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Guest Post: Dr. Alexa Neynaber of Virasoap on Hydration & Electrolytes

Alexa-Neynaber

You increased your weights, you nailed your sets, and you generally crushed the workout. You feel elated, satisfied, and the rush like your body is filled with endorphins. This is ideally how you want to feel after a workout, right? But have you ever walked away from workout feeling less than awesome? Feeling apathetic, fatigued, dizzy, nauseated, headachy, or just a discomfort that has nothing to do with the muscle groups you focused on? It could be related to dehydration.

Did you know that a majority of athletes, from the professional to high school student, go into their workouts dehydrated? Not to mention, the majority of people in the US are dehydrated to begin with. Even minor dehydration affects our body's physiological functions such as metabolism. It probably doesn't surprise you to learn that adequate hydration requires more than just water; you need electrolytes to hold onto that water.

Electrolytes are substances that are utilized by the body to create electrically charged fluids. Many bodily functions require electrolytes, especially in muscle and nervous tissue. The main electrolytes found in the body include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate and bicarbonate. Proper fueling requires more than replenishing calories and fluids; it involves consistent and adequate electrolyte support.

This starts before a workout begins. There isn't a perfect equation (well, there is, but it requires you to measure sweat loss and urine volume) or method, but your body can give you quick and helpful clues. You are likely hydrated if you aren't actively thirsty, if you have light yellow/straw-colored urine, and you are urinating every 1-2 hours. If these signs are present, you can assume you are likely hydrated and ready for your workout. If you work out in the early morning, make sure these signs are present before bed. You don't need to consume excess water or salt prior to working out unless you will be participating in activities where fluid access is restricted, such as endurance events or remote events like trail races.

During physical activity, electrolyte requirements are increased. While you are exercising, you should be trying to replace fluid losses gradually. This can simply look like keeping your water bottle near you and drinking little increments as you go. The goal is to replace the approximate fluid volume being lost in sweat. Everyone sweats at different rates based on exercise, body weight, metabolic efficiency, genetics, humidity and temperature. Average sweat loss during exercise can range from 0.3 L to 2.4 L per hour, so listening to your body and adjusting as needed is important. Hydrating during a workout is especially important and increased for prolonged exercise lasting longer than an hour, at altitude, or if exercising in a hot environment.

After exercise, besides worrying about food/protein, adequate fluids and electrolytes should still be emphasized to replenish what was lost and not replenished during the exercise. So does this look like a Gatorade? Well, maybe if that's all you have access to, but sugar-filled beverages are not ideal or sustainable choices to replace electrolytes lost during exercise. This is because excess carbohydrates and unsafe additives won't get you any closer to your goals and puts more stress on the liver and kidneys to excrete.

Fluid containing electrolytes like sodium and potassium can help better replace the loss of salts in sweat and to provide fluid retention. There are electrolyte powders on the market that can easily be mixed into water that don't contain tons of unwanted sugar or artificial colors, such as over-the-counter Nuun tablets or Emergen-C packets. Some of these products can contain low-quality B vitamins that are hard to absorb for many and can be dangerous if you have a genetic issue called an MTHFR mutation. Choosing an electrolyte powder that is physician grade and third-party tested is ideal for quality salt replacement. Unsure if the brand you found is good quality or want more ideas of where to find some? You can book a free phone consultation with me to discuss quality options.

Ideally, electrolyte salts can be replaced easily by the food you eat. For example, purple potatoes and avocados contain tons of potassium, more than the famous banana. Lightly salted foods prepared at home can replenish sodium, but be wary of the high sodium content of pre- packaged and canned foods that will require more fluid to balance your day.

A personal favorite way to get electrolytes easily? Mineral water! Modern filtered water is great because it filters out chemicals and toxins, but this means it also removes mineral content. Real mineral water like San Pelligrino or Topo Chico contains naturally occurring potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and more. If a water is just "sparkling," such as LaCroix, it doesn't contain minerals. Adding 8 to 12 ounces to your daily hydration regimen can be enough to help add back many electrolytes lost in daily sweating.

As if all of this wasn't enough reason to focus on hydration when you work out, did you know chronic dehydration actually can cause unwanted weight gain? Our body can overcome the thirst signal to the brain by drinking water or eating food. Sometimes we eat because we think we're hungry when in fact that signal was not hunger. Long-term learned misinterpretation of this signal can lead to excessive intake of calories.

Don't wait until you're thirsty as this can mean you are already dehydrated. A sedentary adult with virtually no exercise is recommended to drink 1.5L per day (50oz), and when you're active you need more. One more personalized starting recommendation is to drink half your weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weighed 140 pounds, your goal would be 70 oz per day. This recommendation isn't perfect for everyone and should be worked up to gradually or else it will be shocking to the body.

Your hydration goals should be adjusted to your life. Any time you exercise, you have to add more water to your goal, and ideally during the workout. Any time you drink a dehydrating substance such as coffee, alcohol or soda, you need to add more water to your goal. Any time you smoke (anything), you need to add more water to your goal. Any time you sweat, even if you're not working out, such as in the sauna or outside, you need to add more water to your goal. Seeing the pattern?

 The most common signs of potential electrolyte imbalance:

Fatigue

Muscle cramping

Weakness

Fast and irregular heartbeat

Confusion

If you notice any of these problems or concerns in your health, you need to consider increasing your hydration efforts. An easy way to jump-start your hydration with perfect electrolyte balance is an IV hydration treatment. These treatments can act as a complete reset, improving dehydration symptoms within minutes to hours. This treatment can also be a good option before a big athletic event, after an event for muscle recovery, or in times of dehydration that may occur with illness, fluid loss, or hangovers to feel better faster. You can read more about this treatment here. More information about the effects of dehydration on long-term health can be found here.

Hydration aid can:

 -help support fluid balance

-supply sodium and potassium to help replenish electrolytes lost during exercise

-deliver key electrolytes to help replace those lost through sweating, activity, heat, or illness

-support hydration before or after exercise

-deliver potassium and magnesium to help support exercise performance 


Dr. Alexa Neynaber is a Naturopathic Doctor, Medical Director of Virasoap, and IV therapy specialist. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from the University of Nebraska and her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Her CNME-accredited residency was completed in primary and specialty care within the Seattle area, and she's now an adjunct clinical supervisor and professor at Bastyr Center for Natural Health where she teaches IV therapy and sees patients. She utilizes functional medicine treatments and testing and will soon be certified with the Institute of Functional Medicine as an IFMCP.

When her high-risk and immune-compromised patients were too weak or unable to make it into clinic, she realized the importance of home care and treatment delivered. She established a practice that brought the immune support directly to her patients to ensure they could still receive the care they needed.

Over the years, Dr. Alexa has seen the tremendous impact that IV treatment has on her patients and is an advocate for expert application. She has seen the place for stand-alone IV treatment and complementary IV therapy, and she has been an advocate for safety when IV intervention is not indicated. Dr. Alexa uses her education in clinical nutrition to further the impact of her immune-support protocols and has treated hundreds of conditions and thousands of patients in both primary and specialty care settings. She is passionate about her patients and advocates for how complementary and alternative medicine can support anyone in any walk of life. 

Find her here!

Website: https://virasoap.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virasoap/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/virasoap


Listen to Dr. Alexa discuss hydration and electrolyte balance in episode 9 of the Fitsplained Podcast! 

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