Hydration On A Ketogenic Diet: Staying Hydrated On Keto
Hydration And Your Macros While On Keto
If you’re on a Keto Diet, you are most definitely aware of the importance of watching your macronutrients. You probably even use a tracking device like myfitnesspal to ensure you stay in compliance with your 70% fats, 20% protein and 10% carbs splits.
But what about that most important macro of all? You know, the one with absolutely no calories, no fat, no sugars, and no protein.
Water: The Fourth Macronutrient For The Ketogenic Diet
That’s right, water, H2O, is the fourth macronutrient. The very definition of macronutrient states that our body requires macros in large quantities. And, you need more water per day than any other macronutrient. Why, because water makes up about sixty percent of your body weight and is the main component of your bodily fluids. Water is found in every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. It transports nutrients to cells, removes toxins from your body, lubricates your joints, and regulates your body temperature.
Just how important is water? Only air is more important for your survival; you can go three weeks without food, three days without water, and only about three minutes without oxygen, the “rule of threes”.
Dehydration On The Keto Diet
When on a Keto Diet, your body handles water and electrolytes differently, potentially causing dehydration and imbalances. This is particularly true during the adaptation stage when your body is converting from carbs for energy. As a result, your hydration requirements are more significant than normal.
Why Dehydration Happens On Keto
On a normal diet, your body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates. Some carbs are converted to glucose for immediate use, and the remainder are converted to glycogen and stored in muscles and the liver. This stored glycogen is in a hydrated form, that is, there are about three to four grams of water per gram of glycogen. When carbohydrates are eliminated from the diet, or severely restricted in the diet, these glycogen stores are depleted.
Dehydration is a known side effect of ketogenic diets. In addition to glycogen depletion, you excrete more salt, resulting in even less water retention. You will also discharge a lot of excess ketone bodies when in Ketosis which also contributes to dehydration.
Is Dehydration On Keto Dangerous?
Dehydration for any reason can be dangerous; in fact, it can become life-threatening. A clinical definition states that dehydration “is a loss of body water at a rate greater than can be replaced.” Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
- Lack of sweating
- Flushed skin
- Fast heartbeat
In most instances, if recognized at these stages, merely taking in more water should be sufficient to remedy the situation.
More severe dehydration can cause nausea or vomiting, mental confusion, weakness, and even loss of consciousness. Should you encounter any of these symptoms, medical treatment is suggested.
Dehydration When Starting Keto
In the early stages of a Ketogenic Diet, your body produces less insulin due to carb restriction. In a normal high-carb diet insulin is released to convert carbs to glucose for immediate energy expenditures, and to convert the remaining carbs to glycogen to be stored in the muscles and liver for future energy needs. During fasting or carbohydrate restriction your glycogen stores are depleted, along with the accompanying water.
Many people experience weight loss in the early stages of ketosis. This loss is merely water weight being expended, and not being replenished. Another issue with this depletion of glycogen and water is that electrolytes are also excreted.
The Importance Of Staying Hydrated While On Keto
You Need More Water On Keto
Obviously, with the accelerated depletion of water and electrolytes, you will need to consume more liquids than usual. We’ll discuss hydration and electrolyte replacement recommendations and strategies below. Understand that the recommendations cited are for an individual on a standard diet and that your requirements will be a bit greater. There are multiple ways to determine if you are not getting enough liquids while in ketosis, for now, let’s know that your body is a marvelous machine and it usually will tell you when you need fluids as you will get thirsty.
Potential Negative Side Effects Of Keto
Opponents of the Keto Diet cite potential adverse side effects of severe carb restriction, such as loss of lean muscle, lethargy, muscle cramps, brain fog, bad breath, constipation, and frequent urination. And then there is the dreaded “Keto Flu” which encompasses many of the above plus dizziness and drowsiness, and potentially nausea and sugar cravings. Virtually every issue on Keto can be remedied by drinking more water, taking in more salt, or consuming more fats. Every symptom imaginable is said to be treated by eating pink salt, taking potassium and magnesium, and drinking more water.
The “Flu” is just an adjustment period, and any initial lean muscle loss can be regained as your body adjusts.
How Much Water Should You Have?
What is your normal requirement for hydration? Well, defining normal is difficult as we are each unique, live in different parts of the country, in differing climates, and with varying expenditures of energy. Your requirements can differ from day to day, and even within the same day. Some of the factors involved include occupation, food consumption, alcohol consumption, water expenditure through sweat and urine, even the weather, and we know how often that changes.
Different sources will cite different statistics as to the appropriate daily intake of water. But let’s try to get a basic idea of how much is enough.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that an ”average” healthy adult consume:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages, and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.
An established requirement stand-by is eight, eight- ounce glasses of water per day. Mayo says this works fine as a reasonable goal.
The doctors at WebMD, on the other hand, say that the rule has changed from the old eight-by-eight to one-half fluid ounce per pound of body weight, adjusting for other factors, such as a Keto Diet, as needed.
Livestrong claims a bit less is acceptable:
- About 13 cups per day for men
- About 9 cups per day for women
We suggest you consume Livestrong’s recommendation at a minimum yet strive for the Mayo Clinic suggested amount.
Your Hydration Protocol For Optimal Performance
Once we bring exercise into the hydration equation things change dramatically. Athletes have a greater need to replace fluids during exercise. Whether you’re simply exercising for recreation, a weekend warrior, or a serious athlete it’s important to stay hydrated. As you’ll see below, hydration involves getting the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. If you’re not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its optimal level.
Just like an exercise or diet regimen, you need a hydration protocol when you exercise. The American Council on Exercise has suggested the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:
- Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising.
- Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up.
- Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, preferably with added electrolytes.
- Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.
- Drink 20-24 ounces of water for every 1 pound of lost body weight, supplemented with electrolytes, and for the serious athlete, Branch Chain Amino Acids to aid in recovery.
Some other things to consider that may increase your water loss:
- Temperature, you will perspire more in extreme heat.
- Intensity, as with heat, the more intense your workout, the more you sweat.
- Duration, the longer you work out, the more fluid you will lose.
Electrolytes On A Low Carb Diet: Water Isn’t Always Enough
Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water. These minerals allow your body to perform specific functions including muscle contractions and regulating heartbeat. You need a sufficient supply of electrolytes for these processes. If you are deficient in one or more, you will have issues. The primary electrolytes we are concerned with are sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
In the normal course of things, electrolytes in bodily fluids are expended every day. This condition is exacerbated when you’re on a ketogenic diet. Losing fluids at a faster rate also means losing electrolytes at a faster rate.
Some signs of electrolyte deficiencies:
- Headaches / Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Shakiness or dizziness
The Best Ways To Get Electrolytes For Keto Dieters
Many basic food products rich in electrolytes, such as certain fruits and vegetables, are not acceptable on a Keto Diet. Likewise, juices and sports drinks may be excellent sources of electrolytes, but again not if you are adhering to a low carb diet. Instead, consider the following strategies for electrolyte replacement/supplementation.
Food sources for electrolytes while on keto would include nuts, dark leafy vegetables, salmon, tuna, and avocados.
Keto water is another option, using regular water add a pinch of unprocessed rock salt such as Himalayan Pink Salt, or Celtic Grey Salt, with perhaps a hint of lemon or lime. If you are on a budget, even iodized table salt will work.
Most sports drinks are filled with carbs so proceed with caution. Some potential, safe options would include Bai Antioxidant Water, Smart Water, Essentia, or Powerade Zero.
Any health food store or grocery store will carry electrolyte supplements. Try to find a blend that contains calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Many sports nutrition companies now include electrolytes in their BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acid) intra and post-workout drinks.
A personal favorite is Trace Minerals Power Paks or ConcenTrace.
- Water is an essential macronutrient but doesn’t have a single calorie.
- Hydration is critical, but even more so when on Keto and during exercise.
- Include electrolytes in your hydration regimen.
- Develop and follow a hydration protocol when exercising for safety and optimal athletic performance.