Sweating: It’s not just about replacing electrolytes!

With the warmer weather and the increase in outdoor physical activity, more of us are perspiring in greater quantities. Perspiration is a natural body mechanism that helps keep your body cool. Dehydration from excessive sweating can deplete water-soluble vitamins from the body as well as important electrolytes.

Many of us focus solely on replacing electrolytes when doing intense physical activity and ignoring the numerous water-soluble nutrients that are lost via sweating. Common nutrients that are affected by perspiration include thiamin, riboflavin, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid and Vitamin C.

It is important to not wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water or other beverages. Thirst indicates that your body is already somewhat dehydrated. Water soluble vitamins can be found in a number of foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Maintaining a healthful diet is important at ensuring there are ample water-soluble nutrients in your body.

There are several studies that seem to indicate that those suffering from heat exhaustion (or heat stroke) are almost always deficient in vitamin C. We can infer from these studies that good levels of vitamin C may help reduce the severity of hot weather exposure and intense exercise and that poor levels of Vitamin C may exacerbate such episodes of heat and exercise. Stress and excess alcohol consumption place a greater burden on our B vitamins supply, causing more of the water-soluble nutrients to be lost.

Depending on the level of intensity of the physical activity, water is often not enough to replace lost electrolytes, sodium, potassium and carbohydrates. Coconut water has been given the reputation of being “nature’s perfect sports drink”. Coconut water has a greater source of potassium compared to commercial sports drinks. Where it does fall short is coconut water is lacking in sodium and carbohydrate. Sodium is one of the main electrolytes lost in perspiration. Carbohydrates are important in replenishing the body’s depleted energy stores. It is possible to “beef up” the coconut water to make it more comparable to commercial sports drinks and yet a more natural alternative. A 2007 study from the University of Malaysia showed that coconut water enhanced with sodium performed as well as a commercial sports drink in post rehydration tests with a better fluid tolerance and less stomach fullness or stomach upset.

So the next time you head outdoors to enjoy the warm weather, make sure you have your nutrient replacement beverages with you!


_The information above is intended for informational purposes only. Always consult with your health care provider if this is suitable for you.

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Alene Falomo