Going underway is one of the most stressful times in the Navy. However, as simple as it seems, one of the most basic things sailors need to remember is to keep hydrated. Often, sailors are sleep deprived, in a hurry to get to watch, didn’t have time for chow, conducting maintenance, or getting some random job done, making us always, always on the move. And being on a ship, we are going up and down ladder wells or hopping over knee knockers all day and night that just exhaust our bodies. So of course, the first thing we want to do is grab some coffee (maybe your second or third cup) or that can of Monster in the ship’s store and get on with the working day. Constantly needing that “pick me up” actually wears us down more quickly, because many of these beverages contain a lot of sugar, salt, and other chemicals that can interfere with hydration, and it doesn’t take long before we’ve forgotten to properly hydrate ourselves.
Even though staying hydrated is one of the first things we hear about in boot camp, and continue to be told on a regular basis by the corpsmen, we still tend to overlook it. Being stationed on a carrier for five years, I know exactly how it feels to continuously need a pick-me-up on regular basis thanks to dealing with rotating shifts and a messed up sleeping schedule that changed every day. So why even bother with it? Besides the fact that we need it to survive, remove waste, and maintain cardiovascular health, women need good old H2O a bit more than most people realize.
Generally, we are encouraged to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day, typically called the rule of 8×8. While it’s a great starting point, this concept is fairly basic. And taking it a step further, men and women have different hydration requirements. Our menstrual cycles, exercise, diet, and all of the issues we encounter as we get older such as menopause mean we need to hydrate differently.
What Should Women Drink to Stay Properly Hydrated?
One of the main hydration differences for women is not necessarily how much we need to drink throughout the day, but the makeup of our beverage of choice. For females, nutrition scientist Stacy Sims (co-founder of Osmo Nutrition) notes that during our premenstrual cycle, the progesterone levels rise. According to Stacy, progesterone is a hormone that makes “women lose total body sodium” which can possibly lead to hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is too low.
That isn’t the only concern with women’s hydration. She also says that “women lose eight percent of plasma volume that is the watery part of the blood” during menstruation. Therefore, women need water that has a bit more sodium and potassium in it. Sodium helps get the water into the bloodstream and potassium assists in this process. Men don’t need sodium or potassium in their water because they don’t have this flux of progesterone.
Two great sources of hydration that contain the right amounts of sodium and potassium for women are Osmo Nutrition, mentioned above, and Infinit Nutrition’s ISIS line of beverages.
Hydration and Menstruation
Women need to hydrate more during menstruation to counteract all the symptoms we experience throughout this uncomfortable time. Drinking warm or hot water will increase blood flow and allow those cramped muscles to relax. Water also provides oxygen to the muscles, but one thing to keep in mind (and I know this is difficult on a ship) is to drink clean, filtered water. In my case, we have “clean” water on the ship for drinking, but take a moment to consider how old the ship is and how old the distilling units are on board. Unfiltered water can negatively impact your body during your menstrual cycle, so be sure you have a water bottle with built-in filtration, or bring filtered water with you when away from a clean source.
Bloating is also a common occurrence before and after your cycle. This is due to your body holding fluids between your cells and not in your bloodstream. So, the more you hydrate, the less your body will feel the need to store water between the cells. Hydrating can also help with bloating by reducing the gas in your body that causes you to feel bloated.
And finally, one of the most unpleasant experiences women endure during menstruation is a physical weakness. This is due to all the fluid and blood loss (especially that loss of 8% of blood plasma before your cycle even begins). If you are one of those women, you should drink something with electrolytes that will help restore your energy. A great addition to your water is Strike Force Energy, a liquid electrolyte supplement from a veteran-owned company.
During your cycle, you should try to avoid alcohol as much as possible. When my ship finally hits port, one of the first things I want to do is grab a drink and relax. However, alcohol can prolong the negative symptoms of your menstrual cycle. Alcohol can cause irregular periods due to the disruption of hormones, and it will dehydrate your body. When your body is dehydrated, it will start to retain water, making you bloat. Even worse, alcohol can agitate any cramps that you may have, making them worse.
Female Hydration During Diet & Exercise
Diet and exercise are also often overlooked when it comes to women’s different hydration needs. Your workout regimen will dictate what you need before, during, and after exercising. If your regimen is only 45 minutes or less, Stacey Sims encourages women to drink water before and after, but it is not necessary during the workout. If it’s 60 minutes or more, then you need to increase your sodium intake before you start. It’s recommended you intake about a teaspoon of salt for a 140-pound individual (¾ of a teaspoon of salt for a 120-pound individual). And during your more strenuous regimens, try to sip on your sports drink through your workout.
With diet, there are specific foods that can hydrate you, as well as some that can dehydrate you. This is difficult for me when underway, but I try to target foods that suck up water when being cooked such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or oatmeal. If you’re exercising while dieting, non-fat Greek yogurt, honey, or almond milk are great for recovery afterward. Try to avoid sweets, especially fructose. The female body has trouble metabolizing it efficiently, so it can cause bloating. When it comes to sweeteners, sucrose and glucose are best for females because they are the easiest for us to digest. I know many of us women crave chocolate, but other than a satisfying taste, it does not have much value for women in terms of hydration. The only thing that will happen is a sugar high, and then a crash shortly after.
Water Intake During Menopause
As we get older, menopause sets in. Eventually, all of us women will go through this, with all of its unpleasant side effects: hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, urinary tract infections, pain during sex, dry skin… the list goes on. On average, women lose 10 cups of fluids per day. Women going through menopause lose a lot more than that. So of course, we need to up our intake to make up for the amount lost. By increasing your water consumption, you can decrease the effects of hot flashes. There are other natural remedies such as black cohosh that can help with hot flashes as well. Health.com suggests 20 milligrams twice a day. Hydrating more can also help with dry itchy skin. You can also consume beverages that contain soy or calcium if you are worried about bone loss during menopause.
In the end, remember to always keep yourself well hydrated, whether it is during your premenstrual or menstrual cycle, workout regimen, diet, or menopause. Don’t forget how much fluid your body is losing through these stressful times. Before and during your period, do your best to avoid alcohol and sweets that are high in fructose. For your strenuous workouts, be sure that you have hydrated enough before and after you exercise, and always drink clean filtered water or fluids that contain electrolytes and the appropriate amounts of sodium and potassium.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.