[THE SEVEN] 3. How to Drink Water... Intelligently


THE SEVEN: Principles Of Nutrition For A Life In Sync

This series is a distillation of our decades of researching, experimenting, and generally obsessing over the question: What is the ideal way to fuel a human body?

From a list of many dozens of strategies and concepts, we whittled it down to these seven. We believe that when these seven principles are implemented, they reliably produce 95% of the potential benefits to be had via the many forms of dietary tinkering.

  1. Identify + Remove Dietary Allergens and Toxins
  2. The Low-Carbohydrate, Metabolic-Flexibility Diet
  3. How To Drink Water... Intelligently
  4. Reducing The Cognitive Overhead Of Eating Well (i.e. Staple Meals)
  5. Take Care Of Your (100 Trillion) Gut Bacteria
  6. Eating Nothing (i.e. Time-Restricted Eating)
  7. The Truly Essential Supplements

Everyone knows that proper hydration is important, but what exactly does that mean? Hydration seems so simple on the surface as to be not worth talking about, but the reality is most of us leave a huge amount of potential benefit on the table by not hydrating intelligently.

Here are the three most common mistakes:

  1. Not drinking enough water.
  2. Drinking low-quality, unclean water. (i.e. tap water)
  3. Drinking insufficiently mineralized water.

Fixing these mistakes is easy, particularly relative to the improvements in wellbeing they generate. I’ll get into the details in the implementation section below, but as usual, I’ll present the benefits first.

Drinking Water, Intelligently: The Benefits

The Fundamentals: Health Benefits

Improved Cognitive Function

Healthier, Better Looking Skin

Improved Toxin Elimination (and thus, decreased inflammation)

Improved Gut Health + Digestion

Avoiding Chlorine, Fluoride And Other Contaminants

Dehydration Resistance

To state the obvious: you quite literally can’t live without water. Up to 60% of the human body is composed of water. This pervasiveness makes water an easy leverage point for dramatically improving your health and well-being.

Unfortunately, ideal hydration can be a bit tricky. I’d love to tell you that tap water is fine, but that’s simply not the case—water sample tests have shown tap water to be contaminated with chlorine, fluoride (more on this one below), heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other health-sapping toxins. Most bottled water is no good either, as the cheap plastic bottles have been shown to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

I assure you that efforts to address these issues are absolutely worth it. Here are just a few of the changes you’ll enjoy after switching to drinking ideal volumes of pure, mineral-rich water.

Improved Cognitive Function And Mood

Research has demonstrated that being dehydrated by only 2% of body weight impairs cognitive performance and dampens subjective mood.[1] A state of ideal hydration keeps the brain’s detoxification mechanisms running smoothly, which lessens neurological inflammation and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative disease.[2]

Healthier, Better Looking Skin

While a lot goes into having bright, youthful skin, staying hydrated is a critical factor. If the body is even slightly dehydrated, it will pull water from the skin in order to ensure the vital organs stay hydrated. The more hydrated you are, the brighter, healthier, and softer your skin will tend to look.

Improved Toxin Elimination (and thus, decreased inflammation)

Because the body needs water to move and expel toxins (via lymphatic fluid, sweating, urination, etc.), detoxification is inextricably tied to proper hydration. When we’re less than ideally hydrated, detoxification systems slow and toxins accumulate. As oxidative toxins are the primary driver of inflammation in the body, proper hydration helps minimize the havoc they wreak there.

Improved Gut Health + Digestion

Good luck having regular, complete bowel movements if you’re under-hydrated. If you’re not adequately hydrated, your body is going to shuttle available water to your essential organs, and your GI tract is not at the top of this list. Peristalsis (movements of the intestines) slow, and you’re heading towards constipation.

In most parts of the country, tap water is treated with chlorine, chloramine, and fluoride. All of these are antibacterial and (surprise) seriously harmful to the gut bacteria we depend on for digestion, immune health and so much more. [3]

Avoiding Chlorine, Fluoride And Other Contaminants

As mentioned above, essentially all municipal water in the US is treated with chlorine/chloramine and fluoride. Analyses of tap water almost always show trace levels of heavy metals too, which can accumulate in the body over years, eventually to problematic levels.

All of these contaminants have been shown to negatively impact gut flora [3] and disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function.[4]

Dehydration Resistance

Even marginal dehydration wrecks mental function and energy levels, so spending as little time there as possible is a priority. The protocol below is designed to maintain a "hydration buffer", so-to-speak, such that we don't dip into a state of dehydration if we're in a hot/dry climate or forget to drink water for some period.

Drinking Water, Intelligently: Implementation

The Fundamentals: Implementation

Drink Only Spring Water, Reverse Osmosis, or Berkey Filtered Water

Drink 0.6-1oz Water Per Pound Of Body Weight, Per Day

Re-Mineralize Your Filtered Water

Drink Warm Water First Thing In The Morning

1. Drink Clean Water

This part takes a bit of effort to get right. Passive home filtration products (e.g. filters from Brita, Pur, Aquasana, Culligan, etc.) are mostly a waste of time and money, as they will not remove chlorine, fluoride, or pharmaceuticals.

Reverse osmosis (RO) and Berkey filters are the best options for filtering tap water. Either system can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, and most natural food stores offer bulk filling stations with RO water. Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a clean natural spring and you’re willing to invest the time to collect it regularly, that’s another great option for sourcing clean, mineral-rich water. You can see if there are any clean springs near you via findaspring.com.

2. Drink Enough Water (Probably More Than You Think)

In my experience, most people’s intuitive sense of how much water they should be drinking is WAY less than the volume that’s ideal.

A good heuristic for determining how much water to drink is:

0.6-1oz of water per pound of body weight, in any 24 hour period

Where you should aim within this range depends on the climate where you live, and your activity level. If it’s hot and/or dry and/or you’re active, you want to be in the upper end of that range. If it’s very hot and dry and you’re very active (as is the case for me, living in the desert), more than 1oz per day could be appropriate.

In the longer-term, the goal should be to learn what it feels like to be hydrated to this level, and then stay that way. Measuring and tracking can be useful when you’re adapting to this level of water intake, though, as your initial intuitions are likely to be poorly calibrated.

It’s pretty (ok, extremely) difficult to overhydrate if you’re drinking well-mineralized water, so that thankfully need not be a concern with this protocol. (Drinking even moderate amounts of mineral-devoid water, however, can create electrolyte- and mineral-deficiency issues over time, hence the importance of the next section...)

Oh, and a final note here: beverages that contain sugar (or fake sugar) and/or caffeine sadly DON’T count. Sure, they technically are mostly water by volume, but sugar and caffeine both act as a diuretic, meaning they’re functionally net-dehydrating (my apologies, soda lovers).

3. Drink Re-Mineralized Water

A good filtration system like RO or Berkey removes contaminants from your water, but it also removes any beneficial minerals and electrolytes. So while this water is very clean, it’s also essentially “empty”, which means it’s still not perfect water.

(It feels like there’s some metaphor to be drawn from the fact that something so fundamental and simple as drinking clean water has been made so complicated in our modern world, but I digress...)

Mineral-devoid filtered water can actually pull minerals from the body over time, potentially creating a deficiency or worsening an existing one. More importantly, at least in the near term, this “empty” water is also absorbed poorly by the body, making ideal hydration nearly impossible.

There are a number of remineralizing products out there, but none of them provided the perfect balance of electrolytes we wanted, nor did any of them taste particularly great. So, we did what we always do in these situations: we created our own.

Adding 30-40 drops of Hydros Trace Mineral + Electrolyte Drops to a liter of filtered water turns it into mineral- and electrolyte-rich water that absorbs perfectly and tastes like imported mineral water.

4. Drink Warm Water First Thing In The Morning

Get this fun trivia fact: The average person loses about 1 liter of water every night during sleep due to normal respiration and perspiration. That’s 2.2 pounds or water! If you live somewhere particularly dry, that can easily be 1.5 liters or more.

Given this, we’re essentially guaranteed to be dehydrated when we wake up each morning - so replacing this lost liter (~34oz), at minimum, should happen before anything else goes in your body (yes, that includes coffee).

Fully rehydrating first thing in the morning brings all of our body’s systems fully back online, but you’ll probably notice the most benefit in your brain function and digestion. I’ve found these systems suffer the most if they’re “called into action” before they’re fully rehydrated (which is why it’s SO important that the body is rehydrated before eating or drinking anything else).

I highly recommend following the millennia-old Ayurvedic practice of drinking warm water in the morning. I started doing this in recent years, and (predictably) it has been life-altering. My experience matches what Ayurveda promises will happen - the GI tract is stimulated and the body rehydrates more quickly than if drinking the same volume of cold or room temperature water.

I’ve found 40% boiling water mixed with 60% room temperature water (purified and remineralized, of course) to be the perfect ratio for this.


References:

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22855911/

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/nrd1330

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330537336_The_Effects_of_Chlorinated_Drinking_Water_on_the_Assembly_of_the_Intestinal_Microbiome

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20364589/

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