What’s the Best Way to Stay Hydrated? Focus on Cellular Hydration
By: Dave Asprey
- There’s a lot more to hydration than drinking 8 glasses of water a day. What’s really important is how much of that water reaches your cells, and how your cells use it.
- Your mitochondria use the hydrogen in water to make energy. The hydrogen in water also binds to free radicals and gets rid of them, keeping your inflammation low.
- Use electrolytes, fiber, EMF protection, and better water quality to hack your cellular hydration and improve your performance.
When people go to the emergency room for dehydration, doctors will sometimes give them several liters of water over the course of a couple hours. Somehow, they still don’t get hydrated.
That’s because there’s a lot more to hydration than just water. The advice to drink 8 glasses of water a day is oversimplified; what’s really important is how much of that water actually reaches your cells, and how your body uses it.
The benefits of hydration
If you’ve ever been dehydrated, you know that hydration matters for your performance. Your cells use the hydrogen molecules in water (that’s the H in H2O) to make ATP, the basic unit of energy that your cells use to run your body. Hydration keeps your energy bank account high.
Water is also one of the body’s best defenses against inflammation. Your body is constantly dealing with inflammatory free radicals from stress, environmental toxins, and byproducts of your body’s normal processes. The hydrogen in water deactivates free radicals and clears them from your system. It makes a major difference, too: One study found that people who drank hydrogen-rich water saw a 39% increase in their antioxidant ability!
Cellular hydration matters for your performance. There are a few different ways you can increase it. Electrolytes are a big part of hydration — you may have heard of them from commercials for a certain sugar-filled sports drink. How much fiber you eat affects your hydration, too. So does EMF exposure. Let’s talk about all of them, as well as a couple other cool biohacks to help you hydrate better at a cellular level. First, let’s cover how you can measure hydration in your cells.
Phase angle: See how hydrated you really are
Have you ever used one of those scales that sends an electrical charge through your body to measure your body fat percentage?
They usually aren’t too accurate for measuring body fat, and probably aren’t worth your time. However, running electricity through your cells is an ideal way to test your cellular hydration. When your cells are hydrated, their membranes stay tight and organized, and they can hold and pass on an electrical charge.
When your cells are dehydrated, those membranes get loose, and an electrical charge leaks and dissipates before they can pass it on.
Your phase angle measures how well your cells carry and pass on an electrical charge. A phase angle of 10 means your cells are hydrated and in perfect shape. A phase angle of 3.5 means you’re probably dead. Most people hover around a phase angle of 6. You want to get up to an 8 or a 9 if you can. Cellular hydration is one of the best ways to increase your phase angle.
Bulletproof Labs has one of the most accurate tools for measuring your phase angle, as well as your muscle mass, body fat percentage, and more. A lot of functional medicine doctors also have the technology to measure your phase angle.
Phase angle is the best way to figure out how hydrated you are at a cellular level. Now let’s talk about how to improve cellular hydration.
Get electrolytes for better hydration
Electrolytes dissolve in water and give it the ability to conduct electricity. Water on its own doesn’t actually conduct electricity. If you were to zap pure, distilled water, the electricity wouldn’t go anywhere; it’s only when you add electrolytes to water that it can hold a charge.
A lot of your cells run on electricity, and you want plenty of electrolytes dissolved in your cellular water so that your cells can carry an electrical charge. Many of your brain cells, for example, have voltage-gated ion channels. That’s a fancy way of saying they only communicate with other brain cells if you shock them with enough of an electrical charge. You want to make sure you have plenty of electrolytes so your cells can communicate electrically with one another.
The most important electrolytes are:
You want a balance of sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to make sure your cells stay as hydrated as possible. Electrolyte drinks don’t actually make a difference in your hydration levels. In a recent study, people drank either a high-sugar sports drink, pickle juice, or water; none of them saw a difference in their electrolyte levels.
In order to increase your electrolytes, you want to take them directly as supplements.
Sodium and chloride: Most people get plenty of sodium and chloride from table salt, and don’t need to supplement.
Quick side note: It’s not salt that causes high blood pressure. It’s an imbalance between sodium and potassium. Balance your salt and potassium intake and you don’t have to worry about making your foods bland on a low-salt diet.
Calcium: Despite what you may have heard, most people don’t need to take extra calcium, either. You can get a fair amount of it by drinking mineral water like San Pellegrino every day.
Magnesium: Magnesium and potassium are the important ones. I take them every day, and I suggest you do too. About 80% of people are deficient in magnesium.
You want 400-800 mg of magnesium a day. Here’s a guide to the best magnesium supplements.
Potassium: About 97% of people are deficient in potassium.
The cheapest and easiest way to get plenty of potassium is by buying a potassium chloride salt substitute. You can find them next to salt at most grocery stores for a couple bucks. You want 3,000-4,000 mg of potassium a day.
Start slow with both of these. Too many electrolytes at once can cause disaster pants.
Fiber for gut hydration
Fiber keeps you hydrated, too. Fiber adds bulk to your food and makes food stay in your gut longer, which allows you to digest food more fully and get more nutrients out of it. Soluble fiber also absorbs a lot of water as it passes through your system and distributes it through your intestinal wall, so instead of peeing the water out, it heads into your bloodstream and gets to your cells.
Veggies are packed with fiber, as well as antioxidants, lots of nutrients, and polyphenols that make your brain stronger. That’s why veggies play such an important role in the Bulletproof Diet (download the complete one-page roadmap for free).
Electromagnetic fields mess with cellular hydration
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from WiFi, cell phones, radio towers, and other wireless electronics interfere with your cells’ natural electrical currents.
Your cell membranes have little gaps in them called tight junctions that organize and direct the flow of electricity across your cell membrane. Tight junctions also control what can get in and out of your cells. They keep damaging compounds out.
EMFs loosen your tight junctions. A recent study found that exposing brain cells to an EMF signal loosened junctions in the blood-brain barrier, the lining of your brain that keeps it safe. Loosening your tight junctions also causes electricity to leak and messes with electrical communication across your cell membrane, even if you have plenty of water and electrolytes.
Fortunately, you can block EMFs with a couple simple hacks. Here’s a complete guide to protecting yourself from EMFs.
Water quality matters, too
Filtering your water is one of the simplest ways to upgrade your biology. Tap water contains potent carcinogens like chlorine and chloramine, as well as fluoride that messes with your thyroid hormones. And as outdated water infrastructure collapses, there’s a greater and greater chance that your water contains heavy metals from corroding lead pipes. Get a good water filter; even a $20 one makes a huge difference in the quality of the water you drink.
Stay hydrated, and thanks for reading.
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