Ah, the water question. Many people have asked me how much water you are really supposed to drink. There are so many different recommendations out there, that it can get very confusing. Some have you doing math with your weight: your weight in pounds and divide by 2 and that's how many ounces you need to drink. Others use the 8 X 8 rule: 8- 8 ounce glasses of water each day. I really love the exactness of this one: women drink 91 ounces and men 125 ounces of water each day. Does it have to be this complicated? No!!
Why water? Your body is mostly water--between 50 and 75%. You need to drink that water every day to keep body temps regulated, skin healthy, to help carry nutrients to cells, allow kidneys flush out the toxins from your system, and other fun things like that. At the very least, we need to replace what our bodies use up every day doing all these things, which is at least 8-10 cups of water. Of course, when we exercise or get sick, we need even more of that nice fluid.
If you don't drink enough water, nasty things can happen like dehydration. This can cause muscle cramps and weakness, headaches, loss of coordination, fatigue, flushed skin, light-headedness, dry cough, and dark colored urine. Dehydration puts you at higher risk for heat exhaustion and stroke. Not so cool.
Your body absorbs water from both the fluids you drink and from the food you eat. Soups, milk, juice, and any beverages you drink---all are fluids and we get water for our body from them. Surprisingly, many foods are very high in water, too. Lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, and grapefruit are all over 90% water.
Caffeinated beverages used to be discounted as being able to hydrate. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means the water ends up getting pushed out of the body faster than it can be absorbed. Newer studies have shown this is not as significant as was once thought, particularly in those of us regular caffeine consumers. Bottom line? We can even get water from coffee and tea.
To Keep The Water Coming:
- Go for real water. Even though any beverage can offer your body hydration, water is the best choice most often for health and nutrition. Why? It has no calories, inexpensive, readily available, and is just what your body is craving. If there are calories in what you are drinking, they add up fast! Beware of those beverages from juices, "fake" fruit drinks (many have little to no fruit in them,) and what I call "foo-foo" coffee drinks (a.k.a. milkshakes.) Zillions of calories can add up in beverages without you even feeling like you've eaten. Surprise: weight gain. Body beware. If you love those special coffee drinks, practice saying, "skinny, skinny, no-whip," which is coffee-speak for skim milk, sugar-free syrup and no whipped cream. That way, some great nutrition and liquid comes your way without the "foo-foo" calories!
- Drink enough so that you are not thirsty. If you feel thirsty, dehydration has already begun. Studies have shown that thirst signals start failing as people age, so they aren't as reliable an indicator. (I just love it when the doc says, "Well, as you get older...")
- Drink enough water to keep your urine clear, or pale straw colored. This is the big key!!! I know, not a great picture, but its actually a great way to monitor hydration. When you, "see yellow pee, up the water for thee." Darker yellow or even darker still, really pump the fluids.
- Carry a water bottle or a non-caloric beverage with you. Encourage yourself to engage in a hydrating habit. If you are trying to lose weight, keep in mind that some people tend to mix up hunger and thirst signals, so always try to drink water before you eat.
- Drink a glass of water every morning, even before your coffee, even if it's just a little one.
- Have a glass of water with every meal. Hey, there's 3 glasses right there!
- Snacks need water or a cup of tea, too.
If you're exercising for less than an hour, stay with plain water, and a cup of water for every 20 minutes is a standard rule of thumb. Drink more in hot weather or if you are really working out hard. If you are exercising at high intensity for over an hour, you may do well reaching for a sports drink with electrolyte replacement, such as Gatorade, to help your body rehydrate better.
And me? How do I stay hydrated? I confess, I am a coffee lover. But, before I hit the coffee in the morning, I have a small glass of water. Several cups of coffee follow throughout the morning. By late morning, I am craving a huge glass of ice water, so I keep that flowing throughout the rest of the day, filling it up as needed. I usually have a glass of light or diet cranberry juice at some point---I'm totally into that right now, and I love a nice cup of tea in the afternoon and an herbal cup in the evening. I'm always within reach of a cup or glass of something clear and non-caloric. Sipping throughout the day works great for me.
To your health!!