waterDon't make the mistake of assuming you will get enough water through food. Unfortunately food often takes the water it provides to digest not to supply working muscles or cool the body. Soda pop (even diet), watermelon, soup etc... will not supply the amounts athletes need, water consumption needs to occur regularly.To enhance your bodies ability to utilize water, add electrolyte.As I mentioned earlier it is not only important to consume water, but it is important for it to be utilized by the cell. To enhance your body's absorption and use of water, add electrolyte/minerals. When you consider the many functions of electrolytes, it is easy to see why they are essential: To regulate fluid balance, oxygen exchange, digestion, muscle function, nerve conduction, muscle contractions, blood clotting, bone formation, heart function, and pH balance. Since I like to customize my own performance beverages, I use Salt Stick (Use the code RUNBLONDE for 20% off). This product is simple to use, just drops into water; no sugar, nothing artificial and has very little (if any) taste. They also have fast chews. Some essential electrolytes include: magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium and chloride. With the proper balance of water and electrolyte the body is able to replace stores of both and really hydrate at the cellular level.What is cellular hydration?Cellular hydration is about getting the water to where it can be used in the body, the cell (not linger in the blood serum, plasma or interstitial fluid). As mentioned before, electrolytes help the body do this. Without the proper electrolytes in the body osmosis can not occur, and electrical nerve impulses can't travel properly. Electrolytes are a critical component to proper endurance nutrition. Without the proper balance muscles will stop functioning effectively resulting in spasms and cramping. Plus, if you drink water with electrolyte in it you will hydrate much faster with less water than if you just have plain water. It is important to also understand that the body can store critical electrolytes (ie. calcium in bone, magnesium in the muscles etc...) so daily consumption is a way an athlete's body can "save for a rainy day." So now is a good time to couple water with electrolytes to enhance your endurance performance.Train Happy,Coach LoraCoach Lora Erickson aka "Blonde Runner" is a USATF certified run coach, U.S. Masters Swim Coach & USA Triathlon Certified Coach, and with over 30 years of athletic experience. She relishes the opportunity to coach all levels and especially loves to work with beginners and those wanting to lose weight. To learn more visit BlondeRunner.comTo learn more about Endurance Nutrition, take a class from Coach Lora. To learn when the next class will be offered message another Article Soda Pop: Does It Affect Performance

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