Rehydration is important: if you’re engaged in strenuous exercise, but also during heatwaves, if you’re unwell and if you’re so distracted by your day to day job that you forget to drink during the working day. If you’re dehydrated you suffer from headaches, feel mentally sluggish and tired, and if you don’t remedy the situation it can get more and more serious.
You’re not just losing water when you’re dehydrated, you can also lose electrolytes. These are the soluble salts your body keeps dissolved in its fluid supplies, and which perform lots of important tasks in the body – they help impulses run along nerves and into muscles, regulate the fluid balance in your cells and blood stream, and even affect your mood. If your electrolyte levels drop, you’ll experience cramp, muscle pains, disorientation and even unconsciousness.
If you try to rehydrate quickly without also topping up your electrolyte levels you could find yourself in even more trouble. Drinking lots of water when your electrolytes are already depleted just dilutes the ones that remain. If the balance shifts too far in favour of pure H2O, then you can enter a state called water intoxication, which can, in serious cases be fatal. Even in less severe cases, drinking water to hydrate when your electrolyte levels are low is inefficient because one of the things electrolytes do is help your body absorb and use water: if you don’t have enough, you won’t get much benefit from the water you drink. One way to spot that you’re running low on electrolytes and really need to do something about it is if you’re drinking lots of water but still feel thirsty.
Isotonic sports drinks can help you rehydrate quickly – isotonic in this case means it mimics the concentration of electrolytes in the cells of your body. This means that it tops up your fluid levels and your electrolytes in the right proportion for that hydration to do the most good. Unfortunately most sports drinks also have lots of sugar in. This gives you a welcome energy boost after you work out, but isn’t so good if you’re trying to control your weight.
Rehydration powders could be the answer: products like the ORS tablet contain all the salts you need to operate at peak performance, with none of the sugar from sports drinks. They’re light, and easy to fit in a gym bag, desk drawer or medicine cabinet and can dissolve in water from any shop or tap, making your life much easier and healthier!