Think back to your days in school and try to remember how much of our body is made up of water. In case you forgot, it's about 75%. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a true water junkie, and if our own bodies are 75% water, a water junkie can be a good thing. I grew up in a home that offered water, milk, juice or tea to drink and on special occasion’s soft drinks. Fortunately for me, I never took up the soft drink habit and I drink about 80-100 ounces of water every day. I say fortunately, because of several reasons 1) water is free unless you buy bottled, 2) water is calorie-free and 3) there are great benefits to drinking water.
So, what exactly is the function of water? It transports nutrients and oxygen in the body; helps medications work properly; keeps the skin and mouth moist; helps prevent constipation and regulates body temperature. Hydration is vital in sustaining good health and life in general. Think about it for a minute; a person can survive about three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food. All of that, of course, depends on a person’s age, size and physical condition. Water is the most abundant substance in the human body and on Earth and like oxygen, you can't live without water.
Body organs of all types contain water, including muscle (about 73%), blood (about 83%), body fat (25%), and even bones contain some water. Did you know that one of the major contributors to heat-related illness is dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don't get enough water in your body for your body to carry out normal functions? Did you know that on average about 60% of your weight is water and every system in your body depends on water? Every day you lose water through sweat, breathing, urine and bowel movements (typically 9 cups each day for women and 13 cups for men).
So how much is enough? The experts say to let your thirst be your guide and you should drink about 48-64 ounces of water, other beverages or even eat foods high in water every day. Alcohol does not count towards water consumption due to its dehydrating effects. Try to choose decaffeinated beverages over caffeinated ones. Replenish water throughout the day; especially during hot, humid weather or strenuous activity when fluid loss may be higher and your fluid intake should be increased. Did you know that 80% of the water in your diet can be consumed through beverages, with an additional 20% through foods like fruits and vegetables?
Milk and juice are excellent choices because they supply essential nutrients such as: calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein. Be aware of added calories when choosing whole milk or juice beverages with added sugars. Water is adequate for fluid replacement when exercising less than 90 minutes. If activities last longer, sports drinks may be a better source of fluid replacement. Sports drinks provide fuel in the form carbohydrates for muscle, and the sodium and glucose help the body absorb fluid better. Try choosing decaffeinated beverages. Caffeine has a mild stimulant that affects the nervous system and can have a diuretic effect; enjoy caffeinated drinks in moderation. Diet soft drinks are about 99% water, and regular soft drinks are about 90% water. Regular soft drinks also have a high sugar content (12-ounce drink has about 10-12 teaspoons of sugar). Diet drinks are sweetened with artificial sweeteners and are essentially calorie free. All caffeinated drinks should be enjoyed in moderation. Fruits and vegetables and other moist foods contain water to help us stay hydrated. For example, watermelon is about 90% water; apples are 84%; and broccoli and carrots are about 90%.
Groups that are susceptible to dehydration are older adults, infants and children, athletes, and those with chronic illness. With age, the ability to sense thirst is diminished, which is why older adults need to drink fluids frequently, even if they don’t feel thirsty. Additional reasons older adults may not drink enough fluids include difficulty walking to get fluids, trouble swallowing, may not be able to communicate thirst to a caregiver, or may fear incontinence. Children often get so involved in playing that they don’t realize they’re thirsty. Athletes become dehydrated because of perspiration, or they aren’t able to stop for fluids and are especially vulnerable during hot days.
• Signs of dehydration include:
• Thirst, dry mouth, flushed;
• High body temperature;
• Increased breathing rate, rapid pulse;
• Dark yellow urine;
• Skin that stays in the same pinched position.
Results of dehydration include:
• Increased urinary tract infections,
• Increased risk of kidney stones,
• Cardiac arrest,
Increasing your daily water consumption can curb your appetite, aid in muscle development, and optimize metabolism. All great reasons to make water a BIG part of your daily routine and your journey to get FIT. While many people complain of not enjoying the taste of water, it can be overcome by a few weeks of perseverance. As you continue to drink adequate amounts of water, your body will begin to crave water when you haven’t met your daily quota. Additionally, the frequent need to urinate after water consumption is most severe at the start of increased water intake because your body is flushing out stored water from your body tissues. As you continue to drink water throughout the day, your urinary system will regulate and normalize. In conclusion, maintaining proper hydration is very important to optimal health. I challenge you to join me in becoming a water junkie!
Sources: Water – The Beverage of Life; HealthHints newsletter (August 2008); Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Fluid Needs; Iowa State University Extension: Fluids; Time for Fitness: Drinking Water for Weight Loss