Are you drinking enough water?
Is it really that important?
Fluid loss occurs continuously, and must be replaced daily for good health. When water intake does not equal the output, we become dehydrated. In fact, dehydration masks as hunger. Fluid loss is accentuated in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults (whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp).
Here are a few reasons why you should ensure you’re drinking enough water or other fluids daily:
Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluid. Our bodies are composed of approximately 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of our body.
Water controls caloric intake. For years, dieters have been drinking a ton of water as a weight loss strategy. While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher-calorie beverages can certainly help. Food with high water content tends to look larger; its higher volume requires more chewing, is absorbed more slowly by the body, and helps us feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.
Water energizes muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes will shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. “When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer,” says Guest. Drinking enough fluids is important while exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
Water helps keep your skin looking healthy. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to help prevent excess fluid loss. “Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration,” he says. “But once you are adequately hydrated, the kidneys take over and excrete excess fluids.” We can also help “lock” moisture into our skin by using a moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in.
Water helps our kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted into the urine, explains Guest. “Your kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding your body of toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate,” he says.
When we’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When our body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increase because the kidneys trap extra fluid. If we chronically drink too little, we may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates, Guest warns.
Water helps maintain normal bowel function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along our gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When we don’t get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result is constipation. “Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly,” says Koelemay.
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