Water, Agua, Aqua Marinus, Eau, H2O
Call it what you like, but no matter where in the world you live, your occupation, or the language you speak, water is necessary for you to sustain life.
Why Should You Drink Water?
Energy. Regular hydration boosts your energy levels, keeps you alert and helps you concentrate. On the other hand, being de-hydrated can sap your energy and make you fatigued, weak-muscled, and dizzy. Water also helps to maintain blood volume. Research has shown that just a 4% loss in blood volume reduces the body’s capacity to perform functions by one-third.
Heart health. Loma Linda University researchers released a study published in the May 2002 American Journal of Epidemiology. They studied more than 20,000 healthy men and women, and found that people who drank more than 5 glasses of water daily were 40% less likely to die from a heart attack than those who drank less than two glasses.
Brain health. Brains are composed of about 85% water. Not keeping them hydrated can cause headaches, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.
Skin health. Water stimulates the circulation of blood, fluids, and the necessary elements in our bodies. Additionally, it controls and regulates the skin’s natural balance. When water is warm, it has the power to hydrate, revitalize, detoxify, and oxygenate the skin, as well as ridding the body of blackheads and reducing the size of large pores.
Cleansing. Water is used by our kidneys to flush out toxins and waste products, and is believed to reduce the occurrence of kidney stones.
Improved performance. Water helps regulate body temperature, especially during exercise when water is lost through your breath and by sweating. As the sweat evaporates, your body cools. Replenishing water loss during exercise is crucial for physical performance. Studies have shown that performance can suffer if just 2% of body weight is lost to dehydration. If you lose too much water, heat exhaustion could result.
Weight loss. Drinking water may prevent overeating and benefit weight loss. Studies have shown that slight dehydration is often misinterpreted as hunger and when you drink water, you satisfy that urge. By substituting water for sodas, fruit juices, and alcohol, you also reduce your caloric intake. Not only does water have zero calories, it also boasts of no grams of fat, carbohydrates, or sugar.
Raises metabolism. Metabolism is the chemical and physiological processes in the body that provide energy for us to live. One of the first chemical processes is digestion, which prepares the nutrients in the food to be absorbed by the body and transformed into energy. Water is needed to maintain good digestion and better utilization of the nutrients. Similarly, when combined with fiber, water can cure constipation which is often a result of dehydration.
Overall health. Water boosts our immune system, helps to speed recovery from injuries, cushions organs and joints, lubes joints and muscles and reduces muscle cramps, balances our electrolytes to help control our blood pressure, keeps the body cool when it’s hot and insulates it from the cold, and reduces our risk of disease and infection.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
The well-known standard used to be that everyone should drink 8 – 12 glasses of water a day. This statement is somewhat ambiguous. It obviously didn’t account for disparities in people’s weights, body composition, activity levels, geographical differences (i.e. whether they were working outside in Florida in August or at a high altitude in the mountains), as well as many other variables. This also didn’t consider the many-sized cups. First, think of a juice glass. Now – can you say “Biggie Size”?
Many fitness professionals support another school of thought – one that is more meaningful and applicable to a person as an individual. Take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. This is the baseline number of ounces of water – not soda – you should drink each day. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, then your baseline is 100 ounces of water. Or if you weigh 120 pounds, then your baseline is 60 ounces of water.
Starting with your baseline, it will most probably be necessary to add to it if you are an active person, if you are starting to exercise for the first time, if you work in a hot climate or live at a high altitude, are ill, pregnant or breast-feeding, etc. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula but one isn’t necessary for it to be effective.
You may find it helpful to track your water intake until it becomes a habit. There are easy ways to do this. You can write it down, count the number of bottles you drink and multiply it times the number of ounces of each, use a drink container that contains “x” number of ounces and be sure you drink all of it each day, or even buy a digital water bottle that tracks your consumption and tells you when you need to drink more to reach your goal.
Although some believe that the food we eat contributes 20% toward our water intake, when using this method, it is not necessary or suggested that you factor in any of your food.
How Do You Know When You Are Dehydrated?
When you feel thirsty, it is too late – you are dehydrated. If you relied solely on your feeling of thirst during exercise, you would only replenish 50-75% of what you have already lost.
Another simple way is to look at the color of your urine. The clearer you urine, the more hydrated is your body. Two exceptions to this are if you are taking certain medications or vitamins, or diuretics including a high consumption of caffeine or alcohol. For instance, riboflavin turns urine a bright yellow, and diuretics turn urine pale or yellow.
Mild dehydration is identified by urine that is dark yellow or amber-colored, or has a strong odor. You may also experience symptoms of chronic pains in joints and muscles, leg cramps, lower back pain, headaches, and constipation. This occurs since kidneys tend to conserve water so your urine will become concentrated.
We lose water through urination, respiration, and by sweating. If you are very active, you obviously lose more water than if you are sedentary. The key is to be aware of your body and your activities, and make sure you don’t allow yourself to get dehydrated.