The Diet that Changed my Life – part 4

Glynis BarberDiet & Nutrition 2 Comments

Fleur – The way we are told to drink water is all wrong!

We are all encouraged to stay ahead of thirst.  We are told we should keep a bottle of water by our desks and sip it slowly through the day. The sports drinks industry has much to blame for this hydration mania which became a global phenomenon until 2007, when a fitness instructor died in The London Marathon from drinking too much, otherwise known as water toxicity.  Whilst the sporting world is still confused as to what advice they should be giving athletes regarding fluid consumption, we are all still downing it like our very survival depends on it!

Drinking WaterOf course we cannot live for very long without water, our survival does depend on it.  But our survival also depends on sodium, or salt.  Because of all the bad press that high salt in our diets gets, we never really stop to think about what an important substance it is. Drinking too much water and losing too much sodium is much more dangerous than drinking too little. In evolutionary medical terms, having thirst means that the amount of sodium in our blood is quite high and so we need to drink.  Not being thirsty means that the amount of sodium in the blood is okay and we do not need to drink.

What all this liquid consumption does is confuse a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus.  There is a control centre in the hypothalamus which actually shrinks when the blood is too thick with salt.  This shrinking of the brain probably accounts for eighty per cent of all the headaches we get and certainly most of the hangovers!  At this point, the brain creates the sensation of thirst and this is the time to drink.  The problem is that we can drink chronically through the day because having a cup of tea or coffee is so ingrained in our culture.  Before we know it, the hypothalamus gets completely confused and can no longer guage whether the blood is too thick or not.  At this point it decides to implement a strategy to keep sodium in the body and this can be one of the causes of high blood pressure!

Drinking little and often and makes the brain afraid of sodium loss and yet we have not sufficiently quenched our thirst properly.  Unquenched thirst can turn into hunger and even pain!  Worse still, the body interprets this as an emergency situation and in an emergency, energy gets the highest priority.  Our cells bail the water out and allow the fat to come in.  For every litre of water we lose from out tissues, we exchange it for one kilo of fat!  Yes that is right, drinking water incorrectly can make you fat by two mechanisms. One is the one I have already mentioned and the other is that we are programmed to move about spontaneously.  This means going to forage for food when we are hungry and water when we are thirsty.  Having a water bottle in our bag and slowly working our way through, really is not good for our waistlines.

It is very difficult to say how much water you should be drinking, it all depends on how many sweat glands you have!  Men typically have about four million and women two.  That makes women not as good as men at regulating water and so they do not need to drink as much.  One way this can be seen is by the fact that women are more prone to water retention.  You should wait until you are thirsty and drink all it takes to really quench your thirst.  Do not drink again until you have that thirsty feeling.

In the coming weeks, I will talk about the following:

  • What we need to do to be fit and healthy
  • What kind of exercise we need to be doing and
  •  How we can eat well without being chained to diet regimes that are not doing us any good.

Fleur Borrelli, BSc Nut Med, MBANT.  07766883522


Woman Drinking WaterSo drinking water all day makes you fat!! Sipping those 2 litres, as we’ve all been told to do, through the day is bad for us! How crazy is that?? I looked at Fleur in disbelief when she told me that not only did she not want me to eat little and often and to confine myself to 2 good meals a day, but she wanted me to only drink when I was thirsty and then drink lots. And this would be preferable at meal times. She did not want me having little sips of water or cups of tea all through the day. I found it quite hard to get my head round this and for the first month I barely drank as I didn’t want to upset my hypothalamus! Even after that I felt I was drinking a lot less water and was convinced I must be becoming dehydrated. Fleur has this little machine that puts a current through you for a few seconds and shows her all kinds of things, like your fat mass, your BMI and also how much water you have inside and outside your cells. To my amazement she said I was more hydrated than when we started and the balance of water inside the cells as compared to outside was much better. So there goes another myth! Drinking gallons of water all day is NOT good and WILL make you fat. Be warned.



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Comments 2

  1. Hi there

    I was told that when you are thirsty that means you are already dehydrated. From reading this article then this is totally untrue?

    Kind regards.

    1. Post

      Yes it’s best to drink when thirsty while still making sure you drink enough through the day. We have an entire chapter on how to drink water in our new book The In-Sync Diet.

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