Not a lot of ketoers know this, but carbs play a vital role in keeping your body hydrated. That’s why drinking lots of water on a keto diet isn’t just healthy, it’s vital.
Carbs retain water, so without them your body is storing less of the water you consume and also excreting more of the water you drink. This can make you very thirsty, which can be mistaken for hunger…
And the resultant dehydration can cause the “Keto Flu”.
But staying hydrated on a keto diet is not as simple as guzzling down gallons of water, it goes much, much deeper than that. A 20g or less carb Keto diet can cause some strange and wonderful consequences in your body, but one of the most important consequences is related to the way you absorb, retain and excrete water.
Let me explain the five ways hydration changes in your body on your keto diet (and why it’s so important to understand this)
1. No Carbs = No Water Retention
This might sound amazing, because you’re thinking you’ll be losing a lot of water weight…
But this can be quite disastrous to your health.
Carbs add water to our bodies in two ways:
- There is a lot of water in carb-based foods, while oils and fats have MUCH less water.
- Carbs actually help your body to retain water it then uses to metabolize the food you eat.
But without carbs in your diet you’re losing out on ingesting and retaining water. This means that on keto you actually need MORE water than you would have needed on a standard diet.
So you need to up your water intake for this reason, but also…
2. Thirst is often Mistaken for Hunger
Yes, sometimes you’re not hungry, you’re just thirsty. Your body is craving water, but you mistakenly assume that you’re hungry and eat something. This is often the case when your electrolyte balance is off. Then your body isn’t just craving water, it also wants the essential salts that act as electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium) that are found in certain foods…
But after the water, and essential electrolytes from your meal is absorbed you’re still thirsty… So you eat something again…
It’s a vicious circle and can add a lot of unnecessary calories to your diet. The best cure is to add a well balanced electrolyte supplement to your diet and make sure you get your 8 gallons a day. This will make sure you have the right balance of salts in your cells to help them absorb the water you’re drinking, keeping them hydrated and working at full capacity.
As your body adjusts to eating less carbs a number of things are happening and these are the three remaining reasons why staying hydrated is SO important:
3. You’re producing Less Insulin
Like losing water weight, producing less insulin is a perk of keto, right?
Well, yes and no. Besides regulating your blood sugar levels, Insulin also tells your kidneys to retain sodium. Sodium is one of the essential electrolytes you NEED to maintain proper cell function. Without it your muscles start cramping, your nerves don’t work right, your blood pressure isn’t regulated properly…
You can even go into a state of hyponatremia, the symptoms of which are very similar to that of “Keto Flu”. The low sodium in your kidneys also does something else, it makes them
4. Flush Your System
Again, this sounds good… You’ll be getting rid of toxins, especially with all that extra water you’re drinking to make up for not eating carbs.
BUT (and this is a big one )
Along with the water and toxins, you’re also flushing out electrolytes. So, while you may be getting enough water to “stay hydrated”, the electrolyte balance in your body is completely off. It doesn’t matter how much water you drink, you’re going to STAY thirsty. You’ll probably also start craving salty carbs, in your body’s attempt to retain water and get some more electrolytes!
5. Proper Hydration Combats the “Keto Flu:
The dreaded “Keto Flu” is one of the big reasons a lot of people stop doing keto before they even see the amazing benefits. The symptoms associated with the “Keto Flu” are exactly the same as those associated with dehydration.
So it comes as no surprise that staying hydrated can lessen or even prevent the “Keto Flu” from hitting you during your first week of keto. Here it is even more important to add a well balanced electrolyte supplement to your diet. Now you may be thinking of having some Gatorade, it has electrolytes, right?
Well, not quite…
You see, for optimal hydration, a Harvard Medical School study showed that you need a special ratio of electrolytes to make all the symptoms of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance to disappear.
The golden ratio is “4:4:2:1”
For optimal hydration and function your body needs the following:
- Four parts Sodium: balances water levels across cell membranes to maintain blood pressure and support healthy nerve and muscle function.
- Four parts Potassium: keeps nerves firing, so there is optimal communication between your brain and body. Remember your brain regulates most of your bodily functions including heart beat, all muscle contractions and reflexes.
- Two parts Calcium: for muscle contractions, heart and nerve functions and good bone health.
- One part Magnesium: is key in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body including steady heartbeat, nerve and muscle functions, a healthy immune system and bone structure.
Nutralytes provides this ratio of electrolytes along with a host of other vitamins that will give you energy and keep funny food cravings at bay. As you can see, staying properly hydrated on a keto diet isn’t just about guzzling down more water. You also need to make sure you have the right balance of electrolytes to avoid some serious health complications.