I am going to preface this article by saying that this has been four weeks in the making. After personal experimentation with my own diet I have come to some conclusions that I am excited to share with all of you!
When people come to me for nutritional help they obviously have some common goals. Weight loss, fat loss and muscle building are amongst the most sought after goals to those into fitness. However, many people also complain about bloating as well. The common aggravation usually manifests itself in the following manger: “I eat less calories than I burn and I am eating healthier foods. Why am I still feeling bloated and retaining water?” I used to not put much thought into this issue until it affected me directly. Just like those who asked me this same bloating related question, I too was struggling with doing everything by the book diet wise, but still dealing with bloating and water retention. So, a few weeks ago I decided to find some answers. Most of my solution is contrived from common sense and knowledge. Basic principles I have lived by for years. However, the real difference maker has been understanding the relationship between sodium and potassium, and once you do it can change your dieting life forever.
The first piece of advice I will give to someone who is looking to engage in healthier eating habits is to increase their water intake. The usual recommended starting point is to drink at least half your bodyweight in grams. I am not going to get into the multitude of benefits that come with drinking water. I could do that until I’m blue in the face. However, what I will say is that a simple way to look at it is that you need to consume water to properly regulate the water in your body and adequately flush it through your system.
Now that I have addressed water intake you can begin to see where the problem may be developing. Here is some basic chemistry. Water is heavily attracted to sodium. So, while drinking all this water is great for you, if you are consuming too much sodium this dreaded bloat would take place. Here is where it gets interesting. Potassium is the antithesis of sodium, meaning that while sodium traps water molecules, potassium helps regulate them throughout the body. So, while the FDA and American Heart Association recommend the average person consume 2,300 milligrams of sodium, I have found that is equally important to try and match the number of milligrams of potassium you consume daily with your sodium intake. Potassium is harder to come by than sodium. Quality fruits and some vegetables contain large amounts of potassium, which will in turn introduce better quality foods into your diet.
In the past few weeks I have had great success with regulating my water by upping my potassium levels and bringing them closer to my sodium levels. I have also limited my sodium intake by avoiding table salt and utilizing leaner protein sources versus red meat. MyFitnessPal is a great app that can help you track your sodium and potassium.
Lastly, you can find some foods lower in sodium and higher in potassium from the Harvard School of Public Health!
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Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.