Has it occurred to you today that you are thirsty? Guess what – by the time you experience the sensation of the thirst, you are already dehydrated. That thirst is your body calling for re-hydration.
Your body is composed of roughly 60% water. That means when we are dehydrated – and most of us spend our days constantly dehydrated to some degree – we are affecting the performance of the majority of our body.Nearly all of our systems do not function as well without the proper water intake.
No one’s sure where the so-called 8-by-8 rule came from, says Heinz Valtin, M.D., a Dartmouth College medical professor and author of two studies on the origin of the theory that the human body works best on eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The truth is, your daily requirement depends on your diet, size, and unique body chemistry. To determine how much water you should drink, weigh yourself each morning for 3 to 4 days in a row — pick a time other than your period to rule out hormone-induced water retention. If you lose a whole pound in a day, it means you came up short on liquids the day before. Drink a pint of water or juice first thing in the morning for every pound you’ve lost and adjust your daily intake until your weight is steady.
Sedentary folks might do fine using this mantra, but anyone who occasionally feels the urge to be active need not subscribe. “Exercise blunts your thirst mechanism,” says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “You lose fluid so rapidly that the brain can’t respond in time.” In fact, a recent study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that women lose more water during exercisethan men. An hour before you hit the gym, grab an extra 20 ounces to hydrate before you dehydrate. “It takes 60 minutes for the liquid to travel from your gut to your muscles,” Bonci says.
Down two venti house blends and you’ll visit the ladies room often enough to earn a VIP pass. But despite its speedy exit, the liquid in your favorite morning caffeine boost still counts toward your hydration goal. After all, it’s basically water, unless you muck it up with flavored syrups or dairy. “Caffeinated beverages do not dehydrate you when consumed in moderation, that is, five cups or less per day of coffee, tea, or cola,” says Lawrence Armstrong, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut and author of Performing in Extreme Environments. In fact, Dr. Armstrong says that any fluids you ingest will help keep your cells saturated, including juice, iced tea, or soda. (Just keep an eye on the calorie count in order to wet your whistle without widening your waistline.)
So, really, what does this mean? Why should we drink more water?
If you don’t drink water, you will die. It’s that important. Depending on our environment, we can live only a few days without water – maybe a week. We can live much longer without food. For most of us, we should prioritize the consumption of water far more than we currently do.
Prevent cancer. Yes, that’s right – various research says staying hydrated can reduce risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50%, and possibly reduce breast cancer risk as well.
Be less cranky. Research says dehydration can affect your mood and make you grumpy and confused. Think clearer and be happier by drinking more water.
Perform better. Proper hydration contributes to increased athletic performance. Water composes 75% of our muscle tissue!Dehydration can lead to weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and electrolyte imbalance.
Lose weight. Sometimes we think we are hungry, when actually we are thirsty. Our body just starts turning on all the alarms when we ignore it. For those of you trying to drop some pounds, staying hydrated can serve as an appetite suppressant and help with weight loss.
Have less joint pain. Drinking water can reduce pain in your joints by keeping the cartilage soft and hydrated. This is actually how glucosamine helps reduce joint pain, by aiding in cartilage’s absorption of water.
Flush out waste and bacteria. Our digestive system needs water to function properly. Waste is flushed out in the form of urine and sweat. If we don’t drink water, we don’t flush out waste and it collects in our body causing a myriad of problems. Also combined with fiber, water can cure constipation.
Prevent headaches. Sometimes headaches can be caused by dehydration, so drinking water can prevent or alleviate that nasty head pain. Next time your head hurts, try drinking water.
Make your skin glow. Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Regular and plentiful water consumption can improve the color and texture of your skin by keeping it building new cells properly. Drinking water also helps the skin do it’s job of regulating the body’s temperature through sweating.
Feed your body. Water is essential for the proper circulation of nutrients in the body. Water serves at the body’s transportation system and when we are dehydrated things just can’t get around as well.
Quick rules of thumb for drinking water:
Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water (if you weight 160lbs, drink 80oz of water each day).
Carry a bottle everywhere with you as a reminder to keep drinking.
Eat raw fruits and vegetables – they are dense in water. You can get water from food, not just from beverages.
Drink water and other fluids until you urinate frequently and with light color.