Some essential ingredients for healthy bodily function
Water is the hardest working compound in our body and is responsible for a range of critical functions including transporting nutrients to cells, facilitating breathing, dissolving waste, lubricating tissues and joints and most importantly, regulating temperature.
The average 70kg male is made up of around 42 litres of water, around 60% of his body mass. The brain is 75% water, the blood 83%, muscles 75% and even bone is 22% water.
|Water composition of tissues and organs by weight. Source: Handbook of Food Toxicology|
Water’s ability to absorb large quantities of heat while only undergoing small changes in temperature is part of what helps the body to maintain a steady temperature, along with the act of sweating leading to evaporative cooling.
However, water alone is not enough for healthy cellular function and there are a number of other elements such as electrolytes and amino acids that contribute to both hydration and wellbeing.
Sodium, or salt, is an essential electrolyte that is critical to regulating the body’s water balance as well as assisting nerve and muscle function.
Sodium lost through sweating or going to the toilet must be replaced or severe health consequences can result. Eating is important to help replenish sodium however a loss of appetite is common during strenuous activity, making an electrolyte drink a good alternative.
Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve, muscle and cell function and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
It supports a healthy immune system and regular heartbeat, helps keep bones strong and aids in the production of proteins and muscles as well as helping to regulate blood glucose levels.
Magnesium is lost during sweating (although in smaller amounts than sodium) and can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, soy and whole grains. People who abuse alcohol can be deficient in magnesium. The body removes excess amounts of magnesium, so side effects from overconsumption are rare.
Similar to magnesium, potassium is lost during sweating and is important to cell function, the building of muscles and proteins, normal body growth and the effective use of carbohydrates.
It is found in all meats, soy, fruit, vegetables, nuts and dairy products and consuming a potassium supplement may lead to faster recovery times, especially among those whose dietary intake is inadequate, however excess potassium consumption can also cause health issues.
L-isoleucine is one of the nine essential branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) – so called because the body cannot manufacture them and they must be consumed. L-isoleucine assists in wound healing, waste detoxification and stimulates immune function.
It can be found in meats, fish, cheese eggs and most seeds and nuts.
L-leucine is an essential BCAA, important for metabolic function, protein synthesis, blood-sugar regulation as well as muscle, bone and wound repair. L-leucine is found readily across the food spectrum meaning that deficiency is rare.
Another essential BCAA, L-valine promotes muscle growth and tissue repair, helps maintain mental vitality, energy and muscle co-ordination. Valine supplements are used to provide these benefits while it can be consumed in soy, cheese, fish, meats and vegetables.
L-glutamine is a non-essential amino that is popular with athletes due to its role in carrying nitrogen – an energy source for cells. L-glutamine boosts the immune system and may be of particular benefit during times of high physical activity, which can deplete the body’s L-glutamine stores.
L-glutamine boosts the immune system and may be of particular benefit during times of high physical activity, which can deplete the body’s L-glutamine stores.