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Hydrating During A High Protein Diet: Drinking Enough Water To Support Protein Breakdown

Typically, when we increase our activity level, our protein intake also increases. 

We know protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue; however, there is one important factor regarding protein that often isn’t mentioned.

That factor is water intake. 

Protein And Water: How They’re Connected And Why It’s Important

Everything we consume is broken down into smaller parts somewhere in our body. When it comes to protein, it is near the final stages of this process that we’re concerned with, since it affects our kidneys and liver.

When protein is broken down, one of the by-products is ammonia. To our bodies, ammonia is toxic, so we have developed systems and enzymes to flush it out efficiently. Through various pathways involving the liver, this ammonia is converted into a substance called urea. From here, urea is sent to the kidneys to be processed and flushed out in urine. 

In normal amounts, this process works just fine, as our bodies have the tools needed to remove the ammonia by-product from protein. However, when we begin to consume a high protein diet, we can begin to tax these systems and cause strain on our liver and kidneys. 

This is why research has now shown that the more protein you eat, the more water you need to be drinking. 

Why? because water is used to flush out the excess waste created by the breakdown of protein, and in order to stay hydrated, we need to consume more H2O to make up for that extra water loss. 

By not consuming enough water to support your workouts and diet, you can increase your risk of dehydration, increase the strain placed on organ function and even reduce overall stamina!

How Much Water Should You Drink?

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Interestingly, studies have shown that even though you think you would be thirstier while this process is going on, subjects actually felt no difference in thirst on a high protein diet!

This is why it’s important to drink water even if you aren’t feeling thirsty.

While there aren’t a recommended number of ounces of water for every person to consume since we’re all different, the color of your urine can tell you a lot.

Namely, the color of your urine first thing in the morning is a great indicator of hydration status. If you see urine the color of apple juice, you may be dehydrated and should consume more water throughout the day. Lemonade-colored urine is ideal, indicating you’ve had enough.

If you are consuming near the upper limit of daily protein (around 1.2 – 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight) you should try to consume more fluids than normal. See where your urine color sits at 8-9 glasses and monitor from there.

Also, it helps to sip your water throughout the day (rather than chugging it) as this offers steady hydration … and less trips to the bathroom!

The Bottom Line

Hydration is insanely important … and it’s even more important when you’re consuming a higher protein amount. Make sure you’re getting enough water!

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