Why hydration is the wellbeing essential you’re probably ignoring – but really shouldn’t
Oh, and it’s more than just drinking water, FYI.
By Hannah Bullimore
Hydration. Drinking water. We all know we should do it, but I can’t be the only one who is rubbish at remembering to drink enough H2O.
I have a dirty secret.
It’s not really a secret. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a bit addicted to Coke Zero. I don’t drink tea and coffee so when I wake up, your girl is craving a chilled can of fizzy caffeine. And when I’ve been for a walk. Or worked out. Or had a stressful day. Or it’s that time of the month.
You get the gist.
The point is, there are very few moments where I am craving simple, good old-fashioned water.
But I know that I should be.
THE PROBLEM WITH DEHYDRATION
It might sound obvious that dehydration is bad for us. But as many of us often forget to drink enough during our busy work days, let’s look at what exactly happens to our bodies when we haven’t had enough to drink…
The NHS website explains that dehydration can make us feel tired and dizzy and even give us the appearance of sunken eyes. In the long term, dehydration can cause even more problems – from heart palpitations to kidney damage and skin aging.
MORE THAN JUST WATER
Now, you might be like I was and believe that good hydration is just a case of drinking enough water. However, I was recently experiencing headaches and suspected that it was to do with my poor hydration. So, I began to drink more. Simple, right?
However, my headaches didn’t improve and it was my boyfriend who suggested I try electrolytes. Now, he is no medical professional, but he told me that if you increase your fluids you’ll simply, well, pee out the electrolytes that are really important to make you feel well. Particularly if you’re into exercise (or just like taking your dog for long walks like I do).
Now, as much as I trust my boyfriend, I knew that to share this on the column I’d have to do some research and test out some electrolytes for myself.
THE SCIENCE OF ELECTROLYTES
Now, before my boyfriend mentioned electrolytes, I had heard them buzzing around the wellness space on YouTube and Instagram. One of my favourite youtubers, Keltie O’Connor, recommends them in a few of her fitness videos such as ‘My 10 Healthy Habits’.
However, I thought that electrolytes were meant for gym bunnies, hikers and weight lifters. Not dog walking, occasional yoga-doing girlies like myself.
A little digging online has proven me wrong.
As this article from BBC Good Food explains: ‘Electrolytes are substances, typically salts and minerals, that help regulate the balance of our bodily fluids, among other functions.’
It turns out that electrolytes are vital for balancing different minerals in the body, maintaining blood pressure and building new tissue. Now, I’m no expert, but all of this sounds important for everyone.
WHAT ARE ELECTROLYTES?
There are a number of electrolytes that are integral to our health and wellbeing.
Sodium, potassium and magnesium are just some of the electrolytes that are important for our bodies to function well and for us to feel well.
While we might all find ourselves feeling a little dehydrated, a large deficiency in electrolytes can be far more serious. Signs that might suggest a more serious imbalance include muscle spasms and weakness, an irregular heart rate, tiredness, confusion and issues with blood pressure.
In these cases, it is definitely best to see your GP.
TESTING THE THEORY
I began by taking a daily electrolyte. I used Science in Sport Hydration Tablets as these were the ones my boyfriend was already using.
I tend to get quite a big mid-morning dip, particularly around certain times of the month. This usually makes me feel a little spacey, I can get headaches and even blurry vision. In the past I’ve put it down to hormones or drunk more water, but this doesn’t usually do the trick.
I was a bit nervous about the taste of the fizzy tablet in water, as I expected it to be chalky or bitter. However, the water tasted pleasant, and I was able to drink it quickly. After drinking, I felt a bit like: is that it? But isn’t that usually the feeling after buying or trying a social media trend. You mean I haven’t immediately moulded into an Instagram model?! Rude!
I went about my day, but about an hour later I realised something… my vision was no longer blurry. And my aching temples were no longer aching.
The next day I repeated. Mid-morning, an electrolyte drink. Within an hour, blurry headache had passed.
While electrolytes are not a cure-all for every headache – they can’t defeat a pre period migraine unfortunately – they have helped me to have more energy and feel less ‘blurry’ during the mid-morning slump. I now tend to bring some electrolytes on long walks or to have in the car on the way home.
I have tried many a supplement, protein powder and wellness treatment, but I have found that adding electrolytes to improve my hydration has been one of the quickest results I have seen in my overall wellbeing.
While I tried the Science in Sport supplements, there are a range of products for different budgets out there. And I definitely think it’s worth a try if you’re finding yourself slumping midday or are exercising more and struggling to feel replenished.