You've Probably Been Drinking Water Wrong, According To TikTok

It's no secret that staying well hydrated is fundamental to maintaining good health. Capable of much more than just quenching our thirst, water helps to regulate our body temperature and mood, improve focus and sleep quality, lubricate our joints, and keep infection at bay. And yet, according to the National Library of Medicine, chronic dehydration affects a whopping three-quarters of Americans.

In a video that has garnered hundreds of thousands of views, sisters Jill and Jenna, creators of the TikTok account @GutTalkGirls, explain that if proper hydration is what you're after, drinking plain water just isn't enough. "You're not getting any electrolytes," Jenna points out. To remedy this, she recommends zhuzh-ing up your regular old water with some lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt, which she claims is "better for hydration." To appreciate how the addition of salt and lemon can improve water's ability to hydrate our bodies, we must first understand the role of electrolytes.

Electrolytes are substances that break down into positively or negatively charged ions once dissolved in water. While our brains, hearts, muscles, and nervous systems depend on the electrical charge of these ions to carry out their functions, electrolytes are most notable for their role in maintaining the balance of fluids between our cells and tissues.

Salt and lemon as electrolyes

Our bodies hold fluid both within our cells (intracellularly) and outside our cells (extracellularly). The water in our cells accounts for 65% of the fluid in our bodies and is absolutely critical to their functioning. When the cells require more water, they will pull it from the extracellular spaces. This is done through osmosis, a process that requires electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride. Because water and electrolytes are often pulled from the body's tissues to supply the cells, it is imperative that we replenish the supply through our diet, as our bodies can't produce electrolytes on their own.


This helps people absorb more water & minerals (you can add your fav electrolyte powder too!!) #guttalkgirls #guthealth #guttalk

♬ original sound – Gut Talk Girls

When our bodies aren't armed with the proper amount of electrolytes and nutrients, much of the water we drink passes through our system without being absorbed, David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University explained to TIME. That's where lemon juice and salt comes in. Sodium is the key electrolyte that helps deliver water to your cells. Because sodium is expelled from the body via urine and sweat, it is essential that we continue to replenish our bodies with salt. While this can certainly be done through our diet, salt that's been dissolved in water is easier for the stomach to absorb. Lemon juice also contains electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium to further enhance hydration while adding a fresh, citrusy flavor that improves drinkability.

What about taste? Do lemon and salt go together?

While adding potassium (found in lemons) and sodium to water is ideal for the body, letting you hydrate while infusing your system with the most important electrolytes, taste should never be overlooked. One critical reason people can't stay on a diet is because snacks are specifically manufactured to trigger the reward centers in our brains. And healthy foods do not always do the same.

Consequently, if something doesn't have a satisfying or rewarding taste, you will be inclined to avoid it. If adding lemon and salt to your water made you shy away from drinking more water, it would defeat the purpose of keeping you hydrated.

Fortunately, many people crave the invigorating combination of stimulating both the sour and salty taste buds in one rewarding sip. In fact, there are many citrus desserts and dishes that call for salt. This is probably because salt enhances the flavor of pretty much any food it is sprinkled on. 

What is the right ratio of lemon and salt?

Although sour and salty are a tasty combination, the secret to making it truly palatable is, as always, in the balance of the ingredients. Besides throwing the flavor by adding too much of one ingredient, salt sensitive individuals must be particularly aware of their overall daily intake to keep high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues at bay.

The best recipe for you might take a little tweaking. However, an excellent baseline is to start with half a lemon (or about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice) and just a pinch of salt. Ideally, you do not want to use more than ¼ teaspoon. The secret to making this recipe work lies in using warm or lukewarm water, or the salt won't dissolve as readily.

Another important aspect is to use pink Himalayan salt. Healthline states that pink Himalayan salt has far more minerals and elements than table salt. That means you get even more electrolytes per serving, which is exactly what you want.