When it comes to coaching clients, there are a few core priorities to begin with that seem to make the biggest — and quickest — impact on their results and how they feel. One of these, almost ubiquitously, is addressing hydration levels.
Optimizing hydration status is absolutely crucial for boosting energy, increasing alertness, supporting workout performance, and even curbing cravings. Plus, it’s important for the health of your skin, the inner workings of your immune system, and the function of your joints.
However, just drinking water alone may not always be enough.
There are several aspects that impact hydration beyond fluid intake. In fact, almost one quarter of members who complete in-depth lab testing at Life Time have markers of slight dehydration, despite reporting that they drink plenty of water.
Here are some factors that decrease your hydration status:
- Chronic stress
- Excess caffeine or alcohol intake
- Hot or humid climates
- Heavy sweating
- Higher blood-sugar levels
Considering many of us deal with one, if not multiple, of the factors above, optimizing hydration may go beyond the conventional advice to “just drink more water.”
Why not just water alone?
Undoubtedly, drinking plenty of water is needed for optimal heath.
However, some of the factors listed above cause issues by increasing urination, and so at times, it can be helpful to focus on making sure your body is holding onto water appropriately. One such way to help assist the body’s balance of fluids is through supporting electrolyte levels.
Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium that are physiologically needed for the basic functions of cells, including muscle and nerve function.
Mixing electrolytes in with water — particularly around workouts, at times when increased sweating is expected, or when you’re sick and experiencing fever, diarrhea, or vomiting — to prioritize both fluid and electrolyte intake is essential. If you’re exercising, it can also prevent dizziness and muscle cramps.
What You Can Do
Most clients report feeling their best by first prioritizing water intake from non-caffeinated, natural beverages such as water and herbal tea, along with aiming for a target of about half their goal body weight (measured in pounds) in ounces of water daily. For example, if someone has a 160-pound weight goal, they may target 80 ounces of water per day.
Here are some tips for supporting your body’s hydration and electrolyte levels:
- Unless you have a medical reason to restrict fluids, dial in your water intake and aim to consume half of your goal body weight in ounces of water per day, plus about 16 ounces per hour of exercise.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Add in electrolytes around workout times or if you’re experiencing carbohydrate or salt cravings.
- When choosing electrolyte support, ensure the product does not contain added sugar or artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Two trainer favorites are Re-Lyte Electrolyte Drink Mixand UCAN Hydrate.
- In the context of a nutrition plan that is based primarily on whole, unprocessed foods, feel free to include snacks that are naturally higher in sodium, such as pickles, beef jerky, olives, and cheese.
- Aim to use Celtic or Himalayan salt on foods such as meats and vegetables at your main meals.
This article was written by Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT for Experience Life Magazine.