Water, Hydration and Athletes

All Water Is Not Equal

Everyone needs water, no one can argue with that.  But all water is not created equal.  You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day, most people do not even come close to that.  If you exercise heavily, you need even more water.  Some experts suggest 1/2 litre of water per hour of vigorous exercise.  What makes water good?  Two things are important:  purity (free of contaminants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc.) and minerals or electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.  If water does not contain naturally dissolved minerals then it is truly “lifeless”.  The mineral content enables water to be absorbed into the cells to actually hydrate you.

Tap water from wells or lakes often can contain contaminants and chemicals from runoff. Even though it is filtered, it often also contains flouride and residue from pharmaceutical drugs. Our town receives water from Lake Michigan.  If I turn on the faucet in our home and let it run, you can smell the chlorine strongly (that is not good).     You can add a supplemental filter to your house, but it can’t get all the impurities and pharmaceuticals out of the water.  Well water, artesian spring water, and other natural sources of water may often contain a high mineral content, depending on the source.  It is important to make sure that the source is pure and free of contaminants.  If the water source or well is anywhere near a factory, farm or home, then chances are that fertilizer, chemicals, etc. are leaching into the water table and contaminating the water.  Ideally clean spring water in glass containers is the best, however it is not always possible or practical.  Here are 3 of the highest mineral content waters that are also clean sources of water available in the United States:

1.  Evian

2.  FIJI

3.  Mountain Valley Spring

4.  Volvic

Endurance Exercise and Water Consumption

You have heard the stories, or may have even know people that have become dehydrated, or have suffered from heat stroke or heat exhaustion during endurance races like half marathons, marathons and triathlons.  During events like these you sweat a lot.  In extreme heat/humid conditions the body is taxed more during exercise and you sweat even more.  Many people choose to drink the water supplied on the race course.  But when you are losing lots of trace minerals through your sweat and you drink tap water, or water without mineral contents, you actually dilute and flush more trace minerals out of your body- so you are making things worse!  Sometimes sports drinks like Gatorade are offered along the course.  While the sugar and chemical content of gatorade is not ideal, it would be better than drinking the water under extreme conditions.  There are other cleaner sports drinks, but it is not convenient to carry those while you are racing.  What works really well, is convenient and is clean……salt/mineral tablets.  These work very well and are easily stowed in the small pocket of  your running shorts.  You can take a few salt tablets before the race and then take them every 20-60 minutes, depending on race/weather conditions/exertion level.  You could take between 1-2 tablets at different time increments.  It is also important after a race or hard training session not to further dilute your body with with regular water.  It is also good to make sure that you salt your food using a natural sea salt.  Good sea salt contains a variety of trace minerals (electrolytes).  If you are training intensely, especially during more extreme weather conditions, liberally salt your foods.  You may find yourself even craving salty foods during this period.  Instead of reaching for unhealthy salty snacks, increase your sea salt intake.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that most people are low in.  It is hard to get it from foods, because it is not readily bioavailable in large amounts.  Athletes that sweat a lot will lose magnesium which causes issues with cellular and muscle function, fatigue and  cramping.  It is a good idea to ask your doctor to test your RBC magnesium (not serum) and your goal should to have the measurement in the upper end of normal, usually around 6 to 6.5 mg/dl.  Other symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include:  heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Dean is an excellent book.   The lower end of normal may be acceptable, however many people still have symptoms in that range.  I have tested myself during peak running season (summer) where I am training hard and sweating a lot.  I was able to keep my Magnesium level  around 6.2 through drinking Evian water and supplementing with Meta Salt and using Poliquin Group’s Uber Mag.  I prefer this specific magnesium because it has different chelations of magnesium that other companies do not use and I have seen clinical changes through bloodwork to support this.  I also heavily salt my foods during this period.  Other people will not touch my food after I salt it, but the extra sea salt enhances the flavor more to me and actually tastes better.  If you salt your food and it tastes “too salty” then that is too much.  Only use high quality sea salts.  Because sea salt is very popular now, you will find many companies producing it, like Costco, etc.  There is a big difference in the actual mineral composition of each sea salt (those are your electrolytes) and the efficacy by which it is produced.  Good sea salt = electrolytes!

Another great way to get magnesium is by taking a bath with Epsom Salts.  Magnesium Sulfate in epsom salts will be absorbed transdermally.  I recommend soaking at least 30 minutes and using several cups of salt in the tub.  Great for the skin and your muscles feel amazing when you get out..

Consider these:

1.  Pay attention to your sweat rate (how much are you sweating).  This is varies among individuals.  If you are sweating significantly more than  what is “usual” for you, you need to increase your salt.  If you find that you have salt residue on your face and body after a long workout,  that is another sign to increase your salt and mineral consumption.  Losing minerals at a rapid rate can make you feel tired and even nauseous.

2. Acclimitization (How long have you been training in hot/humid conditions).  The body takes 2-4 weeks to acclimatize to weather conditions.  Your body will not respond favorably to hot and humid conditions in the spring or early summer.  As you train more in these conditions, your body will adapt and become more efficient at training in those conditions.  Earlier in the season, you may need more water then you do later in the season when you are used to training in hot/humid conditions.  If you are performing in an endurance event, it is ideal to train in conditions that will be similar to that of your race.

3.  Practice your hydration and supplementation during your training.   Use the same hydration and supplementation in training and on race day…don’t try a different product that you have not used in training on race day.

Product Recommendations:

1.   Electrolyte Stamina Power Pak  by Trace Minerals Research

2.  Meta Salt by  Sport quest

3.  Nuun Hydration

4.  Poliquin Uber Mag

5. Aztec Sea Salt This sea salt is the most amazing sea salt I have ever tasted.  It also has the highest array of minerals and the lowest amount of sodium chloride.  It is harvested by hand.  it comes in larger moist granules, therefore I keep it in a porcelain salt cellar with a lid.  I will use it in cooking or just sprinkle (literally) a few granules on top of my food.  

6.  Pink Himalayan Sea Salt This is a finely ground sea salt or what I refer to is an everyday salt.  It is dried and fits in salt shakers and my sea salt box.  I use this like a regular salt.  

7.  Portable Sea Salt Box  I have been using this for nearly 20 years.  It is about the size of a lipstick and conveniently fits in a handbag.  YES! I always carry my own sea salt with me everywhere i go….



Karen Redmond received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a Masters Degree of Science in Health and Fitness Promotion from Marymount University. She has been working in the health and fitness field for 20 years. She is a Master CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Health and Lifestyle Coach. Currently she is studying with Guy Voyer, D.O. studying Osteopathy in the Soma Training and Soma Therapy and ELDOA Programs. Karen is the owner of North Shore Smart Bodies located in Northbrook, Illinois. Specializing in corrective exercise, holistic lifestyle and nutrition coaching, she sees a wide range of clients including those with orthopedic injuries and back pain. Karen enjoys working with runners and endurance athletes of all levels and all distances. She does blood lactate threshold testing, gait analysis and a musculoskeletal evaluation on all clients. Karen then develops a customized program with myofascial stretching, ELDOAS, stability and strength training. She also works with pre/post natal clients, golfers and other athletes. Karen is a competitive runner and enjoys racing distances from 5k to half marathons.

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