Where When How — Summer 2017
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Hydration: Water And Electrolytes
Samuel Henriquez


Water plays a vital role in our body: it dissolves substances such as protein, enzymes, and DNA, it transports substances, removes waste, lubricates the joints and it helps regulate body temperature. Our bodies are made of 55-60% water and how much water we carry around largely depends on our body composition, fat tissue has a lower water percentage than lean tissue.

Water is constantly leaving our bodies, mostly through sweat, urine and stool. We lose more water when performing vigorous exercise or in illnesses such as diarrhoea and vomiting. An adequate amount of water must be consumed to make up for this loss. Healthy adults should consume about three litres of water a day: one litre from our food (raw fruit and vegetables, soup, and cooked whole grain food all have a high amount of water) and the other two litres from the water we drink. As with most things, this depends on the individual and there are many factors (both internal and external) that ultimately affect our need for water.


Fluid in and fluid out is not the only part of the fluid balance equation. What is dissolved in the water, such as electrolytes, is the other part.

Electrolytes are minerals that have many functions in the body including maintaining water balance, helping our muscles (including our heart) contract and relax and helping to transmit nerve impulses. The most common electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and calcium, which are lost in sweat along with water.

An electrolyte imbalance, whether too much or too little, can be quite detrimental to your health. Muscle contractions, for example, require calcium, potassium, and sodium; deficiency may result in muscle weakness or severe cramping. Too much sodium, on the other hand, can cause high blood pressure and significantly increase your risk of heart disease.

The Key to Hydration

The balance between water and solute is the crucial key to proper hydration. Dehydration occurs when there is not enough water and relative to it, too much solute, which occurs when you lose more water than you are taking in. When this occurs, solutes get too concentrated which then triggers thirst. Thirst is the body’s first indicator of dehydration.

A mere 2% loss in body weight through sweat while exercising has been known to decrease exercise performance greatly. Dehydration not only leads to decreased performance, but can cause muscle cramping, headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Severe dehydration can lead to organ failure and serious health complications. Hence, fluid replenishment is essential.

Too much water

Fluid replenishment is essential but drinking too much plain water, in a short period of time rather than balancing your electrolytes, especially during extended periods of vigorous exercise, exposure to the sun, vomiting and diarrhoea, can lead to a rare but severe condition called hyponatremia (low levels of sodium in the blood). Severe cases can lead to water intoxication, which may include but is not limited to symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue, frequent urination, and mental disorientation. It is therefore important to rehydrate yourself with an electrolyte supplement.

Rehydration Supplements

Dioralyte and Pedialyte (for kids) are standard electrolyte supplements that are great rehydration aids when recovering from vomiting and diarrhoea. If you have high blood pressure, care must be taken with sports drinks and electrolyte supplements as they often contain high levels of sodium (salt).

Sports drinks are generally high in sugar so they are not the healthiest option. NUUN is a popular natural electrolyte enhanced supplement that is sugar free, tastes great and comes in an array of different flavours.

Nuun hydration for every lifestyle


electrolytes aren’t just for exercise, Nuun Vitamins hydrate better than water alone

■ Nuun ACTIVE - packed with electrolytes and using clean ingredients, Nuun is the perfect sports drink for your active lifestyle

■Nuun ENERGY - with caffeine from green tea extract, B-vitamins, and electrolytes, Nuun Energy helps to maintain high levels of energy


Another electrolyte supplement to consider is Elete. A natural electrolyte supplement with low sodium and high magnesium concentration. Magnesium allows our bodies to produce energy. It helps our muscles to relax after contraction.

■No additives at all i.e. no sweeteners, preservatives, colourings or flavourings

■No calories

■Flexible - can be used with water or added to any food or drink

Rehydration Tips

■Drink when you are thirsty: For most people, thirst is a reliable indicator that your body needs water. If you feel thirsty, drink water.

■Keep a bottle with you always.

■Eat food, especially foods that are high in electrolytes and water. (Coconut, banana and spinach)

■If eating food is not an option, drink a fluid replacement beverage or a sports drink (Nuun).

By Samuel Henriquez, B.Sc. Biomedical Sciences, Vitamins and Nutrition Advisor, Flamingo Pharmacy