Why water is important and how much is enough? More than 60% of the human body weight is water. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated is vital for our bodies to function properly. On the flip side, drinking too much water, especially in a short amount of time, can be equally as dangerous. So, why is it so important, and how much is enough?
Benefits to the Body
- Helps to remove toxins from the body
- Suppresses the appetite and/or alleviates false hunger cravings
- Helps to improve metabolism
- Helps to maximize physical performance
- Reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Helps to regulate blood pressure
- Increases energy & relieves fatigue
- Improves cognitive abilities and mental functioning
- Improves skin complexion
- Helps prevent diarrhea and constipation
- Reduces bloating
- Helps to regulate body temperature
- Boosts immune system
- Natural headache remedy, which can often be due to dehydration
- Prevents and reduces cramps
- Saves money
While many of us don’t drink enough water, there is such a thing as water intoxication. The well-known quote, “everything in moderation” applies here too. There are two general rules of thumb, but neither may be the right answer for you. The right amount for you is dependent on your general health, body composition, activity level, and even where you live.
Everyone has been told to drink 8 glasses of water a day, which is potentially a good goal. You may have also been told that you need 50% of your total weight in oz per day, which can also be a healthy goal. In case you are one of those who just calculated those figures, you may have come up with two very different numbers depending on your body weight. Again, as a general rule of thumb, both or one of those may be a good way to calculate how much water you should strive for every day. Two other ways to determine if you are getting the right amount are, paying attention to the way you feel and the color of your urine.
I personally try to drink 50%+ my body weight in oz each day, which happens to be very close to 8 glass a day (give or take a few oz). That number works for me because of my weight, my overall health, what I eat, my activity level, and where I live. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re setting your personal goal. Of course, your goal may need to be adjusted based on the way you feel, health conditions, and your doctor’s orders.
- People who live in hot and humid environments may need more due to the simple fact that they most likely sweat more.
- People who live at, or visit, high altitudes typically require more water.
- Athletes, especially endurance athletes, likely need more than sedentary individuals. However, there is more than one thing to consider here, so read on.
- People who eat a very processed diet (the Standard American Diet) may need more than a person eating a diet full of real food because processed food is loaded with massive quantities of bad sodium. However, the balance of your sodium, potassium, and water are important, not just your sodium intake.
- If the color of your urine is crystal clear, it could be a sign of too much water. However, close to clear or a pale yellow could indicate you’re sufficiently hydrated, unless you’re taking your multivitamin. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is water soluble, so your body will excrete what it doesn’t use, which can cause the neon yellow color we’ve all seen.
While too much water is a thing, it isn’t common. Most of us don’t drink nearly enough, which is an easy fix. For some, knowing why we need it is motivation enough. For others, we may simply need tips on how to get more into our daily routine. If you need a why, scroll back up; if you need a how, maybe one of these will be helpful.
TIPS TO HYDRATE
- Spend a little money on a quality water bottle that you love. My favorites are Nalgene, Hydro Flask, and Klean Kanteen. They have 32 oz bottles in several different colors, which make them easy to keep up with and easy to track your intake.
- Your water bottle should be your binky. Don’t leave home without it…full!
- Try to drink water before every meal or snack.
- Drink water before, during, and after every workout.
- Drink water before, during, and after every hot bath.
- Say “no” to soda. Regular and diet sodas are hindering your efforts and causing other harm.
- Drink unsweetened tea, such as green tea.
- Set a timer to remind yourself to take a water break. I know, it’s silly. However, you’re the one not getting enough water, so give it a shot.
- Go for sparkling water occasionally. Keep it clean though (only carbonated).
- Spice up your food (spicy food will ensure you drink more water and fill you up quicker).
- Start your day with a glass of warm lemon water (freshly squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon in room temp or lukewarm water FIRST thing in the morning! Literally, walk straight to the kitchen and drink it before coffee, eating, or showering).
- Using a straw may help you drink more water faster. Invest in a few eco-friendly green straws.
- Fruit and veggie infused water may be more appealing to you.
- A few drops of essential oils in your water may be the ticket, plus it has many other benefits (my favorite in my water is grapefruit).
FOR THE ATHLETE
While water intoxication, which can cause hyponatremia, is not common, it is dangerous. This is why “more” isn’t always better. I mentioned athletes and a processed diet above, so here are a couple additional factors to consider and know when it comes to your water and sodium levels. Hyponatremia means low sodium levels in your blood, which creates an electrolyte imbalance.
Our bodies NEED sodium and they NEED water, but more importantly our water, sodium, and potassium levels need to be in balance. What does that mean for you? Well, a diet full of real food and the appropriate water intake keeps everything in balance. However, if you’re an athlete, especially an endurance athlete or one who lives where there are very high temps, you’re probably more concerned with electrolyte levels than most people, as you should be. When we sweat, we lose sodium, which can naturally cause an imbalance. This is where you wouldn’t want to drink too much water in too little time, which could lead to your sodium in your blood being diluted. It’s always best to keep your electrolytes high through diet, but in some instances, as mentioned above, it’s necessary to get them elsewhere, such as sports drinks. As with everything else though, read the labels! Unless you’re in dangerous state, or chances of, don’t overlook the other crap you’re putting in your body along with the electrolytes.
Just because we’re athletes, doesn’t mean we get to overlook what we eat and drink. This isn’t a matter of calories in, calories out. This is a matter of toxins in, and toxins are still toxins. Look for something that has no dyes or preservatives. I’m a fan of Tailwind, which is hydration and nutrition. If you’re not a fan, find something you like. You searched long and hard for your favorite shoes, socks, sports bra, shorts, gloves, etc., so it’s time to search long and hard for your favorite clean hydration and nutrition.