Another week has gone by. I can hardly believe that July is just about to finish and I am over two months at Keto. It’s flying by.
This lifestyle has caused me to look inward and define for myself what I want and need to be the healthiest and happiest person possible. As I have said over and over again, but it’s important enough to repeat, this isn’t a one size fits all diet. It’s a lifestyle that can take years to perfect for yourself. With that in mind, I have been trying various things to see how I feel and how my body reacts. There is one major change that has greatly improved my experience.
That is hydration.
Some of you may know this, but because there are some newbies I will take a brief minute to explain why hydration is something Ketonians need to be far more aware of then others. When you decide to go Keto and focus on low carb foods and high fat, you become a fat burner (that is to say you use Ketones as energy) instead of glycogen, the energy created by carbohydrates. If you are a carbohydrate burner, then you eat the carbohydrates and that goes into your system as glucose, which is then converted into glycogen and if that glycogen isn’t used, it is stored in your muscles, and any excess of that is then converted to fat and stored. The glycogen that is in your muscles, as a conventional carbohydrate burner, actually stores water as well. In fact it stores anywhere from one to three grams of water per gram of glycogen. When you decide to become Ketogenic and go through the fat adaption process, your glycogen is used completely so that your body is forced to use fat and therefore Ketones as fuel. What this also means, is that all of the water that was stored in your system will deplete, hence why there is often a large weight decrease the first week on Keto.
What this means is that with the Ketogenic way of eating, your body won’t store as much water. Now don’t let this alarm you. You aren’t going to easily go through sever dehydration, but what it does mean is that if you aren’t hydrating enough you won’t be able to reap all of the awesome benefits to being Ketogenic.
So the question becomes, how much water to drink? I did some research on this and unfortunately most say, it’s dependent on the individual, where they live, and their activity level. In saying that, I did find quite a few articles that stated drinking .5 ounces to 1 an ounce of water per pound of body weight should be about right. With that kind of information I figured I could get nerdy with it and track! So that is what I did. I have spent the last two weeks drinking at least once fluid ounce of water per pound of body weight. For me, that is 164 ounces or 1.28 gallons. Yeah…gallons.
This is what I learned:
1.) A lot of my snacking behavior was because I was thirsty, not hungry.
Once I spent a few days fully hydrated, I noticed that my need to graze significantly decreased and my morning fasts could go on for much longer.
This needs to be in all caps. First of all, I know it’s not fun to say, but there aren’t many men or woman I know that don’t have some issue with their digestion. I know for myself, it was a real struggle, causing me to feel bloated and with stomach pains, along with just generally being more irritable. Once I started drinking enough water, my digestion cleared right up. I don’t think I have ever been so regular, and it makes me so happy!!
3.) My skin cleared up and not just the pimples.
I don’t have full blown acne but I have always dealt with a few pimples from time to time. I always assumed it was stressed induced, now I think it had far more to do with my body not being able to properly flush out toxins. My skin has never been clearer or more even. I find myself going days without makeup (and I LOVE my makeup) just because I don’t mind the way my skin looks. Also, and this is kinda crazy, but I had a growth, if you want to call it that, a tiny one on my eye lid that just fell off. I am not sure if that was a Keto thing or a water thing but I hazard it was a combination of the two.
4.) I have even more energy.
It turns out that a lack of water can actually cause lethargy and that often, in this state, a glass of water can have the kind of pick-me-up a caffeinated beverage can, or at least that is what I found to be the case. If I was feeling tired midday, I no longer took that as the midday slump, but rather that I needed to drink more. After a few minutes of drinking that H2O, I would perk right back up again.
5.) It’s not just about the water, it’s about the electrolytes.
I am not going to go into the specifics here, but because we aren’t storing water in our muscles, it is getting flushed either by sweat or other means (you get my drift) and with this, electrolytes can also be flushed, especially when sweating. Electrolytes mainly include Sodium, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium. Having balanced electrolytes are essential and without them we will often display the symptoms of keto flu and have pretty bad leg cramps. Since I try to do most of my runs outside, I sweat A LOT. Like crazy amounts. I can literally finish a run and you would think someone just sprayed me with a hose. So this is all to say I have to make sure I replenish. What this looks like for me is Himalayan salt in my beverages along with NuSalt (a salt substitute that is made of potassium). I basically enjoy all of my beverages with these two items since I know I will secrete so much when I workout. I also take about 750mg of magnesium every day and 600mg of Calcium. The calcium is mostly because I can’t tolerate dairy. Calcium may not be necessary if you are consuming dairy regularly. Again, this is just what I take to support my body, your body is completely different. Test different solutions and see how you feel and always make sure to consult your health provider.
6.) I stopped waking up in the middle of the night to get a snack.
I have, for as long as I can remember, had nights each week where I would wake up and feel like I needed to eat something. Not necessarily that I was hungry, but rather, that if I didn’t eat something I wouldn’t go back to sleep. This has been really hard for me fight, especially since, as I have said before, midnight Tedi doesn’t make very good decisions. Now, after keeping myself fully hydrated, I often don’t wake up in the middle of the night at all, not even to go to the bathroom. If I do, I don’t think about snacking. So much so that I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t doing this until a few days ago when I started writing this. This is a huge thing for me. Not having to worry about what kind of trouble midnight Tedi is going to get into is an enormous relief.
7.). I have lost weight at a faster pace then before.
I have said this over and over again, Keto is about fueling my body so that it runs optimally. Part of that may naturally be weight loss, but if I have weight to lose, it isn’t much. What I know is that before focussing on water I was basically staying stagnant at about 4 pounds lost, which I was fine with. I figure if my body stays the same but I feel this great, then all is well. But, when I started focusing on hydration for the last 2 weeks, I have lost an additional 2 pounds and am feeling thinner and more toned, with my clothing fitting a little looser.
8.) Lastly, I don’t actually need that much water to be hydrated or to function optimally.
It felt like it took a few days to fully hydrate with my body at the level of water it wants to function on. Once that happened, I seemed to have a lot more awareness of when I was thirsty and needed to drink. There are days that I need to keep to the one and a quarter gallons of water, because I have done a ton of activity in the heat, but there have been days when I am great on much less. In fact, when I seemed to drink more then my body needed, it seemed to have opposite reaction. It is about listening to your body and finding that sweet spot of hydration and electrolyte balance.
My final thoughts:
Through this experiment I have become far more mindful of my daily intake of water and electrolytes. Because of this, I feel the benefits of being hydrated even when I am not tracking to get that exact ounce per pound. Right now I am drinking when I am thirsty and that generally has me around a gallon a day. They call this “Drinking to Thirst.” It has also allowed me to better understand the signals my body is making and further decipher my body’s language. I encourage you to do an experiment of your own and see how you feel when you increase your liquids and fully hydrate your body.