The new water

Exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and sleeping well—all those components of a healthy, high-performance lifestyle may be undercut if you’re not properly hydrated, say Dana Cohen, MD, and Gina Bria, authors of the newly-released book Quench.

And chances are you’re not at optimal hydration levels: according to recent research cited in the book, up to 75 percent of Americans are dehydrated, a condition that can show up as fatigue, irritability, and lack of focus. Chronic, low-grade dehydration may also contribute to more serious conditions, from decreased immunity and joint pain to Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Moreover, a University of Arkansas study suggests that even very mild dehydration—a loss of as little as two percent of your body weight—can affect blood vessels in the same way that smoking a cigarette does.

On the upside, proper hydration can reap all sorts of benefits, including soaring energy levels, better cognitive function, improved sleep, more radiant and younger-looking skin, and more.

Instead of reaching for another glass of water, Cohen, an integrative physician with a Manhattan medical practice and Bria, an anthropologist with a background researching indigenous desert tribes and founder of the Hydration Foundation, argue that there’s a better way to hydrate. Here, the authors discuss their best tips based on the latest science on water, and the surprising role movement plays in hydration.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

Why is hydration such an important topic to focus on now?

COHEN: Our environment is literally drawing the water out of us. Climate-controlled interiors, industrial lighting, and electronic equipment are all contributors. Processed foods as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications are also culprits. Finally, sitting all day is a surprising factor in dehydration.

BRIA: Our tipping point was when we started using cell phones and electrical devices at the level we do now. We’re not living the way we were just five or seven years ago. Instead, we’re spending more time sitting and scrolling on our cell phones. If you think of yourself as a living river, you’re crinkling your irrigation hose when you’re sitting for so long.

Can you talk about the newest developments in water science?

COHEN: A new phase of water has been discovered according to professor and researcher Gerald Pollack. We all know water exists as liquid, ice, and vapor. Now, there’s a fourth phase that is a gel phase, which Pollack calls E-Z, for exclusionary zone and labels H3O2 (as opposed to H2O or plain water). It is believed that H3O2 is the water found in plants. It is charged and holds energy, much like a battery. It’s more effective at hydrating our cells.

BRIA: The kind of water inside our bodies is this specialized molecularly charged water. When you drink water just from the tap or from a bottle it hasn’t gone through this change, so we want to help make it happen so it’s easier on the body. That’s why we recommend adding a pinch of sea salt to water. It charges the water and the molecules change shape. It turns out that plants do this, too. The water percentages from fruits and vegetables vary, but they all come in at over 85 to 90 percent water. And the body doesn’t need to do as much transformation so you can hydrate more with less liquid.

So should we throw out the eight-glasses-of-water-a-day rule for good?

COHEN: Drinking more water is not the most effective way to get optimally hydrated. Eating more hydrating foods and moving is a much more effective way of hydrating. But everyone is different, with different hydration needs depending on weight, muscle mass, activity, environment, and more.

What are some of your best hydration tips for athletes?

COHEN: Drink water with a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon first thing in the morning. Both ingredients are loaded with electrolytes and minerals. Fake salt that is only sodium can cause bloating, but we need the other minerals and electrolytes from sea salt. Some people may be salt sensitive, however, so they should monitor their blood pressure and consult their doctor.

BRIA: It’s important to hydrate ahead of games and physical activity. You’re taking a protective stance, and getting your tissues prepared for exertion or contact. You can make a sports drink by just adding natural salt, chia seeds, and a little kombucha into a glass of water.

You can also add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water, which is a very energizing drink. We also recommend morning smoothies. To counter that afternoon dip, you want to go for something rejuvenating, like an apple or glass of tea. If you go for coffee, add some kind of fat such as coconut oil or ghee to help buffer the dehydrating effects of caffeine.

What are micromovements and how do they factor into hydration?

BRIA: Motion keeps you hydrated, and it doesn’t take much movement at all. These micromovements are the minuscule but consistent release of hydration into our fascia and ultimately into our cells. It’s also important to be in full body rotation to get pulses of hydration into places you normally wouldn’t. Qigong and yoga use the practice of twisting. Think of it as you would a washcloth. When you twist, you’re wringing out old waste water, and when you release the twist, you’re sucking up fresh fluids full of oxygen. Even if you’re an endurance athlete you can do your run but come home and sit all day, so it can help to do micromovements like moving your chin over your shoulder to wash out inflammation that may come from lactic acid being released.

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