Nutrition

H2O: Are you getting enough?

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How do you feel right now, at this very moment? Slightly parched? A little dry mouth maybe? Or do you feel like you have to pee…again, for the second time in the last 30 minutes? All of these are indicators of your level of hydration. It may surprise you to hear that most of us spend the better part of each day slightly dehydrated without even knowing it. What’s more surprising is the impact that water has on your overall health, including your ability to lose weight, keep it off and build muscle.

As you may have already heard, 70% of the human body is made up of water, so keeping hydrated should be a big priority in order to keep you functioning efficiently at any given moment. A person can go several weeks without any food, but can only live for about 4 days without water before dying of thirst; this just goes to show how important water is to sustaining life. Water helps to regulate your metabolism and flush out toxins. Although you may not feel it, dehydration happens all the time to practically everyone, unless you are constantly sipping water throughout the day. Think of it like this: if you feel even slightly thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so drink up ASAP. Another indicator is the color of your urine and frequency of urination; the color should be almost clear (yellow indicates dehydration), and if you haven’t urinated in 2 hours, then you need fluids immediately.

So how much water should you drink? Aim for at least 8, 8 ounce glasses of water per day, and be sure to increase your intake during summer months and on intense workout days. Those who have physically demanding jobs or who are very physically active should aim for about 1 gallon of water per day. If you drink coffee or alcohol then you will also need to consume additional water to replenish yourself as well; about one glass for each cup of coffee or serving of alcoholic beverage.

There are a few tricks that I use to ensure that I keep well hydrated each day. The first and probably most important is to drink one glass of water as soon as I get out of bed in the morning. The reason for this is that when you wake your body hasn’t consumed anything for around 8 hours, that’s a long time to go without any kind of nourishment. When I wake up I usually feel pretty groggy so when I drink my glass of water I immediately start to feel better and more energized. It’s important to also drink water before, during and after exercise as sweating is one way your body loses fluids and replenishing those fluids helps with your recovery. Another strategy that I use is keeping a reusable water bottle filled up with me at all times when I’m out of the house; I keep it in my bag when running errands and at my desk at work. When I’m home I keep a glass of water next to me, whether I’m in kitchen cooking or sitting on the couch, and as soon as it’s empty I get up and refill it, this guarantees that I will never go thirsty. The whole out of sight out of mind thing is true, so if you want to keep hydrated, keep water close by in your sights.

There are a lot of really fancy types of high end, designer water and filtration systems available these days, so it can get a bit confusing to figure out what you should be consuming. For the most part regular tap water is perfectly fine to drink; I personally find that is has a bit of a metallic taste to it, so I keep a pitcher with a built in filter in my fridge filled all the time. My reusable water bottle also has a built in filter as well so I can fill it up anywhere as needed. Filters are great, but they can be pricey, if it’s out of your budget then don’t bother just stick with the tap. Some filters may actually remove too much from water like essential minerals that benefit you so before you get the fancy stuff do a little research to find the best filter for you. Installing additional filtration systems in your home water supply is basically the same principle; it’s non-essential and pricey, so again do your research first. Not too long ago, buying bottles water was all the rage, nowadays we know better for the most part as this is pricey, bad for the environment and pretty much the equivalent of tap water, so do yourself, your wallet and the environment and stop buying bottled water unless it is the only option available to you. Another popular option is carbonated water, which is alright but take note that it will make you more gassy and can cause bloating so try not to overdo it.

Some people may find the taste of water off putting so if this is you there is still hope. Try adding slices of cucumber and fresh mint, fresh or frozen berries, or slices of citrus fruit to enhance the flavor (if you add citrus fruit be sure to drink with a straw as the acidity can erode your tooth enamel). As for the new trend of water enhancers, these are really not necessary and most have added sugar, so unless you exercise for prolonged periods or you have a physically demanding job in the blazing hot sunlight, don’t bother. If you really must have one, go for an electrolyte only option with no added sugar.

If you’re still unsure whether you need to drink more, keep track of how much you drink each day by making note when you finish drinking a glass and what time you drank, this can be a great way to ensure that you don’t go too long without fluids. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider for more information and tips on keeping hydrated. Right about now you may be feeling a bit thirsty so pour yourself a glass of cold water and drink up, it is essential for sustaining life and your overall health. Cheers!

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