Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dehydration and electrolyte drinks

For a while now I've been feeling super dehydrated when I wake up in the mornings, like dry mouth, creased skin, and sometimes even a slight headache. Before you say anything, no, it's not a hangover. At first, I used to think it was a phantom hangover, reminding me that I should've gone out drinking the night before instead of staying in.

But after coming back from a run about a month ago and then devouring every salty thing in our fridge (most notably the rest of our pickles and half a jar of sauerkraut), I figured it must be some sort of electrolyte imbalance and plain water wasn't doing enough to get me back to feeling normal.

Of course, I did nothing about it for another month.

I'm not a fan of Gatorade or Powerade, and when I do drink them I have to dilute them by half. The flavors of Vitamin Water got old and started to taste nasty to me, probably because I associate them with actually being hungover.

So I ventured into the endurance sports mixes to replace the electrolytes lost during exercise or just generally living (I sweat a lot, see the reasons behind me not biking the 1.63 miles to work/school).

I first tried Hammer's HEED Sports Energy Drink, Lemon-Lime Flavor, and it was disgusting. That is not to say this mix is not recommended to all. The flavors are a matter of personal preference and it just wasn't sitting well with me. I couldn't even finish the water bottle and had to dump it out.

Since I really like Clif Shot Bloks as a source of nutrition on bike rides (it's like eating gummy candy, but actually good for you and quite necessary!), I figured their electrolyte mixes had a similar type of flavor and so I decided to give them a shot (pun totally intended).

I've now had their Clif Shot Endurance Drink, Lemonade Flavor, for two days and I find it tolerable, especially if I add it to ice cold water. It's kind of weird-tasting in room temperature water...the kind I drink normally.

The only problem I have with it is that it's very calorific. See the nutrition label below:

For a 16-oz. glass, I add about 1.5 scoops (a little less than recommended), which comes out 120 calories! And 20 g of sugar! Even Gatorade has less calories and only 4 g more of sugar:

The whole point of avoiding Gatorade/Powerade was to cut down on the calories. I need the electrolytes on a daily basis and not just when I'm exercising. And even when I exercise, I don't want to offset my hard work with a necessary drink that I don't get that much pleasure out of. It's good, it's just not 1/4 cup of ice cream good. (Yes, I have the number of calories in 1/4 cup of my favorite ice cream memorized. It comes in handy when comparing the worth of eating whatever I'm craving at the moment.)

Unfortunately, my timing was completely off in deciding to buy these things and right after receiving the Clif Shot Endurance Drink in the mail, I stumbled upon a recommendation by Outside Magazine, my favorite magazine thus far, of Nuun Electrolyte Enhanced Drink Tabs, which advertise the same benefits of electrolyte mixes and none of the sugar or calories. Well, no sugar, and limited calories (~6 per tablet).

I don't usually take any recommendations from gear reviews in magazines since I believe they're all sponsored and give a limited blurb on why this particular product was chosen over another (I need full-page comparisons, can't you tell?).

But I was intrigued by this one. I've always liked dropping tablets in my drinks as a source of flavor or nutrition so I figured I should try it. The price was a bit cheaper than the Clif drink mix (Clif: 45 scoops per bottle = 30 16-oz servings for $20-ish, and Nuun: 48 tablets = 48 16-oz servings for $24).

The nutrition was even better:

More sodium than Clif (360 mg v. 300 mg), more potassium (100 mg v. 75 mg), and magnesium (25 mg v. ~9 mg). That's not even considering the difference in calories (6 v. 120) and sugar (0 g v. 15 g).

That, and the bottles are pretty, and not messy, and there are a lot more flavors to choose from, 10 in fact. I got the 4-pack mix which includes the original flavors of lemon+lime, tri-berry, citrus fruit, and orange (I've heard orange is pretty bad as is the tri-berry...after I purchased them, of course).

And if I like the fizziness and the general flavors of the brand then I might go with the new flavor 4-pack mix, which would include grape, fruit punch, strawberry lemonade, and tropical. We shall see how I like them.

Regardless, I will have a lot of whichever electrolyte drink I like least to finish off so I think I'm going to go with the Clif one for rides where I still need to replenish carbs and calories, and drop a tablet of Nuun into the water bottle I take to class and work.

As for my electrolyte experience thus far? I woke up this morning with a dry mouth again. I have a feeling one 16-oz. serving in the morning is not going to be enough to get me through the day. But I don't really want to consume more than 120 calories of non-sports drinks so I'm just going to wait until the Nuun tablets come in and see what happens. Hopefully this will rid me of each morning's bout of dehydration.

8 days without booze
210.5 lbs 

P.S. I don't eat much sodium in my daily diet which is why I'm ok with packing this much into my system as a supplement.

P.P.S. I also drink a lot of water throughout the day, at least 72 ounces. It takes a lot to fuel this large machine. And even with that, sometimes my pee doesn't come out all that clear (TMI, I know). But when it is clear (or I have to pee as soon as I take a drink of water, like right now), and I'm still feeling dehydrated, I know it's an electrolyte problem.

P.P.P.S. I still can't believe I gained over 5 pounds just from two consecutive weekends of heavy drinking. Yikes!

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