The Most Underestimated Nutrient—Water
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 MINIMUM 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.
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 active 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.
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. I do 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 (in refillable plastic jugs). Then I fill up my favorite water bottle throughout the day. 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.