Coffee and Electrolytes: Combating Dehydration

Coffee and Electrolytes: Combating Dehydration

This article originally appeared in the Strong Coffee blog, Strong Words.

We are a nation of dehydration. One study revealed that 75 percent of Americans were likely suffering from chronic dehydration. Electrolytes are here to help with the right kind of coffee! 

WHAT ARE ELECTROLYTES, AND HOW DO THEY FIGHT DEHYDRATION?

 electrolyte chemical symbols

You may have heard the term electrolyte before, especially if you’ve been inundated with sports drinks advertisements (more on that later). Other than associating them with something that athletes drink, do you know what electrolytes are?

Electrolytes are minerals that your body needs. The amount of these minerals changes depending on the level of your body’s hydration or electrolyte imbalance if things are really out of whack.  

These minerals that hold an electric charge are hard at work with the following:

  • They balance the amount of water in your body

  • They transport nutrients into your cells

  • They take the garbage (waste) out of your cells

  • They are crucial for making sure the following parts of your body are nominal:

    • Nerves

    • Muscles

    • Heart

    • Brain

Making up the all-star list of electrolytes are the following:

  • Sodium

  • Potassium

  • Calcium

  • Chloride

  • Phosphate

  • Magnesium

They help to prevent dehydration and are obtained through the foods and drinks we consume. As usual, a balanced, healthy diet is essential. Also, as usual, what we do in the morning upon waking is critical.  

Electrolytes are instrumental in maintaining water balance inside and outside of your cells so that your muscles and organs can continue to work correctly.

HYDRATION UPON WAKING

Let’s revisit that statistic we started off with. 75% of Americans are dehydrated. 75%! That is crazy! 

A big part of that is tied to how we start our day. Let’s be honest; most of us are rushed in the mornings. We’re in a hurry to get the door.

We skip eating anything and aren’t even thinking about drinking water. Maybe we get a cup of regular coffee and try to tackle the day without having anything good in our system.

Why are we gluttons for punishment? The bad part is these habits tend to be passed down to young children that see their parents, adults, and older siblings do this. It’s a vicious cycle!

Here’s the deal: we lose water in our bodies when we sleep. Yes, sleeping does dehydrate us. Add a night out drinking before passing out, and it’s even worse. Good morning hangover!

Your brain is smart. It knows what to do. When your body is low on water, it releases a specific hormone to come to the rescue. Enter the ADH hormone (antidiuretic hormone) to save the day!

This hormone has a chat with your kidneys and basically says, “We need you to slow down with the urine production and focus on absorbing more water back into the body. Thanks!”

This results in you getting thirsty and wanting to drink more water to replenish. At night, our bodies produce a lot more of this hormone to prevent dehydration as we sleep. As we get older, hormone release at night is decreased, so that’s why grandpa has to go pee three times a night!

The amount of sleep you are getting also impacts how dehydrated you get in the morning. A Harvard study revealed that adults who only get up to six hours of sleep per night have a higher chance of being dehydrated when they wake up in the morning.

Let’s add that with how we breathe when we sleep. When we breathe in, the air going into our lungs is heated up. When we breathe back out, some of that heat and water is lost 

Breathing through the nose when we sleep is the body’s way of losing less, but if you breathe through the mouth or have a cold, you’re going to become even more dehydrated. Try not to be a mouth breather when you sleep!

It is important to drink that water either before bed or upon waking. Water is life. 16oz of water after waking up is a decent amount to drink on that empty stomach. Let the water fill you up and replenish.

That is the first new habit you should maintain when starting your day.

So what do you do next?

BE SMART ABOUT DRINKS THAT PROMOTE ELECTROLYTES

 electrolyte drinks sports drinks

Making sure to eat balanced meals throughout the day is paramount to staying hydrated and avoiding symptoms of dehydration.

Some of the symptoms are feeling thirsty, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and fatigue.

Fruits and vegetables go a long way to helping you stay hydrated. Adding those to your meals and your breakfast will undoubtedly help. But what if you don’t really eat food in the morning?

Liquids are a fantastic way to get hydrated and provide your body with the sustenance you would find in solid foods. Now there are many drink options out there that tout being excellent for hydration and restoring your electrolytes, but are they right for you?

With anything, you need to provide context. Does this drink fit me and my lifestyle? Let’s use sports drinks as an example.

There certainly are benefits to sports drinks. There was a purpose in mind when these drinks were created.

Those benefits, however, are specifically tailored to athletes. Suppose you’re involved in vigorous physical activity for 60 to 90 minutes in hot conditions. In that case, a sports drink might be an excellent choice for you! It will help keep you hydrated.  

What about the average joe?

It turns out that a nonathlete probably doesn’t need a sports drink to stay balanced with our favorite electrically charged minerals.

Research has found that most people gulping down sports drinks are not as physically active as they should be. 

There are 48 grams of sugar in a leading sports drink. That’s not exactly healthy. This sugar may be contributing to the child obesity epidemic.

The extra calories from the sugar and sodium found in sports drinks can increase weight in more sedentary people. It also impacts tooth decay, especially among young children. Excess sodium can also lead to high blood pressure over time.

So again, context is essential. If you’re an athlete or someone that is extremely physically active, a sports drink at the right time could be a perfect fit for you. For the average person that isn’t as active, sports drinks might need to be limited or avoided.

What do you do if you’re an average person looking to make some positive changes?

Even if you’re an athlete or an average person, there might be some better options for staying hydrated and getting your body what it needs in the morning. We mentioned a balanced approach to food. A balanced approach to your coffee should also be applied.