[Hyperhydration] Why 'Water Weight' Is Sexy (and Healthy!)

Most of the articles of mine you'll find on this site are highly data driven. They're researched obsessively, sometimes for weeks, generally with a dozen-or-so research papers being cited for each article by the time they're published. Needless to say, this is necessary and valuable - any good nutritional or wellness framework should be firmly rooted in data and research.

Sometimes, though, the topics that interest me the most are the ones that haven't yet been investigated by the academic community.

This topic falls solidly under that category. Hyperhydration is not necessarily a new idea, but the health and performance implications of it are not well understood. I've more-or-less spent the past two years in a perpetual state of hyperhydration, simply because I like the way my body feels and looks when it's hyperhydrated. After some further self-experimentation over the past couple months, I'm more convinced than ever of the benefits of this technique.

Here's what I found:

What Is Hyperhydration?

As you might guess, hyperhydration is the process of getting your body to retain significantly more water than it would under normal circumstances.

This is accomplished by not only increasing water intake dramatically, but also simultaneously increasing salt and mineral intake. I'll go into techniques in more depth later in the article.

Hyperhydration has been seen a bit of application in recent years by Ironman triathletes and other ultra-endurance athletes. In these sports, hydration translates very directly into performance. in longer races at moderate or high temperatures, it's often not possible to get your body to absorb as much water as you will lose through perspiration during the race. In these circumstances, hyperhydration can be a huge performance advantage.

What has not really been looked at to my knowledge, however, is the implications of hyperhydration for everyday applications. This is what's really interesting to me.

When the body is hyperhydrated, nearly every organ and system in the body is highly saturated with water - including the brain, muscles, digestive system and detoxifying organs (kidneys, liver, etc). The implications of this for the way our bodies look, feel and perform are significant.

Benefits Of Hyperhydration

  1. 'Brighter Skin' - There is a lot that goes into having bright healthy skin, but perhaps the biggest part of the equation is how well hydrated the body is. In the event of even mild dehydration, the skin is the first place the body pulls water from to ensure more critical organs stay adequately hydrated. Hyperhydrated skin will generally look brighter, softer and healthier than that of an only adequately hydrated body.

  2. Improved Cognitive Function + Mood - There are a number of studies showing the significant impairment to both cognitive function and mood when the body is even moderately dehydrated [1]. If for no other reason, hyperhydration improves cognitive performance simply by making it considerably less likely the brain will ever enter into even a mildly dehydrated state.

    I suspect, however, that the benefits to the brain go a bit deeper. Oxidative toxins that cross the blood brain barrier can have major detrimental effects in the brain - leading to neurological inflammation, impaired cognition and mood and eventually neurodegenerative diseases. [2] When the brain is hyperhydrated it will be able to clear oxidative toxins more efficiently, reducing the potential for negative effects. In this way, I suspect hyperhydration reduces risk of oxidative damage and the cognitive impairment that comes with it.

  3. Improved Clearing Of Toxins + Reduced Inflammation -  Just as improved clearing of toxins from the brain improves brain function, so too will it for other organs throughout the body. Oxidative toxins are the primary driver of inflammation in the body, and all of the negative consequences that come with it.

    Hyperhydration improves the clearing of toxins from tissues throughout the body. This will, in turn, reduce the degree to which toxins that make it into the body trigger an inflammatory response.

  4. Improved Digestion - This will likely be the most noticeable effect when beginning the process of hyperhydration. A smoothly-functioning GI system can have marvelous effects on mood and energy levels. 

My Hyperhydration Experiments

A couple of months ago, I decided I would experiment with intentionally bringing my body out of hyperhydration for a few consecutive days.

As I'll explain in a moment, the key to hyperhydration is sodium intake. So to pull my body out of hyperhydration, the only change I made to my daily food intake was to pull sodium out of my drinking water. 

I drank exclusively reverse-osmosis water, remineralized with a low sodium mineral solution (I used this one from Concentrace). Let me emphasize that this water was still highly mineralized, much more so than tap or most bottled waters. The only thing missing was sodium. 

Over the 7 days of the experiment, I lost seven pounds. 

Seven pounds! Like I said, I made no other dietary or lifestyle changes during this period and the total volume of water I consumed was on par with what I typically drink in a day.

Let's be conservative and say that 5 of these 7 pounds were water weight. That's still around 2/3 of a gallon of water that had been pulled out of my body. I was not dehydrated by any means - I just was no longer hyperhydrated.

So how did it feel? Predictably, not great. My skin lost some of it's brightness and my body and brain just didn't feel as awesome as I've become accustomed to. Needless to say, come day 8, I started to return my body to a hyperhydrated state. Which brings me to...

Hyperhydration: A How To

Fundamentally, hyperhydration is pretty simple: just drink all of your water salty. There are however, some subtleties that will improve your results.

  1. Volume - I've found drinking somewhere around 150-200oz of water (more if exercising or in hot temperatures) best promotes sustainable hyperhydration. I weigh around 185lbs, so adjusting for bodyweight:

    Ideal daily water consumption should be around 0.8oz to 1.1oz of (salted) water per lb of bodyweight.

    It will take anywhere from 3-6 days of consuming water at this volume before your body is fully hyperhydrated.

  2. Salt - This is the key. Sodium is the nutrient that tells your body to retain water. To illustrate this point, if you were to consume 1 gram of salt, your body would retain 32oz (~2lb) of water. 

         My salt of choice is Himalayan pink salt, as it is a low-toxin salt mined from ancient sea beds. There are other salts that fit this criteria (Redmond salt, various volcanic salts), but the taste profile of Himalayan is my favorite by a big margin. Himayalan salt is also exceptionally mineral rich, with somewhere around 80 trace minerals (perhaps 30-35 of which are used by the body). As I'll explain below, this is of added importance with hyperhydration.

         So how much salt? At this point, I just salt my water to taste, but for this article I did measure how much salt is actually going in my drinking water. I start with a salt "brine", which is essentially water that is at maximum salinity. To make a salt brine, put a bunch of Himalayan salt in a glass with a few ounces of water. Leave it over night. When you return in the morning, the water in the glass will be brine.

    I've found between 2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon (10ml-15ml) of salt brine in 32oz of water is ideal for promoting hyperhydration, but not salty enough to be unpleasant to drink. Which is not to say it won't take some getting used to - most people are not accustomed to drinking water with this level of sodium and minerals. If you're like me, it won't be long before drinking water without salt is what tastes peculiar. 

  3. Minerals - Because hyperhydration can dilute and potentially even flush out essential minerals from the body, a bit of extra diligence needs to be paid to mineral supplementation. A lot of this issue will be offset by using a mineral-rich salt like Himalayan (you'll likely end up with higher levels of most trace minerals), but for some of the minerals that are not present in the salt in large quantities, some extra supplementing is a good idea.

    Of course, since almost everyone is deficient in multiple critical minerals, you realistically need to be supplementing broadly anyways (find my recommended mineral supplements here). In particular, it's a good idea to stay on top of magnesium supplementation, as our body both cycles through magnesium quite quickly and requires it in large quantities. 400mg-800mg of a chelated magnesium supplement will do the trick. 

  4. Timing - Our bodies absorb water with varying levels of efficiency depending on a few factors, including level of activity and time of day. Never does the body absorb water as well as it does first thing in the morning.

    There are a few reasons for this - the body is generally very relaxed in the morning and, since you've essentially been "fasting" for 10 hours-or-so, digested food matter has moved out of the upper regions of the GI tract (meaning less water will be absorbed by food in the GI tract). We're also typically quite dehydrated when we wake up in the morning - it's not uncommon to lose 16oz-24oz of water during sleep through normal perspiration and respiration.

    Drink somewhere around 50oz to 80oz of salted water before anything else goes in your body in the morning. You will be amazed at how much better you feel throughout the course of the day.

  5. Quality - There's no way to over stress this point. The quality of the water we carry in our bodies has huge consequences on our body and brain, many of which we likely don't yet fully understand.

    Tap water (fluoride, chlorine, chloramine, etc) is completely out of the question, as is water bottled in soft plastic (hormone-disruptors). Brita and other common home filtration systems are fairly worthless and don't remove the most problematic adulterants from tap or bottled water.

    So what are the options? Spring water, of course, is the best option by a long shot. You can find a spring in your area with this excellent, free online spring finder. Many water delivery services also offer a spring water option, although it will likely not be of the same quality as collected spring water.

    The only other passable water options are reverse osmosis filtered water and Berkey water filters. Both will provide completely clean water, empty of any adulterants (but also empty of any mineral content). Still, as freshly collected spring water can be difficult to acquire and keep on hand, these are easily the two next-best options. About half of the water I drink will be spring water the other half comes from my home reverse osmosis system.

Water Weight Is Sexy?

When most people think of "water weight" they think of looking puffy or bloated, which is why I want to make the distinction that the water weight from hyperhydration is qualitatively different from this undesirable water weight.

Water weight that looks puffy or bloated is the direct result of systemic inflammation. Excess water is held in inflamed tissues, specifically inflamed skin, creating the undesirable appearance.

Water weight from hyperhydration is different. Water is distributed throughout healthy tissues in the body - providing all of the benefits mentioned above and leaving the skin looking robust, bright and soft - all of which I find to be quite sexy!

Stay Synchro, 

     Graham Ryan




[1] http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v57/n2s/full/1601898a.html

[2] http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v3/n3/abs/nrd1330.html


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