I just came back inside after spending a few hours roasting in the sun. It was brutal, and I feel slightly disrespected by the heat and humidity. Rude.

Before heading out to the drum circle, I reminded everyone in the chat group not only to bring water, but to make sure it included some Himalayan pink rock salt dissolved in it. The reason for this is that colorful salts are more nutritious than bleached salt. It’s the same with practically all our foods: Colorful good, bleached bad. Refined salt lacks the nutritional profile of unrefined sea salts and rocks salts. Colors of natural salts can range from light grey or beige, all the way to browns, pinks, and even blacks. They each taste different, too, something to keep in mind as you consider your recipes. Some are saltier than others, so less is generally needed when using colorful salts.

But why include salt in water in the first place? Of course you know that sweat tastes salty. When you perspire, you lose water along with vital minerals and trace metals. You also purge many toxins by way of sweating, but that isn’t the focus of this entry. The salts you taste in your sweat are called electrolytes, and they also have to be replenished. What’s more, these substances help to shuttle water throughout your system, so having them in your beverage gives your water more bioavailability.

This is why commercial sports drinks have a certain saltiness to them: The minerals they include improve hydration. The complication with premixed sports drinks is that they come with an assortment of ingredients you simply do not need. Artificial colors and excess added sugars come immediately to mind. So how can you stay hydrated, reduce your use of plastic bottles and save yourself money and risky ingredients? Yep, mix your own. You can control the ingredients and the portions exactly as you need.

In a 28-ounce bottle of water, I suggest grinding enough Himalayan rock salt until you can very subtly begin to taste it. You are not making saline, nothing near as salty as that. If the flavor is unpleasant to you, rather than adding lots of sugar, consider soaking or squeezing various fruits or herbs in the bottle. Infusing flavors like watermelon with basil or strawberry with mint are very refreshing. If you also want to add some quick energy to the water, try a teaspoon or two of raw honey, rather than simple sugar.

What are electrolytes specifically? They are particles that carry an electrical charge, and in nutrition they are therefore vital to movement and other nerve functions. They also help to maintain the pH balance of your blood. There are many electrolytes, but the five most widely known are sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Sodium is important in transmitting electrical pulses across nerve membranes, so is vital to communication throughout the nervous system. It also affects fluid balances throughout your body. Chloride is negatively charged, so it works in tandem with positive ions to regulate electrical impulses and to maintain proper pH balances. 

Calcium plays a role in muscle contractions throughout your body, including those involved in digestion, and especially your heart. This is why your heart beat can become irregular when you are dehydrated. Magnesium is important in allowing muscles to relax and slide back out to their full lengths. Cramps occur with more frequency and severity when you lose electrolytes. Potassium is also involved in water balance, nerve impulse transmission, and muscle function, bananas are a popular post-workout snack, specifically because they help reduce cramps, because they are high in potassium.

As you are outside enjoying summer activities, it is vital to remain hydrated. When you are active, and especially when you are exercising or cavorting in a hot environment, you are losing more than water. Choose beverages that hydrate you, which is measured not by the amount of water you drink, but by how much of the water you can actually use.

Other than thirst itself (which is often mistaken for hunger), watch out for other signs of dehydration. They include thick saliva, difficulty swallowing, irregular body temperature, poor digestion, constipation, overly dark urine, dry eyes, puckered lips, wilted skin, fatigue, nausea, cramps, tremors, difficulty with balance or coordination, headaches, poor memory and confusion.

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