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Hydration

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woman drinking plain water

The adult human body consists of 55-60% water, and needs about half its body weight in ounces of water intake per day. For anyone working out hard enough to sweat, you need an additional 16 oz of hydration per 30 minutes of sweaty exercise you perform.

When you drink less than 50% of the water you need every day over a period of time, you are considered to be chronically dehydrated.

75% of all Americans are chronically dehydrated, and this leads to all kinds of health problems. This is why we put Hydration at the foundation of our 5-Layer Nutrition Pyramid.

When our bodies are chronically dehydrated, we are likely to experience multiple side effects. Our hearts have to pump faster and harder to get sufficient oxygen to our muscles. Our blood doesn’t carry oxygen as efficiently, leading to fatigue and mental fog. We experience skeletal problems like arthritis and back pain. We are more likely to suffer from toxic waste build-up in our livers and kidneys – or toxins get re-absorbed in our large intestine because we can’t eliminate waste efficiently.

One condition linked to dehydration that causes millions to suffer are chronic headaches. A dehydration headache can be mild, or as severe as a migraine. It can appear suddenly after an intense workout in a case of acute dehyration, but it can also show up any time of day if we are chronically dehydrated – particularly in the evening as our body used up excess hydration stores to function during the day.

When the brain is dehydrated, it pulls away from the skull – it literally shrinks. This causes pain, obviously. But dehydration can also lead to chronic headaches through too many toxins circulating in our blood due to impaired kidney function. When these toxins cross the blood-brain barrier, it can cause the brain to become inflamed.

Water also allows for efficient cellular repair. If you are exercising (particularly strength training) and not drinking enough fluid, you’ll be sabotaging your efforts because your muscles lack the ability to repair themselves. Water also slows down the aging process, prevents memory loss and makes skin smoother.

So if H2O has all these benefits, why aren’t we focusing on it more?

Many people cite busyness as a reason they don’t drink enough water. When you’re running around all day it can be tough to get your ounces in. Another common reason is that we generally aren’t told to. For those of us who are making a specific effort to lose weight or get healthier, many of us will opt for a branded diet, where our entry point is reading one of its books. Very few of these books focus on the importance of hydration. Most of them focus on macronutrient ratios, and the various evils of specific types of food groups.

Additionally, the Standard American Diet (Western Diet) promotes dehydration with heavy ingestion of salt, caffeine, alcohol, and foods that require heavy lifting in terms of detoxifying and digesting (foods loaded with chemicals and sugar, high-fat foods).

It is difficult to overstate the importance of water for mental health. Because the brain itself is 75% water, a chronically dehydrated brain is a depressed brain. Even a short stint of acute dehydration can impact your daily mood. As little as 1.5% loss of normal water volume in the body can cause mood swings, irritability, and anxiety.

Many of us dealing with depression, demotivation, difficulty focusing, lethargy/low energy, chronic unexplained anxiety and that “heavy limb” feeling could benefit immensely from an intensive rehydrating protocol.

In fact, a University of Connecticut study found that improving hydration in the body could help “significantly” with certain cases of depression, mental performance, and even sleep disorders.

Unfortunately, once we are dehydrated, rehydrating our body is not as simple as just drinking more plain water. When we are chronically or severely dehydrated, plain water cannot be absorbed quickly enough in the small intestine to keep up with our bodies’ need for it – and most of it ends up being excreted. This does help cleanse our kidneys and urinary tract, but it doesn’t do much for our goal of water retention and circulation in the body.

There is a big difference between drinking water, and absorbing water.

This is why a lot of sports drinks include some electrolytes (minerals that form ions in fluid), sugar (sucrose) and in particular, sodium. These heavier molecules are more readily absorbed by the small intestine. They act as “carriers” for the water molecules, thus allowing the body to be rehydrated more quickly. Osmosis is how all net water absorption happens across cell membranes. Water is dependent on other molecules to transport it into the body.

I have struggled with dehydration for years. If water isn’t in front of me, I just don’t drink it. Additionally, I don’t particularly care for the taste of plain water unless its ice cold.

I found great success in carrying a water bottle around with me all day, and putting flavored electrolyte tabs in my water. It kills two birds with one stone.

I have really high expectations for my water bottle, and cycled through over a dozen before I found one I liked. My criteria were as follows:

  •  Must be easy to clean – dishwasher safe and not a lot of small parts where germs can hide
  • Must be easy to fill – a wide mouth where I can add ice or other stuff if I want
  • Must be the right size – I hate having to refill a small bottle constantly, but not so big that it’s inconvenient to lug around all day. I found 24-28 oz to be the perfect size, which also happens to be a great ratio for 1 full Nuun tab
  • Must be convenient to drink from frequently. Your aim is to sip a couple times a minute so getting into and out of your water bottle needs to be pretty much instantaneous, especially with how much you’re going to be using it! I don’t know about you but I hate those screw-off lids. They’re impossible to exercise with too. I need a one-handed pop-top that opens and closes in an instant with one flick.
  • Must be easy to carry – I hate when my hands get cold having to hold a bottle by its body. It needs a little carrying loop at the top that I can hook my finger through
  • It needs to be narrow enough to fit in my car’s cup holder
  • It must be airtight when closed, because I frequently add ingredients that need to be turned upside down or shaken
  • It has to be made of a material that doesn’t leach toxins into the water (ie stainless steel or BPA free plastic)

That’s quite the laundry list for a damn water bottle, isn’t it? As you can see, I only drink water under the perfect conditions. πŸ˜‚

But I finally found my perfect bottle. πŸ™‚ It’s called the Contigo AutoSpout. I found a 3-pack of them on Amazon, and if you use these guys you’ll want more than one of them because ideally you’ll be using this thing all day every day.

Past the water bottle, I mentioned electrolyte drink tabs. My absolute favorite is Nuun brand. They are about $5-7 per 10 tabs. They can be broken in half for a milder flavor or smaller glass. They come in a smorgasbord of flavors, including some with caffeine in them – making those a great alternative to an afternoon coffee. They also include Magnesium which is really tough to get enough of, and a smattering of B Vitamins which we burn through quickly during times of stress as well. All good stuff in there.

For typical hydration purposes, get yourself set up with the Contigo water bottle and some Nuun tabs of your choice (my favorite are Strawberry Lemonade and Cherry Limeade). Aim to drink 1 bottle’s worth in the AM (I start mine during my mid-morning workout and finish it by lunch) and another bottle’s worth in the afternoon. That’ll be 48 oz right there, and if you add in the rest of the day’s beverages – coffee, tea, sparkling soda, broth – you’ll likely be at your requirement. If you aren’t, sip a 3rd one for dinner and into the evening.

For more intensive hydration or detoxing however, you might want to make yourself a Cleansing Drink on occasion. There are two variations of this drink and both of them are incredible. They’re great to make once or twice a week as a Maintenance detox thing.

Cranberry Cleansing Drink

  1. Fill your Contigo bottle to 20 oz (it’ll be halfway between the 16 oz and 24 oz marks) with water. Add ice cubes first if you want it super cold.
  2. Fill the remaining 4 oz with pure, UNSWEETENED cranberry juice. This is a specialty item that is typically expensive. You don’t want Ocean Spray for this. But one jar will last you forever. It is incredibly sour and you don’t want to drink it straight.
  3. Add 1-2 tsp of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
  4. Add 1 T of raw unbleached table sugar (sucrose)
  5. Add 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt
  6. Turn the bottle over and shake it gently until the solids have dissolved. You’ll probably have to keep swirling the ingredients right before each sip.
  7. Don’t guzzle it – sip it throughout a morning or afternoon. Try to have it gone in about 2-3 hours. This will allow all the ingredients to be fully absorbed.

Lemon-Cayenne Cleansing Drink Alternative

You can also follow the same instructions above, but replace the unsweetened cranberry juice with fresh (not from concentrate) lemon juice, if you tolerate citrus well. Instead of the ACV, add 1/4 tsp (or to taste) of cayenne pepper, and the same 1T of raw unrefined sugar. Add 1-2 tsp of ginger juice if you like the flavor and want to add more immune boost to your drink, or you’ve been battling nausea due to hangover etc.

Neither of these drinks *taste* particularly amazing, but you shouldn’t have to choke them down. I saw a version once that called for liquid chlorophyll and I tried it – suffice to say I’ll never do that to you guys. πŸ˜ƒ

You do not want to try to replace the sugar with honey or maple syrup. In an ice cold drink it just hardens and sinks to the bottom. Honey is best in warm drinks where it softens – like tea and mulled wine. And maple syrup is just best over pancakes.

For more reading on water absorption in the small intestine via osmosis, visit here. For more info on electrolytes and what they do in the body, visit here.

My Hydration Kit (Water Bottle + Nuun Tabs) are available for purchase through Amazon here:

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