A hydration tip from a skincare expert
Did you know that Dr. Howard Murad, the skincare expert and creator of Murad skincare, does not recommend drinking 8 glasses of water per day? Instead, he suggests “eating your water” – obtaining nutrient-and-electrolyte-rich water from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Although we’re told from every corner of the internet to consume 8 glasses of water per day, there is actually no evidence that drinking this much water is beneficial. As Dr. Murad acknowledges, drinking this much water can actually deplete electrolytes and therefore cause dehydration and premature aging of the skin.
The metabolic approach to hydration
Two years ago, I was introduced to an unconventional but common sense approach to metabolic health by numerous bloggers and health writers. These include Ray Peat, Matt Stone, and Josh and Jeanne at East West Healing and Performance. As I’ve worked to heal my hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue (posts on both topics are forthcoming!), I’ve found their work extraordinarily helpful.
The two main points that allowed me to make significant progress in my metabolic health include:
As someone who previously saw my gigantic water bottle as an extension of my arm, I was shocked to learn that “flushing” my body with half my body weight in ounces was not only not helpful… it was harmful.
I’ve been practicing hydration for metabolic health for probably the last year and a half. Along with the other metabolic tweaks, such as the inclusion of healthy sugars in my diet, my severe hypothyroidism has improved, my constipation issues resolved, and my skin improved. The lesson? Take care of your metabolism and it will take care of you!
In this post, I want to explain the very simple concept of hydrating for metabolic health. These points come from Matt Stone’s book Eat for Heat, which I’ve repeatedly recommended here and on Facebook. This post won’t replace the book, so I still recommend that you get it. It’s only $3 for the digital version.
1. Over-hydration causes imbalanced electrolytes
We are told from mainstream and natural health practitioners alike to drink half our body weight in ounces of water per day. “It flushes everything out and keeps you hydrated. If you pee clear, it means that you are well hydrated.”
Actually, clear pee signals over-hydration, a state where the electrolytes in your body fluid is out of balance with the water levels.
When we drink too much water, we create an electrolyte deficiency. The extracellular fluid in the body contains sodium, as well as other electrolytes. When we drink plain water, it dilutes the electrolytes which carries metabolic consequences. This is because the concentration of electrolytes in the blood and extracellular fluid is key to cell-to-cell communication and regulation.
In a non-scientific but easy-to-grasp example, Matt Stone in Eat for Heat explains,
Picture your body filled with nutritious, high-octane, electrically conductive fluids.Things work better and your cells have the ability to produce more energy at the cellular level.
It’s all about increasing the nutrients – the electrolytes, including sodium – in our body fluids. If we drink too much water, we decrease those nutrients and prevent our cells from working optimally. Water-logged cells are not happy cells! And when cells work optimally, it means that we have a high metabolism and healthy thyroid function.
2. Over-hydration further stresses adrenal glands
Over-hydration proves extremely problematic for anyone who struggles with overworked adrenal glands. The adrenal glands respond to stress with stress hormones. When stress is chronic, due to emotional trauma or a physical stressor, the adrenal glands exhaust and can no longer keep up with their hormone production. I have an upcoming post on adrenal fatigue.
In those with adrenal fatigue, aldosterone levels drop below optimal levels. Aldosterone keeps sodium in the blood. So when aldosterone is too low, we start to lose to much sodium from the blood. This causes a problematic drop in blood pressure. By drinking a lot of water, we further reduce the sodium levels in the blood and exacerbate stressed adrenal glands.
Since adrenal glands and the thyroid work hand-in-hand, we must support the adrenals to optimize thyroid health.
3. Excess water is too cooling
Something you can do throughout the day is to simply feel your fingers and toes. If they feel chilly to the touch at any point, it points to a too cool body. You’ll notice that your fingers are colder at different times of the day. You’ll also find that they warm up, even slightly, after eating certain foods.
Cold fingers and toes, at any point during the day, means that you need to make some dietary tweaks to warm your body. This is the whole concept behind Eat for Heat. One of these tweaks includes reducing cooling factors like water.
You will experience colder fingers after guzzling a big glass of water. However, you’ll most likely experience a warming sensation after eating “warming foods” which contain sugar, salt and/or saturated fat. By emphasizing warming foods, you’ll boost your metabolic rate which supports weight loss, adrenal health, and a healthy thyroid.
Eat for Heat explains the concept of warming foods and gives extremely helpful pointers on how to boost your metabolic rate by enjoying these foods at certain points during day. You’ll also learn how to use salt and sugar to help your metabolism skyrocket. I can’t recommend this book highly enough! I will add the disclaimer that, unlike Matt, I do not believe junk food is necessary for metabolic health. I’ve followed his concepts with real food on a grain-free diet with good results. Unrefined salt, raw honey, butter, cheese, coconut oil, dates, egg yolks… there are many powerfully warming real foods!
So, how can we optimize metabolic health with our water intake? It’s simple:
Just drink when you are thirsty
No other creature is so removed from its instinctual programing to the point of accidentally over drinking. — Matt Stone, in Eat for Heat
If you have cold fingers and toes at any point of the day, it means that you should reduce the cooling effect of water. Don’t dump cooling water on your metabolism – you want to stoke that metabolic fire so it burns quickly and efficiently!
If you are thirsty, drink. If you aren’t thirsty, step away from the water bottle! Your body knows how to balance your body fluids. If you listen to it, it will do its job. When it comes to drinking water, don’t be silly enough to think that you know better than your inherent thirst mechanism.
Add electrolytes to your water
Another key point discussed in Eat for Heat is how to use salt to optimize your metabolic rate. Matt gives tips for eating salt at different points during the day to prevent your metabolism from stalling. One routine you can start immediately is adding a pinch of unrefined salt to the fluids that you do drink.
When I’m thirsty, I reach for well-salted, homemade bone broth. The mineral and sodium concentration in the broth supports that nutrient-rich, highly conductive extracellular fluid. Alternatively, I’ll sip my Homemade Adaptogenic Sports Drink, which contains electrolyte-boosting honey, trace mineral drops, and unrefined salt.
Don’t dilute stomach acid
Also importantly, do not gulp water with meals. Advice to drink a glass of water before each meal, “to fill you up,” sets you up for very poor digestion. This is because water dilutes stomach acid, and we want our stomach to be an acid tank when we are eating a meal. Powerful stomach acid prevents heartburn, gas and bloating.
1/2 cup of water with meals is fine, but to improve digestion, enjoy a small cup of homemade bone broth. The gelatin in the broth is a time-honored secret to improve digestion. Of course, salt the broth to taste.
Are you familiar with the metabolic approach to hydration? Are you a recovering water-holic?