Staying hydrated is a vitally important part of any diet routine. But our fluid needs change dramatically when we progress from eating a high carb diet to eating a low carb, high fat diet. We still need to stay hydrated, but we need to go a very different way about it.
At first, coming off a high carb diet, especially one that was high in salts, you may feel as though you just don’t need to drink water any more. This is normal, and is because your body is disposing of excess fluids it has stored along with its glucose deposits. The higher carb you were eating, and the lower carb you go, the more dramatic this effect. We store three grams of fluid for every gram of glucose in our muscles and liver, so naturally as we burn this glucose, the fluid is released and we get more and more hydrated. The more glucose you burn, the more fluids you have available to drink. You may feel great on one or two drinks a day.
However, coming around from that change, you will find your need for fluids goes up again. This happens first of all because your body’s stored fluids are running out. Just because at first you barely need to drink water doesn’t mean you can drink a limited amount of water permanently. This is even truer where high protein diets are concerned. Metabolizing proteins uses a lot of water. So you can go from at first barely needing any water, to suddenly feeling very thirsty all the time.
To stay as hydrated as possible on your low carb, high fat diet, follow these steps. First of all, don’t eat too much proteins. Proteins are the hardest nutrient to metabolize and use up a lot of water. Try and work out how much protein you need to eat to maintain weight loss, keep your muscles strong, and feel good. Chances are it is only around fifty grams a day, unless you are very physically active. Anything beyond that just means you are using more water to metabolize it or to get rid of it in your urine.
Secondly, ensure you get a rich range of minerals, including salts. There’s a reason rehydration salts are given to people who are dehydrated. When we don’t have enough salt our bodies become less able to control their fluid levels, which means we could be passing completely clear urine, drinking plenty of water, and still feeling dehydrated. On a normal diet excess salt is definitely a problem. But if you are eating mostly fresh plants and fresh meat, you could find you’re actually not eating enough salt.
Thirdly, eat your fibrous vegetables. Fiber slows down gut transit and compacts our stools, which allows our colon to extract more water from them. The less water in our stool, the more water in our bodies. So make sure to eat fibrous vegetables. The ones that have a higher water content of their own are the very best.
And finally, when you’re hungry between meal times, have a glass of water and wait ten minutes before snacking. After eating a high carb diet for so long we sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. This is both an effect of the almost addictive properties of carbs, as well as a reflection of our habit of drinking sugary drinks instead of water. So if it’s not time for a meal, but you feel a bit hungry, have a watery drink and see if it helps.
The best way to solve all these problems is to do it all in one go. Before every meal, possibly whilst you are cooking, have a big watery drink. It may be pure water, or something with natural salts and minerals, such as coconut water. Just make sure it is not juice and has no added sugars. So sports drinks are out. Water with a squeeze of lemon is a good option. Then, make sure most of your plate is vegetables. If 40% of your plate is raw vegetables, 40% is cooked vegetables, and 20% is proteins and fats, you are doing well. Fresh vegetables add fiber, are full of salts and minerals, and loaded with water. Bonus points if your cooked vegetables are a soup, stew, or broth. Doing this you should boost your hydration and keep it optimal.