Summer is FINALLY here, that means one thing...things are about to get really sweaty. I am sure it comes as no surprise to everyone the importance of drinking water. It helps with the hydration of our tissues (fascia and skin), aids in digestion, muscle repair and function, cognitive function... and the list goes on. We could talk about reasons to drink water all day, but we won't in this article. What we are talking about today is something that can complicate hydration... sweating.
Sweating is one of our bodies ways of thermoregulating. We produce sweat in order to help cool our bodies down. It has been said that the quicker your body begins to sweat, the more efficient your thermoregulatory system. So good on you if you are the first to start sweating in an exercise class or on a hot summer day!
When we sweat, we not only lose water but also electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals found in our bodies that carry a natural positive or negative electrical charge. They are important to help with chemical reactions in the body and they help to maintain the balance of fluids inside and outside of your cells. Sodium, potassium and chloride are the main minerals that work together to maintain fluid balance. Magnesium and calcium are essential for optimal muscle function and play and important role in metabolism. One of the processes that helps to maintain the balance of fluids (or rather maintain the proper mineral concentration inside and outside of the cell) is called osmosis. Since electrolytes are too large and carry a charge, they cannot passively cross the cell membrane and flow freely in and out of the cell. Water on the other hand can, therefore to maintain the proper mineral concentration for cellular function we allow water to flow freely in and out of the cell to either increase the concentration or dilute in order to maintain balance. How cool? There are certain circumstances where we lose a sufficient amount of electrolytes and it will impair cellular and physiological functioning. Some of these include: Excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, alcoholism, kidney disease etc. Some symptoms of specific electrolyte loss include: Sodium: muscle cramps and loss of appetite Potassium: muscle weakness, paralysis and mental confusion Magnesium: muscle cramps, nausea and confusion Chloride: changes in pH, irregular heart beat. What we often see are muscle cramping, nausea, loss of appetite and weakness (think of mid summer days on the golf course, tennis court or out for a run mid day). Sodium is the primary mineral lost in sweating and the quantities vary depending on how much you are sweating and for how long. If you are participating in high level sports or endurance type sports you may want to consider an analysis of sweat to make sure you are monitoring your sweat and replenishing electrolytes appropriately. Most of us do not need to accurately measure the quantity of sweat in order to maintain homeostasis. In general, if it is a hot day, you are exercising and sweating sufficiently or exercising outside in the summer time - make sure to have an electrolyte beverage throughout the day. Be aware and look out for any of the symptoms above and add in an electrolyte powder as needed. We have a favourite at Peridot Wellness, Electrolyte Synergy from Designs for Health as it is sugar free and tastes amazing (but any sports drink will do the trick of course)!