Water is the Most Underestimated Nutrient
Drinking enough water is vital to your health and your nutrition plan. While individual needs vary, a “rule of thumb” is to divide your weight by ‘2’ and that’s the amount of water a sedentary person of that size should drink in ounces each day. Water is easily the single most important nutrient for our body. We can survive for several weeks without food but only a few days without water. Water aids in cell metabolism, helps remove toxins from our body, and helps to regulate body temperature. Keep a water bottle handy and sip generously throughout your day.
If you are not drinking enough water you can impair every aspect of your physiology. Dr. Howard Flaks, a bariatric (obesity) specialist in Beverly Hills, California, says, “By not drinking enough water, many people incur excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, decreased digestive efficiency and organ function, increased toxicity in the body, joint and muscle soreness and water retention.”
Next to air, water is the most necessary element for our survival, yet it is likely the most underestimated of the essential nutrients. We can live without eating food for several weeks, but we can only survive a few days without water. The typical adult body is made up of 60 to 70 percent water. Water provides the body with form and structure, known as turgor; it provides the fluid environment for all cell metabolism, and it regulates the temperature of the body. Water is essential for elimination, breathing, digestion, and joint lubrication among other things.
Is there a link between Hydration and Hunger?
Studies say yes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. There is evidence of a correlation between the thirst and the hunger drives in the brain. Even in cases of mild to moderate dehydration sugar and food cravings have been observed. In addition, if you are trying to lose weight drinking adequate amounts of water is essential for efficient fat metabolism.
Not drinking enough water can cause water retention because the body will try to hold onto water to compensate. Often drinking more water will solve the problem and your body will release the excess water.
Other effects of even mild to moderate dehydration are increased back and joint pain, daytime fatigue, headaches, and a decrease in motor skill abilities, concentration, and memory retention. Chronic dehydration can even lead to an increased risk for kidney stones and some forms of cancer.
How much water should you drink?
Surprisingly few people know how much water they need to consume on a daily basis for optimal health. It is estimated that a significant percentage of our population, as much as 40% or more, is chronically dehydrated.
Daily requirements to stay hydrated will vary based on the size of the individual, their activity level, as well as the temperature and humidity of the environment. The higher the relative humidity or the more moisture that is in the air, the more difficult it is for the body to regulate its temperature during exercise. You will actually perspire more when the humidity is high. Consequently, you will need to drink more water to stay hydrated. If you drink caffeinated beverages, exercise vigorously, or it is extra hot or humid this will increase you need and you should drink additional water. If you wait until you feel thirsty, then you are already slightly dehydrated. There is one true test. If when you use the restroom, if your urine isn’t clear you need to drink more water. I recently spoke at an event where we looked at the effects of dehydration on soft tissue (or muscle). Even slight dehydration reduces muscle flexibility, causes stiffness, and if you are getting massage therapy make your body a lot harder to work on and accept the benefits of that therapy.
A more accurate estimate of daily water requirements would be to drink ½ to ¾ of an ounce of water for each pound of body weight. The lesser amount would suffice for an inactive person, and the greater amount would be appropriate for someone who is active. So an inactive 150 pound adult should consume a minimum of 75 ounces of water per day. Add 16 additional ounces for strenuous activity and another 16 ounces if it is hot and the relative humidity is high. So this brings the total up to 107 ounces per day! Divide this amount by the number of hours you are typically awake to find out how much water you should drink each hour since you should consume your water intake through out the day. In our example, this individual should drink approximately 9 ounces of water each hour they are awake. Still, this is just a guideline, actual requirements can vary.
There are several factors that can cause water retention. Frankly, if you are too attached to the numbers on the scale then this can cause frustration. I think it is best to know what things may cause you to retain water weight and then the temporary number going up on the scale will not be so alarming or frustrating. If you eat a meal with high sodium content this can cause water retention. This could be from eating anything from sushi to packaged and processed foods to eating out in restaurants where typically the sodium content will be higher than when you prepare your own foods at home. Other causes for water retention can be consuming more carbohydrates than normal, not getting enough sleep, or for women who are menstruating, the time of the month. This sounds counter-intuitive or crazy, but not drinking enough water will cause you to retain water, too. How in the heck does that happen? Well, if you aren’t drinking enough water the body starts conserving water by recycling it instead of releasing it. This is not a good thin, not only because you are retaining water, but because your body releases toxins when it releases water—and that is a good thing!
Is it Possible to Drink Too Much Water?
Yes, it is possible, but not likely. Water Intoxication (Hyponatremia) can occur when someone drinks too much water very quickly and their kidneys cannot excrete the excess, which can cause sodium levels in your blood to drop too low. However, this condition is rare. Endurance athletes such as marathon runners are at greater risk because they consume large amounts of water quickly. Healthy adults consuming a normal diet have a very low risk of water intoxication.
So How Do I Drink All That Water?
The key is to drink water often and throughout your day. Keep a container of water with you wherever you are. Generally I have a “favorite” water bottle. Right now, I have several favorite water bottles—I have a set of spiral shaped 32 ounce wide mouth mason jars—I fill three of them up each morning, a total of 96 ounces.This is my daily target of half my weight in ounces plus I add some to offset my morning coffee (If I drink 16 ounces of coffee in the morning, then I need to add 16 ounces of water during the day since coffee is a diuretic.) When those jars are empty, I’ve met my target for the day. I avoid purchasing individual, disposable water bottles. Purchasing water that way is expensive, and all those disposable plastic bottles are not good for the planet, either. I do purchase filtered water by the gallon because the well water where I live doesn’t taste good and goes through a water softening system. I’ve noticed that the plants like rainwater better than the water from my well and I figure if it’s not good for the plants, then it probably isn’t the best choice for me either. For variety, I like to infuse my water with fruit or herbs. Make certain you are well hydrated before exercising and remember to drink water during your exercise sessions. Be sure to re-hydrate when you have finished your exercising.