I have a Drinking Problem: How to Hydrate like a Professional

Water and Math: Whats the SUM?

You are 60% water. When I first heard this, I thought “facts about water and math? Sweet, time to stop paying attention”. But I was young and foolish. As it turns out math and water both deserve a closer look. Thanks to brilliant minds like Dr Zach Bush, and Dr Gerald Pollack my opinion on water has shifted dramatically. As it turns out, water Might just hold the key to a healthier, happier, and longer life. Stick around to see where you store water and why it matters, how to measure your levels, and find out ‘What’s the deal’ with electrolytes and hydration?

Time for some math. So, if we were to take a 150-pound man and assume he’s about 60% water. That would give us 90 pounds of water, and 60 pounds of other stuff. We know About 8% of the body’s mass is attributable to blood, and blood is about 90% water. That gives us a grand total of about 10 pounds of water floating around inside your blood. But what does that mean for the other 90%, or 54 pounds, of = water in your body? Sure, there some additional lymph fluid, and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord. But it turns out most of the water in your body is hiding inside your cells

The Solution to Pollution is Dilution

But first, what the heck are cells anyway? Cells are the building blocks that all living things are made up of. They’re basically like microscopic water balloons, with cute little mini organs and mitochondria floating around inside. A bunch of them combine forces to create different kinds of tissue. And it’s these tissues that make up every organ in your body. Cells also have the amazing ability to regulate what goes in, and out. 

For a cell to work at its best, food and charged particles called ions need to go in, and waste products need to be taken out. If the cell has a hard time ‘taking out the trash’, it can lead to a buildup of cellular garbage. A sure-fire way to clog up the tiny cellular machinery. This leads to cell stress, DNA damage and makes the cell age faster. 

Fortunately, there’s a solution. As we like to say, ‘the solution to pollution is dilution’. In other words, the simple answer is to get more water inside your cell! This dilutes toxin build up and helps get the good stuff in and bad stuff out. Which may reduce DNA damage, slow or even reverse the cellular aging process! 

‘You’re in’ the Hydration Zone: Measuring your hydration: 

If I’ve piqued your interest in hydration and you’re wanting to ‘up’ your hydration game, the first step is to get better acquainted with your urine.  

Monitoring your urine output is an easy way to monitor your hydration, and your overall health. Here are a few things to keep in mind, to make sure You’re in the hydration zone. Ideally you should be urinating 6 – 7 times a day. You should see a large volume of clear, pale-yellow colored urine. But while we’re on the subject, here are few other things to keep an eye out for: 

  1. Urine, that is dark like an apple cider color is a sure sign you’re dehydrated. 
  2. Urine, which is Very dark, think coca cola color, may be a sign of a serious health condition. Please proceed directly to your doctor.  
  3. Urine, which is completely clear, right after drinking water, probably means the water passed right through, and was not absorbed well. 
  4. Urine, which smells sweet, like Fruit loops, may be a sign of diabetes. Proceed to your doctor. 
  5. Urine, which is florescent yellow, like a laser, probably means excess B vitamins. 

The problem with pee: Phaser Angle Set to Stun

Learning to read urine output is a fun and free way to gauge your hydration and overall health status. It can even help detect certain health conditions. But there is a problem with pee. Urine reflects circulating blood volume. But as we’ve learned above, 90% of your body’s water isn’t in circulation, but inside your cells! Stick around to learn how you can keep track of the water inside your cells too.  

Measuring your phase angle is perhaps the best insight into the hydration level of your cells. It works by measuring how hard it is to run a light electrical current through your body. Knowing that water conducts electricity, someone with well hydrated cells should have a higher phase angle. Whereas a body with dehydrated cells tends to have a much lower phase angle. 

Phase angle research is still growing, although current data suggest a high correlation between phase angle and pretty much all areas of health. An optimal angle would be between 7 and 10, indicating excellent cellular health and hydration. Whereas a measurement of 5 or bellow would be highly correlated with frailty and disease. 

If you have access to a device which measures phase angle, don’t worry if it shows you’re dehydrated! Most people are. And it will improve if you work on it. Although I will warn you, it takes time and consistency to move the needle. To truly rehydrate your system, it requires increasing the amount of water in all 70 trillion cells in your body. But even small increases in phase angle and cellular hydration, can significantly improve your health. Possibly adding years onto your life. 

Hydration Hacks, what you need to know:

The first step to better hydration is a ‘no brainer. Drink more water. A base line recommendation is to take your body weight, divide it in half, and drink that many ounces of water per day. For example, our 150-pound friend, from before, should shoot for 75 oz of water per day. That’s about two and a half Hydro Flasks, that should be spread evenly throughout the day. This amount increases in hot climates and with exercise.  

The next consideration is, what else is in your water? Have you ever drunk a tall glass of clean, pure water only to find yourself in the bathroom minutes later? If you got the feeling that water went right through you, you were probably right. The first thing to remember is that Water needs to be absorbed. Adding too much too quickly, dilutes your blood, and the extra water is thrown out by your kidneys. To make better use of your water, you can drink it slowly, allowing your system time to adjust. Or, if you want to super charge your hydration, try spicing up your water with some electrolytes! By bringing the concentration of your drink, closer to what’s in circulation, your system will have an easier time putting water to work! 

‘What’s the deal’ with electrolytes and hydration?

For most my life when I heard the word Electrolyte I immediately thought “ah yes, what plants crave”. But several years ago, I finally asked myself ‘what’s the deal’ with electrolytes and hydration, anyway? 

As it turns out, electrolytes are a very big deal. Keep reading to find out why! Electrolytes are basically tiny bits of minerals that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. The main electrolytes are Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, and Chloride. These little minerals are essential to human health, but they also have a bonus of helping the water get inside the cell. That’s because water likes to hang around the electrolytes, and cells like electrolytes to help maintain their negative charge. Cells prefer to be a little more negatively charged on the inside, so when they pull in extra electrolytes, it automatically pulls water inside, hydrating and charging the cell. A well charged, well hydrated cell, is a happy cell that is less prone to things like DNA damage or cancerous mutations. 

If you remember phase angle measures cellular hydration by measuring electrical charge across your body. And electrolytes help get both water and charged particles inside of your cells. Then hopefully you’re starting to see how electrolytes positively impact your phase angle, your cellular hydration, and your health. 

In fact, you would improve your hydration simply by adding more electrolytes into your current water intake. Even if you drank the exact same amount! By helping your body absorb the water, and then shuttle it into your cells, you get the water where it counts! Drinking a higher volume, with extra electrolytes? Well now that’s a slam dunk for hydration!  

Supplamentation Station

Here’s what I look for in an electrolyte supplement: 

  1. Chloride, a negatively charged mineral which helps maintain cell charge. 
  2. Sodium, which gets a bad rap but is probably the most important ion in your body. 
  3. Potassium, which is essential, and most people don’t get enough. 

Bonus points if it contains: 

1) Magnesium, which is important for muscles, nerves, staying calm and a lot more! Big bonus if your electrolytes have magnesium. 

2) Other trace minerals. Such as phosphorus. Anything from the ocean or other natural sources probably has trace minerals. 

3) Small amounts of glucose (or dextrose). This improves absorption. But only a few grams needed, (much less than a typical sports drink). 

4) No artificial sweeteners. Avoid the fake stuff! Real sugar will hydrate you better. But again, it doesn’t take much! 

Wrapping up the water talk:

After all this water talk, I hope you’re feeling thirsty! Just remember, some of your water is found in blood. This water can be measured by paying attention to the volume and quality of your urine. But most of your water lives inside your cells. And this cellular water is measured through your “phase angle”. Once you know your starting level of hydration, you’re ready to drink more water! Half your body weight in ounces is a great place to start. Lastly, try spicing up your water with some electrolytes. Electrolytes not only improve absorption but help get the water where it counts (into your cells)! Last and perhaps most importantly, when your friends ask: “hey, ‘What’s the deal’ with electrolytes and hydration?” you can tell them what the deal is. And look both smart and hydrated. 

Thanks for reading! I hope this whet your appetite for a lifetime of good hydration, and answered the question ‘What’s the deal’ with electrolytes and hydration? Always consult your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions, prior to changing your electrolyte balance, hydration, or lifestyle. Especially if you are taking diuretic, or other blood pressure managing medications! 

Written by Aaron Barnard Doctor of Physical Therapy.