In the time I spend watching videos by bodybuilders, or reading articles on bodybuilding.com and so forth, I hear a bit of ‘handy’ advice given out by these ‘fitness gurus’: ‘guys, don’t worry about your sodium. If you’re drinking enough water it will all just flush out”.
Sounds great! That means that all the problems highlighted on the NHS Website by the American Heart Association about salt causing increased blood pressure; greater chance of stroke and heart attacks; kidney disease, damage and failure, are all nothing to worry about. It can be cured by water. That must mean that the 3 million people at risk from Chronic Kidney Disease in the UK just didn’t drink enough, while over in the USA 1 in 3 people have high blood pressure. Clearly it is for the same reason.
This is arguably untrue.
You cannot say that all the problems related to kidney damage can be prevented by drinking the gallon of water a day preached by most “Bro Science” gym heads.
I will keep it simple: I am not a biologist, a nurse, a doctor, anything – just a regular guy who has the power of Google and a little common-sense.
First off, the difference between salt and sodium. Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride (about 40% and 60% respectively). Sodium is what effects our blood pressure, and so on.
Now that is out the way, let’s get into it.
Your body is always trying to keep at a state called homeostasis. Homeostasis is the bodies means of creating balance; maintaining the balance of the internal environment, despite the changes in the external environment. Think about sweat: why do we sweat? So as to maintain the same internal body temperature, which involves the excretion of water and salt, so drinking during exercise is important to maintain fluid levels. Why do we shiver? So as to warm ourselves up through movement. The process also happens in the release of Growth Gormone (GH), where an increase in amino acids will trigger the release of Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH), resulting in the release of GH, which causes amino acids to be drawn into cells, which reduces the amount of amino acids in the body, triggering the body to repeat the process all over again.
Apply this to sodium. Sodium naturally attracts water, so when you have a high sodium diet your body will trigger a response to make you thirsty and, therefore, drink water to maintain the same levels of sodium in the blood.
So far so good. Problem is, time is against us.
As we age, the constant processes our body goes through cause damage. Skin loses its elasticity due to the bodies inability to replace collagen as readily; our bones deteriorate due to osteoporosis, and their constant use in every day life. Sugar has a massive effect on our body, because sugar molecules are big and the nephrons in our kidneys and eyes are small, so they get damaged. In early life, with a healthy diet, this isn’t such a big deal because our bodies are good at replacing the cells that are damaged. However, regardless of how good your diet is, your cells will stop being replaced as readily and your chances of developing conditions increases.
Therefore, if the amount of sodium we consume causes us to increase our intake of water, that has a massive impact on our kidneys. They will have to filter the blood more and more in order to maintain a level of homeostasis, and that constant process puts a great amount of stress on the little guys. If your kidneys become damaged, it can lead to them being unable to regulate blood pressure properly, increasing our likelihood of developing Coronary Heart Disease, and so forth. Furthermore, studies on animals show an increase in sodium levels causes a rise in the amount of protein in urine, which can also lead to kidney disease.
I’ve left a video below which gives an idea of how the kidneys work for all you science nuts out there. The video also puts what I’ve said here into a more concise form, probably.
So, it is evident that our body is always trying to maintain balance. I once saw Scott Herman’s video on creatine, and whether you need to take a supplement or not. He noted that, if you already get enough creatine through food sources (like red meats, tuna, salmon, etc), then if you take a supplement your body will just flush it out. Drinking a lot of water increases the amount of water in the blood, so the body flushes out the excess. Increasing the amount of food you eat increases the amount your digestive system processes it, removes the waste, and makes you got to go for a number two. All in the name of balance.
However, as I said, these processes have a negative impact over time. So next time you hear a guy on YouTube say, “just drink a gallon o water and your sodium problems are solves”, spare a though for your kidneys. Imagine it being like your body is Phil Connors stuck in Groundhog Day. It is constantly having to go through the same motions day in-day out to keep you alive. Yes, you will get the invasions from the outside world which it has to fight off, but your kidneys are there, filtering, filtering, filtering, woo!
I think if that was my day job, I would be getting a bit tired out…although, maybe not to the extent that I steal Punxsutawney Phil and drive a Chevrolet C10 into a quarry. Watch the clip below if you missed the joke.