While we haven’t had many really hot days yet, I’m confident their coming. And as the holiday weekend approaches, and we officially kick-off summer, you’re bound to hear reminders to drink more water.
It’s good health advice, and one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health. Hydration is so important in fact, that at my office we don’t reserve this recommendation for just the summer months; I believe getting plenty of high-quality H20 is an important part of good health all year round.
So, what exactly is the role of water in health? Water is the single most important nutrient for the human body. Depending on our age, gender and weight, it can make up between 55-78% of our body and no bodily function could occur without it.
It moistens the oxygen we breathe. It regulates our body temperature. It protects our vital organs. It helps to convert the food we eat into the energy we need. It carries nutrients and oxygen we need to every cell in our bodies and then carries the carbon dioxide our cells produce away. It cushions our joints so that we are able to move without our bones rubbing against one another. And it allows us to excrete waste. Our blood is 92% water, our brains are 75% percent water, even our bones are 22% water.
Every beauty expert will tell you that hydrated skin has less wrinkles, and that no cream can hydrate the skin from the outside as well as water can from the inside. Weight loss experts agree that water helps to keep us feeling full (which limits the calories we eat) and that we often confuse thirst and hunger; eating when we’re actually just thirsty.
And then there’s dehydration, which is a very real and very common. Dehydration can set in with a loss of fluids as little as 2%. Even at such a small rate, this amount of fluid loss can cause concerning changes in the human body and many of our body functions. The first signs of dehydration may include decreased concentration, headaches, dry mouth, and heat exhaustion, which can then lead to heat stroke, muscle spasms, dry sticky mouth, sleepiness, dizziness, irritability and confusion, lack of sweating, little or no urination, sunken eyes, shrived dry skin, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, fever and finally a loss of consciousness which can lead to death. As you can imagine, dehydration is common during the heat of summer, which is the reason behind the frequent reminders to drink more fluids.
Obviously getting enough liquids is extremely important, but how much is enough and how do we know when we’re getting it? First, listen to your body; if you’re thirsty, take a drink. Beyond that, I recommend calculating proper daily water intake by drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces (i.e. If you weigh 150 pounds, your water intake should be 75 ounces daily).
However, not everything we drink counts towards optimal fluid intake! Drinks like coffee, tea and alcohol are diuretics, which promote the production of urine. These strip our bodies of water, rather than adding to our fluid intake. That’s why I recommend pure, high-quality water to be a main source of fluid; it’s hydrating and caffeine-free, sugar-free, fat-free and as a result, won’t add a single extra calorie!
Water… drink up!