Every time you turn around these day, Water is in the global news. Is there enough water to sustain the human race? Are our cities going to run out of water? Is our drinking water safe for human consumption? What’s the best way to conserve water? There are so many reasons to be concerned. These are all very important issues in our world today. On a more personal level and in relation to our own Ketofied lifestyles, one of the biggest questions I often hear, is how much water should we drinking anyway? Some people say the keto answer is half your body weight, in ounces or sometimes they use the general rule of thumb of drinking 8 glasses a water a day. That’s standard, right? Everybody knows that, don’t they? Maybe what you learned as a child and grew up believing isn’t really the case.
I was never a thirsty person. I went all through my own childhood and part way through my adult life without a thirst for water. Water was one of those things that just didn’t appeal to me, to me it just had no taste. Sure, I occasionally drank fluids; milk, juice, soft drinks, but water was never my thing.
I eventually came to the point in my life when I embraced the keto lifestyle and began to educate myself on nutrition and the bodies daily requirements for food and also for drink. I read all the different opinions on recommended water consumption and I wondered to myself, ‘How am I ever going to force myself to drink all that water?’ I just didn’t think I would be able to keep it up.
So, I asked my doctor. Now, I’m lucky enough to have one of those young and hip Docs, one who’s up to date on the current science of medicine and nutrition, and also, luckily enough a fan of the keto way of life. I was pretty much gobsmacked (in a very good way) when she informed me that I don’t’ have to drink all that water and that as long as I drink a full glass of water with each meal, I’m pretty much covered.
Huh? What happened to the recommendation of drinking 8 glasses a day. Turns out there’s no scientific evidence to back this up.
The Big Water myth
It seems that it all started back in 1974, when Dr. Frederick J. Stare (with Dr. Margaret McWilliams) wrote a book on nutrition. Located in that book is believed to be one of the earliest known references in print to the 8×8 water myth.
What Dr. Stare actually wrote was:
“How much water each day? This is usually well regulated by various physiological mechanisms, but for the average adult, somewhere around 6 to 8 glasses per 24 hours and this can be in the form of coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, beer, etc. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of water.”
For some reason, society honed in on the 8 glasses a day portion of what he said, and totally disregarded the last part that explains that the fluid intake can be in the form of other liquids and food. Hydration does not have to be water, it can come from coffee or yogurt or an apple.
Since that time, dozens of scientists have done extensive studies and they’ve found absolutely no scientific evidence for the idea that most people need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. There is an argument, of course, that water is a much better source of liquid than coffee, soda, or juice and there is always a case to be made regarding calories, sugar, and caffeine. But in terms of needed fluids, the average person’s body does not really care about the form that liquid takes.
Of course, this conclusion is limited to healthy adults in a normal climate who are living a sedentary life. It should be stressed that larger intakes of fluids are advisable for those with certain circumstances, such as kidney stones, strenuous physical activity, those people on long airplane flights or those who endure hot weather. Excluding these items (etc.) previously listed, most people are currently drinking enough and possibly even more than enough.
Many new Ketonians get themselves in trouble by drinking so much water that they flush out their electrolytes. They take great care to eat the right foods and use the proper supplements, only to pee those same electrolytes out by drinking too much. The sodium (electrolytes) in our body helps to balance fluids between the inside and outside of our cells. When sodium levels drop due to excess water consumption, fluids shift from the outside of the cells to the inside, causing your cells to flood and swell. When this happens to brain cells in particular, it can produce dangerous and potentially life-threatening effects.
Truth be told, I would prefer if you wouldn’t take my advice on this topic at all. Water and electrolyte balances/imbalances is a topic that is best discussed with your own doctor. Unfortunately, as dangerous as this can potentially be for any given person, this is one of the topics discussed daily on social media posts. More often than not, the information is just regurgitated bad knowledge that the person just read themselves a day ago. Information from somebody who may just have joined the ranks of ketonians only last week.
Water intoxication, or water poisoning (hyponatremia**), occurs when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed beyond its safe limits by over-hydration. Under normal circumstances its hard to consume too much water, but when you’re drinking liter after liter of water, you may be drinking more fluids than your kidneys can pee out. Giving advice to guzzle water is something to be taken seriously. Even modest increases in fluid intake can result in water intoxication if one’s kidneys are unable to excrete enough water.
Hyponatremia translates as “insufficient salt in the blood.” Some symptoms of water intoxication are similar to those experienced with Keto flu; headache, personality changes, changes in behavior, confusion, irritability, and drowsiness. These are sometimes followed by difficulty breathing during exertion, muscle weakness & pain, twitching, or cramping, nausea, vomiting, thirst, and a dulled ability to perceive and interpret sensory information. This is why it is recommended to sip on chicken broth, for the electrolytes (the same reason you drink chicken broth when you are sick). You want to increase your sodium and/or electrolytes to help with the symptoms of keto flu.
Don’t fool with your electrolytes, both deficiencies and overdosing can be extremely dangerous. Potassium levels are especially dangerous to play with. Never supplement Potassium without discussing with a medical professional who is intimate with your own medical history. If you think you have an electrolyte imbalance, or are having symptoms of electrolyte deficiency and it isn’t immediately helped by eating an avocado or drinking some good quality salty broth, make an appointment to see a doctor right away to rule out serious medical conditions. We get it that many doctors are not like mine, up to date on keto and its benefits, but when it comes to electrolyte imbalance, you shouldn’t take any chances.
The bottom line
Drinking too much water can make even make you feel thirstier, it’s one of the symptoms of water intoxication. The key to getting it right, is becoming REALLY good at listening to your own body and recognizing thirst so you can stay properly hydrated throughout the day. This is a big step on the way to learning about healthy living, and it’s also major piece in the puzzle of what the Ketogenic lifestyle is all about. There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how much a body needs to drink every day, this is why the best rule of thumb is to drink to thirst.
The only sensible answer is to let your body show you want it needs. Your urine should be a very pale yellow. If it’s darker, drink more water. If your pee is lighter than pale yellow, or clear, you are drinking too much water. This is honestly the only way to know if you are consuming enough water.