For years we’ve been told to drink 8 glasses of water per day for optimum hydration, but that has since been proven to be an unreliable number. Natural health experts now recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. If you’re 200 pounds, you should be drinking 100 ounces of water per day! That’s almost 3 litres or the better part of a gallon of water. I’ve told friends and clients for years that it’s not the amount of water you drink that matters, but rather the amount of water that actually makes it to your cells that matters.
What that means is that if the conditions are not right inside your body, any water you drink may simply pass right through. Want to improve your water absorption? read this article.
What? Me? Dehydrated?
I make it a point to be very conscious about the amount of water I drink. Water is critical to so very many functions in the human body, and given the amount of training I do, I’m drinking even more water to account for water lost during sweat and other exertion. I’ve always thought that I’ve been very aware of how much I’ve been drinking, but a recent body composition analysis told me that I was dehydrated.
You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I tend to piss people off because I keep talking about water all the time and encouraging them to drink more, and now I’ve found that I’m not drinking enough water.
That got my attention very quickly.
I made some changes to my daily routine and actually began keeping accurate water logs. I also decided to look at some science behind water absorption and how to increase water absorption. I took a three fold approach:
1. Drink more water
2. Measure the amount of water I’m drinking
3. Increase water absorption
Increasing Water Absorption
So what are the right conditions then, and how do we improve them and increase the absorption rate of the water we’re drinking? Great question.
Without getting into a huge amount of detail about it, lets just say that there are a lot of minerals involved in an ideal balanced blood chemistry for human health. Our hunter gather ancestors got on average, 11,000 mg of potassium per day and 700 mg of sodium. That’s a a ratio of almost 16:1. They acheived that by consuming a diet super rich in plants, fruits, nuts and seeds. Compare that to today’s average intakes of 2500mg and 7000mg or a ratio of (nearly) 1:3 potassium to sodium.
So, based on our origins, the natural approach to increasing water absorption is based on our diet and that being, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and completely excluding any additional salt.
Step by step, here’s how to increase your water absorption
1. Eliminate all additional salt in your diet – DO NOT add salt to anything.
2. Increase your vegetables, nuts and seed consumption – with an emphasis on dark leafy greens such as Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens, spinach. This will increase potassium in your diet as well as amounts of fiber.
3. Eat Chia Seeds – Chia seeds absorb 12 times their weight in water. In addition to being a fantastic source of fiber and Omega 3’s, Chia absorbs water and carries it into the colon where it can be passed along into the body at a slower rate. Instead of drinking water and hoping some of it is absorbed, eating your water can be a way to slow the process down and allow it a timed release. Much like timed release of vitamins, you can time release your water. Chia seeds are an amazing food and part of my Desert Island Foods.
4. Supplement with Glutamine – Glutamine is one of the most over looked and under used weight loss supplements I’ve ever seen. It’s used by every cell of the body for energy, immune system function and as craving control for both carbohydrates and alcohol. Where water intake is concerned, glutamine improves water uptake into the cells because it depends on sodium for transport. Glutamine is one of the amino acids that controls the volume of water in the cells and osmotic pressure in other tissues.
In layman terms, what that means is that glutamine plays a role in the ability of water to cross from the bloodstream into the cells and vice versa. The side bonus of this is that glutamine also plays a role in the cells ability to release toxins and molecular garbage. Glutamine plays a role in detoxification (in which water plays a highly important part as well).
Added Benefits of This Approach
Water is used in many ways in the body. We retain water if we don’t drink enough and if our sodium potassium ratio is off. If we’re not allowing water into the cell, we’re not allowing wastes out of the cell either and that most certainly is not healthy.
The additional benefits of the four approaches above is that we should release some retained water, allow our body to clean itself, improve our energy levels, improve our mood and become more regular at the same time.
Water is critical to health. By improving the quality of our water as well as our ability to improve the absorption of the water we do drink, we improve how we look and how we feel.
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Thanks for this great info, so now I should seek for supplement packed with chia seeds and glutamine… but I think that’s impossible. So in ur opinion, which one is better, chia seeds or glutamine? I’m sick of this water absorption issue, how many I drink its gona be wastage. Now I be used to avoid drink water on long driving.
Both Chia and Glutamine have their place. Glutamine, at least in Canada, is about $15 to $20 a month and the benefit is enormous. Chia seed is available just about everywhere now and can also be ordered online and shipped worldwide. It’s about $10 US for a pound. If you’re ordering online, you probably want to invest in 3 to 5 pounds and make it last 5 or 6 months.
Making chia gel by mixing 2 Tbsp of chia seeds into 24 ounces of water is one of the best and most affordable health improvements anyone can make.
So, to answer your question, it depends on your goals and your finances.
Great info! Water is too often neglected by people. Most people make the mistake of waiting to feel thirsty before drinking.
Great post. Your’re absolutely right. Water does make a huge difference.
There is a water in the market where the molecules of H2O are restructured. Normally H2O clusters together in 9-13 H2O molecules which means its harder to get through your system. Because it is restructured, its in 3-7 H2O molecules which means it passes through your cell walls faster.
Brian Wolstenholme, PharmD says
I’m always for those promoting adequate water intake (and absorption). It seems to always come up with clients and patients. They just don’t drink enough water!
David Stillwagon says
100 ounces of water is a lot of water to drink in one day. Between the diuretic that I take and the water I would be living in the bathroom.
Its funny I’ve written about water for weight loss before but I’d never paid much attention to how much I’d actually been absorbing. Thanks for the head up it something I’ll be taking a look at.
Louis LaHue says
I drink a lot of water and fluids.
Started drinking water due to meds. Now I have a large intake but always peeing …… So want to try the Glutamine…. and Chia seeds
wonder if it will work for me.
I eat bananas every morning for the potassium. I know water is the secret but has to be other things to get the body to rid the fat.
Well first @Louis, the banana is hampering your weight loss efforts. Ditch the banana. Second, the chia has more potassium than the banana so not to worry about that. Third, not sure what meds you’re taking, but they can certainly slow down (or stall) weight loss.
What sort of exercise are you doing?
Do you have my free report “How I lost 300 pounds and 7 principles you can use to lose 10 pounds a month, every month, until you reach your goal weight” ?
Hi Rob, just lost 13lbs due to the swine flu. Now that I lived to tell about it, going to follow your advice in loosing weight. I hate drinking water, but guess that is the way to go. Great advice, and looks like water is the stuff to help loose weight along with the other advice. Also cut out salting my food. Was pounding salt on my food prior to the S. flu. Realizing how important health is as it can be lost very quickly.
Hey thanks for this article, I will definitely have to give the chia seeds and the glutamine a try. I had never heard either of those suggestions before.
Thanks for the information.. now I must cut back on salt haha, I think i drink enough… I just woke up a while a go and I’ve already drank almost a litre!
Thanks for the advice. The Chia seed idea is kind of intriguing, I’ll have to research that a little more. The prospective of slow, steady water absorption is hopeful though. I tend to run hot, and sweat quite a bit, yet when I drink lots of water I tend to expel most of it rather than absorbing it. Slowing down absorption only makes sense. Thanks Rob, interesting perspective.
Regarding water absorption, years ago I tried Creatine but had to stop because I was almost chronically dehydrated due to the way Creatine locks water into the muscles. I know that is what Creatine was designed to do but it did not seem to agree with my body. No matter how much water I drank it did not seem to help. Do you think Chia seeds would help this?
Hi Rob, I just came across your site. Does the Chia and Glutamine apply for women as well? Because I’ve read it easier for women to retain water and that causes in increase in weight. Thank you
Andrew Karpinski says
I just would like to say about our ancestors’ diet. There is not many reliable data about their diet but we know that they ate lots of meat and fat as well, if meat was available it was their first choice. Modern fruits and even vegetables aren’t similar at all to those from 40000BC, mineral and vitamin content was much different than is today.
We can take a lot of first-class information about our native diet from “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston A. Price. Maybe in some tropical parts of the world our ancestors had possibility to get some “sweet” fruits, but we should keep in mind that their fruits and our modern fruits are two different things.
Green leafy vegetables, roots, berries fruits, some kind of wild apples and cherries, mushrooms and few more, these were their primary eatable plants.
Regarding water case I fully agree and even know one good trick to enhance absorption. To make water more digestible we should keep it in mouth for few seconds before we gulp down (saliva and bacteria form mouth will prepare water for fast and easy digestion).
P.S great Web site
Hi, after reading this, I am wondering if this is what my 7 year old daughter’s problem is.. water absorbtion.. she goes to the pee every 15 min. No pain, no infection (urine and blood tested, urinary tract checked in ultrasound). She gets tired easily or grumpy. I watch her diet – not much sugar or refined carbohydrates or gluten or lactose.. It is extremely uncomfortable for her and interferes with long activities. Do you know if it is safe for children to have Chia seed and Glutamine?
Colin Brennan says
Bravo. Good solid information. Chia seeds and their benefits is generally overlooked in favor of products such as Glutamine.
Personally I would recommend keeping Glutamine intake to a minimum unless everything else fails. I also agree with you about bananas, there is 105 calories in a average size banana, for the benefits that you receive with a little potassium boost I would say they do more harm than good when trying to control weight.
I’m not sure why a lot of people hate to drink water. We all need to drink enough water to support our body systems but for some reason, it is a tall order for a lot of us.
Even my kids have fallen into this trap. I virtually have to “bribe” them to drink water in place of juice or soda.
Water is essential for metabolism as well as flushing out wastes from the body.
I should also add that increasing the fiber content of your diet also helps to eliminate wastes from your body. The foods Rob mentioned above help with that in addition to foods like legumes, oats and barley.
Thanks for a great tip, Rob.
@Colin, I recommend keeping Glutamine intake to a MAXIMUM. The health benefits of L-Glutamine are seriously overlooked. Glutamine plays a foundational role in overcoming addictions and restoring colon health. It’s critical stuff. I actually recommend 5 grams 4x a day
@Natasha, not only is chia seed safe for kids, it would improve their health immensely. It’s a seed, plain and simple. Perfectly safe. As for your daughter peeing that often, it could be absorption issues for sure. Balancing the electrolytes is a key part to balancing water intake. It’s not about MORE water necessarily, but rather, having that water actually WORK!
This was an interesting post. I know water is very important, and I’m constantly encouraging people to drink a gallon of water a day. Now I’ll switch to 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces. I’m going to highlight this post in my own blog today. Thanks.
Very interesting piece Rob. I am currently on a calorie deficient diet trying to lose some weight. I am currently 195 and my goal weight is 175. I am on about a 1500 calorie a day diet and i exercise six times a week varying from weight training to conditioning to light cardio. Will the chia seeds help my weight loss diet? GNC had a chia seed (link below) that i am looking to purchase based on what you think it will do for me rob. And should i use whey protein with my diet?
Good article. Drinking water at room temp with Celtic sea salt is the start for good absorption yet many people are severely dehyrdrated and their cells won’t allow access of water, so people will continue to drink more water and still be dehydrated. It takes time and healing before you can absorb all that water.
Ryan M Hall says
Wow, for some reason it’s been a while since I’ve been over to the site. It looks great.
Love this post, I tell almost everyone I talk with to drink more water and most of them crinkle their nose.
It seems that soda is so much more fun that water, but once you detox from the cravings of soda and energy drinks, you notice that the water makes you feel waaaaaaay better when you drink it.
BTW, thanks for adding the info on Glutamine, that is absolutely fantastic advice!
Sandra Martinez says
Thanks for the article, I found it highly informative. I had no clue about the Chia seeds or the glutamine. After reading this I run a search and now I understand things better from the chemical perspective.
I have a little trick to know when I have enough water, I just pay attention to my lips, when they feel a bit dry or mushy I know I have to drink water.
This rules out all the external measures of how much water you “have to” drink. As I feel nobody in the outside should know better than our own body.
Brad Ford says
I just stumbled onto your site. Great info. Thank you.
I discovered this page after Googling “how to retain water.” I’ve been waking up with morning headaches. It makes me want to stay in bed. One friend recommended Vitamin Water, one said to drink half my weight in ounces, and one said coconut water because of the natural electrolytes.
For the record I know I habitually don’t drink much water. Period.
I have tried a few new things in the past year: not eating red meat, not eating meat at all, having colonic, as well as a morning shake with spinach and rice or soy milk. I think my body is confused.
Is it me or were these choices easier when we were growing up.
@Brad, I think it was easier when we were growing up. Our little bodies were better able to adapt and would work despite the things we did to it.
after many generations of poorer and poorer quality food thought, even that is changing.
Coconut water is excellent. I recommend it.
Drinking more water itself is of course excellent.
I’m not at all for vitamin water. That’s just marketing.
not sure what your issue is at the moment so can’t really comment, but a change over to a natural diet is a good thing. That does not mean going vegetarian (I’m not any longer), but it does mean to super increase your consumption of fresh foods, whole foods, and dark leafy greens especially.
Electrolytes are found in all green things, so by simply eating more greens, we can usually begin to balance out a lot of health issues.
plus, the more greens we eat, the less opportunity we have for other crap to get in the way.
focus on the greens, and the rest will work itself out
Great article on water. Unfortunately I cannot eat green leafy vegetables as I am taking warfarin for anticoagulation. I have to stay away from spikes in my vitamin K. which means green leafy vegetables. And since I didn’t eat many of them before, if I start now it will mess up my prothrombin times. But I do limit the salt, haven’t been able to give it up completely yet but I’m trying!
@Serena, the warfarin isn’t permanent. It’s a temporary thing you’ve got going on.
I sent you this as a comment in the CONTACT section, but not sure if you got it. So here I go again,
I am currently working hard at losing my extra baggage and I’m currently in a weight loss bet with one of my good friends. So losing weight fast is important, but I’m also trying to do it right.
I’d like to know why you think Banana’s are a bad choice? Banana is actually my first food of the day, I eat a banana as a light snack about 2 hours before my breakfast. Is it because of the dense carbohydrates that I should avoid them? Or is there another reason?
I do like to at least get 2-3 good size portions of fruit each day, like cantaloupe, melon, cherries, blueberries, strawberries.
Is there a better choice I can be making for my early morning snack?
Your insight/help would be much appreciated.
Josh ( long time lurker ) 🙂
Banana’s have too much sugar in them. THey create too much mucous in the body. When we eat them, our body switches to burning that sugar instead of fat.
Apples are a much better choice. Apples and any berries. If you want fruit, stick with apples. And.. if you want to reduce weight quickly, stick to one serving of fruit only. No more, and again, berries would be the best choice.
I ate banana’s daily as well, right before noon. I eliminated them and dropped 5 pounds in a week.
your next improvement might be to add a single scoop of whey protein into your day. Two might even be better. One earlier, one mid afternoon. The cleanest whey I’ve found is http://www.WheyWheyBetter.com
Do you need to grind chia seeds like you do with flax seeds?
I take 5 tbs of psyllium husks at night,which creates a fibrous gel much like I imagine these chia seeds will. Should I replace the psyllium with chia or do both?
Well @Tony, Psyllium husks are fiber and fiber alone. Chia have powerful nutritional value to them and are not just fiber. They provide fiber, but way way more.
factor in as well that chia has omega 3 EFA’s where psyllium do not. Factor that into your nutritional profile for the day
You dont have to grind them, but you can. Grinding them simply makes the nutrients more accessible, but not required. Sometimes I grind, sometimes I dont. Depends on the recipe where I’m using them
As determined by my naturopath, my water rentention at the cellular level is very poor. We have been working on this for 4 years now, all to no avail. I share my story to see if you have any insight to add.
I am female, 56 years old, 5’7″ in height, weighing 145 lbs, BMI 22.7.
My colon is twice the length of the average human (as determined by a gastroenterologist a decade ago). This might explain 40 years of IBS and chronic constipation and other waste management issues (to be delicate). Consequently, I am passionate about my nutrition and exercise:
1. 4-5 litres of source water a day (290 dissolved solids)
(I even tried a product to alkalinize my water for 4 months or so, and that did not help either, despite the manufacturer’s claims re increased cellular water retention)
2. 1 fruit serving per day (berries)
3. 6 veggie servings per day (4 greens/other and 2 starch)
4. 2 fatty fish servings per week
5. 2 tbs of Udo 3-6-9 Oil blend and 1 tsp of Cyto-Mix Omega D-3 Oil
6. fiber on a daily basis: 2 tbs of acacia (soluble fiber), 1 tbs of ground flax seed, 1 tbs of psyllium husk and 2 tbs of sprouted chia seed, for a total daily fiber consumption of at least 36 grams (including veggies) (I tried upping that gradually over time, eventually reaching 68 grams, but all that served to do was severely irritate my colon without any effect on constipation, so I’ve backed off).
7. no added sugar … I use stevia when something needs sweetening to my taste.
8. no added salt in cooking … I use grey sea salt at the table only, and as little as possible
9. exercise 2 hours a day on average, some combo or another of pilates, ballet, yoga, weights, abs, stretching, back relaxation (yes, it’s exercise), power walking …
10. guided meditation ½ hour per day
None of this effort has aided in moving my water retention numbers one iota, or my bowels for that matter.
Anything in general you can think to add would be appreciated.
And more specifically:
1. how much glutamine would you recommend for me
2. do the sprouted chia seeds I take work as well as non-sprouted (I use sprouted because it is less messy and there is no time wasted in soaking … it’s ready to use …)
3. you talk about coconut water … never heard of it … what makes it effective … and do you mean to replace all source water with coconut water?
4. suggestions for monitoring potassium/sodium intake ratio
So very grateful for your time,
Thanks for the info!!
I’m not looking to lose weight, but to retain water as my body is contantly dry. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid- I am prone to nosebleeds, cracked/bleeding skin, dry hair and such. Other than not drinking enough water for years, I drink one cup of coffee a day and maybe one soda a week.
For the past week I have been very good about drinking enough water though, but I literally have to pee 15 minutes after I down the glass and I feel like it’s just not making any difference. I’m just wondering, is there a “transition period” where it takes my body some time to get used to the increased water intake? My diet is so-so but that’d be nice to know before I start panicing to change it.
Great article, was searching on how to increase my body water %, and reduce the body fat%. I am at 36% body fat and body water is 41% which is low for a 30year old female. I train 4-5x a week and drink about 2ltrs on most days. I realised that if I reduce my water intake for 2 days i wake up feeling foggy and mucousy. I am trying to search for reasons and guidance on how to shift this percentage. I feel i am doing a lot of effort but getting little result. sometimes my weight fluctuates by 2-3lbs from one day to the other. I started using glutamine 3wks ago as i found it also supports intestinal health. I have been diagnosed with lactose, egg, wheat, yeast and nut intollerance 3wks ago. I have been vegan since january and although my diet is mostly veg and fruit I cannot loose anymore fat. Should I reduce my fruit to one a day? I do have an increase in body water % (of about 2%) if i do a water fast for 3 days, but it goes back to normal afterwards. good information you offer and hope i will be able to loose weight as it is driving me nuts.
Hey Rob, excellent article! Ok i have a severe problem, my body refuses to absorb water. Like you said, it just passes right out. Ive measured in cups, everything I drink will come out with in the hour, my body will not absorb any of it!! It has been like this for five months now, my doctor doesnt know what it is, and its gotten to the point where I have bones poking out from water depravation. So according to your article, I should greatly increase my potassium level?
@Joseph, I’m not a doctor and do not give that sort of medical advice. What I can say is to follow the advice of your doctor and then look into increasing potassium and magnesium (from food sources would be my recommendation). Chia seed would fit the bill, and Hemp Hearts (shelled hemp seeds) would be great as well.
Sounds like (but I’m not the final say in the matter, your doctor is) an electrolyte issue. More than just potassium and magnesium.
John Kearney says
Great article and I was hoping you could maybe provide me with some advise.
I have a high water throughput. I’m a big guy currently weigh about 120KG/264lbs/18st,12lb. Which according to the equation above would mean I should drink just shy of 4 litres of water a day. Which I do easily most days. My problem is in endurance training. Yesterday for example I went jogging for an hour and then cycling for appor0x 4 hours. my total water consumption was 9 litres over the 5 hour period. however over the last hour I stopped sweating and started cramping. I think this has to do with diminished electrolights. Now I know that potassium, sodium, chlorine are very important to water retention. I actually does all my water these days with mineral additives. http://translate.google.com/translate?langpair=auto|en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bodybuilding-depot.de%2Fshop%2FVitamine%2BMineralien%2FS.U.%2BMineral%2BComplex%2BSoftdrink .
I guess what I’m saying is that in general what you are saying is correct but an important factor is how are you losing the water and at what rate? I know that in warm desert climates salt tables are used as part of dehydration treatment. So I’m confused when you say people should reduce their salt intake, to increase water uptake.
I always had a sort of simple theory of this in mind. Basically water absorption happen through a sort of osmosis in the large intestine. To help this the blood needs to be more salty than the fluid in the intestine. So completely fresh water can be absorbed the best. however if you are sweating a lot this causes a lot of salts to be expelled from the body continually reducing the effectiveness of this process. Therefore over the longer term is is actually better to drink mineral infused or even slightly salty water to replenish these expelled salts.
So I’m curious would you agree with this or not?
Heather m says
Great article. I don’t work out, but do very physical work.
A lot of sources overlook greatly the body’s ability to absorb the water it has been given. In the heat over the past few weeks, I have been drinking more water and realize it passes right through me. I haven’t been absorbing it, and have been getting more and more fatigued while working, particularly after eating in the middle of the day, which has been my biggest meal, incidentally. I know my body just isn’t utilizing it. But there is not a lot about it at all- just drink water over and over again.
Bruce Wilson says
You mentioned body composition analysis, but did say much about it. How was this analysis done? Have you run across anything relative to hydration and hypothyroidism or subclinical hyperthyroidism?