Consuming enough water is essential to maintaining good health whether exercising or sitting still, yet many Americans do not consume enough water, which can lead to dehydration. Why is water so important? How much do you really need?
What does water do?
Water is a powerhouse when it comes to keeping your body working as it should. It assists with digestion, circulation, absorption and transportation of vital nutrients, saliva creation and body temperature regulation. H2O is responsible for keeping the kidneys healthy so they can eliminate toxins from your body through urine.
Staying hydrated also prevents and treats constipation. “Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because the fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly,” says Joan Koelemay, RD, dietitian for the Beverage Institute, an industry group.
Water can also aid in weight loss by helping you feel full, as well as serving as a replacement for higher calorie beverages. Water-rich foods are always a great option since they are absorbed more slowly. In addition to keeping your weight in check, drinking enough fluids energizes your muscles so you can perform everyday functions, as well as push it really hard during those tough workouts. Muscle fatigue can be caused by an imbalance of fluids and electrolytes.
Likewise, water moisturizes skin from the inside out. Dehydration can make skin appear dry and wrinkly, but proper hydration will help “smooth” everything out. However, over hydration will not eliminate wrinkles since the body will just excrete the excess water through urine.
How much water do you really need?
Our bodies are comprised of 60 percent water, but everyone’s needs differ based on health, activity level and geographic location. That means although the advice has typically been to drink eight glasses of water a day, it will vary. Since water is lost through breath, perspiration and going to the bathroom, fluid levels must be kept up through consumption of food and beverages containing water.
On a typical day, strive to drink enough water so you’re urine is light in color and odorless, typically about a liter. Here is a chart that may be useful in helping you determine whether or not you’re approaching dehydration: http://flowingdata.com/2012/02/17/urine-color-chart/. Try drinking a glass of water with and between each meal. Keep a reusable water bottle with you, so you can fill up wherever you go. You can also get water through food, like watermelon, broccoli and tomatoes.
If you’re actively exercising, you need to consume additional water to compensate for the loss of fluid through sweat. Drink two glasses within two hours of exercise and continue to drink while exercising. However, endurance athletes working out for one or more hours may need to supplement with a sports drink to also replace sodium lost through sweat.
Hot or humid weather can also make you perspire, therefore quickening the onset of dehydration. Whether you’re indoors or out, pay attention to how much you’re sweating and boost your fluid intake. This is also important for high elevation areas, as you may find yourself breathing heavier than usual. The simple way to make sure you consume enough water is to always have it with you, so it’s easily accessible when you want it.
Keep your fluid intake up to reap all of the benefits water has to offer your body. Remember, “If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”