On the Paleo diet, it’s not hard to consentrate on food – what foods and how much to eat, when to eat them, (ornot to eat them), and where to get them.
But food isn’t the only kind of nourishment that you get through your mouth: water is just as important, if not more so. By weight, the human body is more than 50% water, and we need it for everything from good digestion to healthy skin.
This means that dehydration and overhydration both have serious health consequences, and water contaminated with any kind of toxins or chemicals will spread the damage through every cell in your body.
The quantity and the quality of water you drink can be just as important as the food you eat – but unfortunately, there’s just as much misguided “common knowledge” about water as there is about food.
8 Glasses a Day?
Anyone who’s met an dietician would possibly knows the key benefits of drinking 8 glasses of water a day.
The question is how much water do we actually need to drink? People’s true water needs vary widely – body weight, nutritional needs, age, and activity levels all affect the amount of water someone needs every day..
Since water needs are so variable and difficult to measure, trying to pin down a magic number of ounces per day is an exercise in futility, especially because healthy adults already have a built-in system for regulating water intake and maintaining healthy fluid levels in the body.
Essentially, your body has to balance the amount of water you excrete with the amount you drink, to keep a constant ratio of water to other substances in your body fluids.
The osmolarity (the concentration of other substances) of the body fluids signals the body to conserve or excrete water. A high concentration of salt in the blood, for example, causes you to feel thirsty, and signals the kidneys to conserve more water, rather than excreting it through urine.
When you’ve drunk enough to balance your water and salt levels again, the thirst fades and the kidneys are free to excrete any excess water.
For healthy adults who aren’t living in extreme climates or participating in endurance sports, this natural system keeps the body in fluid homeostasis, maintaining healthy water levels throughout the day. To drink enough water, simply listen to your thirst.
Paleo Water Recipes
Your water might be as pure and toxin-free as the first trickles off a Cryogenian glacier, but there’s a reason why flavored drinks have such a huge market: sometimes, plain water could use a little variety. Once you re-train your taste buds to stop relying on artificial sweeteners and fizzy soft drinks, pure water does taste delicious.
But even people who willingly drink plain water sometimes like a little enhancement, and Paleo-friendly water flavorings can do a lot to ease the transition away from Coke and Kool-Aid.
For pure flavorings, mint and cucumber are classic favorites. Add them to a pitcher of cold water, and let it chill for a few hours before serving.
Citrus juice (lemon or lime) is also delicious, and the visual appeal of citrus fruit makes it a beautiful addition to a water pitcher for a dinner party.
To make a Paleo sports drink, try adding a pinch of salt to some citrus-flavored water: this adds essential electrolytes to your post workout (or pre-workout) hydration.
Coconut water is another delicious form of natural Gatorade; just make sure to get a kind without added sugars, and preferably not from concentrate. Or, for a truly Paleo experience, find yourself a fresh young coconut (these are sometimes available at Asian markets, even though they aren’t common in regular grocery stores) and get the coconut water straight from the source.
Coffee and tea are also many people’s favorite ways to get enough fluids. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but it may be wise to moderate your coffee and tea consumption for several reasons.
Any kind of beverage with caffeine in it can leave you jittery and wound-up if you drink too much of it, and caffeine can seriously affect your regular sleep cycles even after the “buzz” has worn off.
Thus, regular coffee and any kind of caffeinated tea are best avoided in the afternoon and evening. It’s also important to make sure you aren’t sabotaging your health with what you’re adding to your mug: coffee is Paleo; artificial creamer powder is not. And that triple grande no-foam no-whip half-caf soy latte with three pumps of sugar-free hazelnut is definitely out.
On the other hand, a delicious and 100% Paleo way to enhance your coffee is to make it bulletproof: add grass-fed butter and MCT oil to your morning brew for a satisfying breakfast drink full of healthy fats.
Adding whole-fat dairy is also fine if you tolerate it well (or coconut milk, if dairy isn’t an option); cinnamon or other spices can also add a flavor boost.
Water is one of the most basic substances in the world – and drinking enough water is one of the best things you can do for your health. Staying hydrated has benefits for everything from your skin tone to your kidneys.
This doesn’t mean that you need to guilt yourself into drinking any set amount or constantly “rehydrate” even when you aren’t thirsty, but if you’re at risk of dehydration for any reason (especially from very intense athletic training), stay aware of your water intake and make sure you’re drinking enough fluid and electrolytes to keep your body in peak condition.
Municipal water is often pumped full of toxic antimicrobial agents that produce even more harmful byproducts, but proper filtration systems can remove these chemicals, leaving you with fresh, delicious water to enjoy plain or with your choice of natural flavorings.
That said, it’s important not to get carried away with worry about every problem you can possibly imagine. Some people are very sensitive to chlorine or fluoride, but most of us won’t see any ill effects from drinking out of a plastic bottle or a public water fountain in a pinch.
If you’re truly passionate about clean water, try getting involved with local activism: joining an anti-fracking group or an organization advocating safer water treatment methods in your area. This will do a lot more good than worrying yourself sick about pesticide runoff or DBPs, and you might even have a good time along the way.