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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The best and worst ways to stay hydrated this summer

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Yucatan’s famous pink lagoon are where natural salt production has been ongoing since the 1930s. Photo: Getty

Summertime means a new wave of popup ads — often for beverages. Many are for alcoholic seltzer, which remains one of the buzziest drinks of the past few summers. And there’s a burgeoning trend for electrolyte-filled sports drinks like Electrolit.

Those drinks have unnecessary calories and artificial ingredients. And plain water is not a viable solution when you’re seriously dehydrated. But there are make-at-home drinks that are easy to prepare — especially if you live in Yucatán.

First, it’s helpful to know, what are electrolytes and why do our bodies need them?

Electrolytes are minerals, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, that become ionized when injected with water. Cells need plenty of stored sodium chloride to help the body stay hydrated.

“With sodium chloride, or table salt, it will separate and become an ion, so there’s sodium ions floating around in the water in your body,” said Dr. Rand McClain, who works with professional athletes. “When you ingest them, they go into the cell, which is where the osmosis comes in. They’re called electrolytes because of the whole electron situation going on.”

Electrolytes enter our cells throughout the day. Diets rife with milk and yogurt are sources for the electrolyte calcium, while bananas promote the electrolyte potassium. Watermelon, avocado and coconut and many other fruits and vegetables offer electrolyte boosts when we eat them regularly.

On sedentary, indoor days, our kidneys excrete unused salt or electrolytes at a natural pace. But on extremely hot days or during a workout, our bodies crave electrolytes because we sweating them out at a faster rate.

Though sports drinks contain electrolytes, many also contain too much sugar to be considered a healthful option. All that sugar can make dehydration symptoms worse, too.

You could mix them half-and-half with water and keep the benefits of the electrolytes while weakening the harmful effects of the sugar.

Or you could go a step farther.

“You don’t need fancy electrolyte drinks; I used to make my own,” McClain said. “I would get a liter of water with a quarter to half teaspoon of table salt, add lemon and honey, and voilà — you have a sports drink.”

A striking red pool is used in the production of salt near Rio Lagartos, Mexico. Photo: Getty

It’s the salt that matters, and in Yucatán, we have plenty of natural salt resources at our fingertips.

Las Coloradas, the salt flats near Rio Lagartos and famous for their pink lagoons, was purchased in the 1930s by a Mérida businessman who started what is now one of the country’s major salt producers.

That doesn’t mean Yucatán is producing those trendy pink salts. Las Coloradas, Spanish for “blush red,” get its unique hue from red-colored algae, plankton and brine shrimp that use the salty water as their habitat.

The local salt is full of healthy minerals and all you need to do is drop a rock of salt into your normal water with a squeeze of lime and you will notice a considerable difference in your energy, says Stephanie Carmon of MID CityBeat.

The powers of salt to hydrate is not lost on Yucatecans.

Local salt, combined with a lime — perhaps also local — with a little water makes suero yucateco.

Suero is the saline solution that you would get in an IV drip at the hospital when you are very dehydrated.

“I usually drink one a day. You can get the Yucatecan salt in many natural food stores in town including Ya’axtal Ecotienda or Cafe Organico de Merida also at the Slow Food Yucatán,” says Carmon. “It is also a popular souvenir, so you may find it in stores downtown.”

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