Water, covering 71 percent of the Earth, is vital to all forms of life. It also serves many functions in our bodies and without it we would not exist. In fact, our bodies consist of about 70 percent water – and our brains, 90 percent. It’s important to drink regularly to keep you functioning, physically and mentally, to your fullest potential!
Why is it essential?
Water plays many roles in our bodies. Surprisingly, a drop of merely 2 percent can trigger signs of mild dehydration, like hazy short-term memory or fatigue. Your body needs water to perform important chores such as regulating your internal temperature and transporting essential nutrients to your organs and tissues.
It also moves oxygen into your cells and removes wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. Additionally, it protects your spinal cord, joints and other sensitive tissues from injury and helps to prevent arthritis and other joint problems.
How much do I need?
Healthy people meet their fluid needs through drinking water and other beverages when thirsty, and through eating foods that contain 85 to 95 percent water, such as tomatoes, melons, celery, spinach, oranges and other citrus fruits. Water-rich foods provide about 20 percent of our total daily water intake, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There's no ideal number of ounces to consume daily that fits all people all the time, but there are guidelines. The Institute of Medicine recommends drinking about 2 liters (or 65 ounces) of water a day. That's about 8, 8-ounces glasses daily, which might seem like a lot of water – and it is!
But remember, other beverages and foods are rich in water too, as noted above. Listen to your body. It will tell when you're thirsty or fatigued – a good time to think of having a drink of water to replace what was lost through normal everyday functions and to avoid dehydration.
Normally, you lose water through urination, sweat and even in small amounts when you exhale, which you replenish by eating and drinking. Be aware that certain circumstances may cause you to lose more water than usual. For example, perhaps you work as a lifeguard -- or as a teacher watching over children in a playground -- and on especially hot days, you're sweating excessively. Or, you're a firefighter or emergency medical worker, toting heavy equipment and doing physically demanding work is just a part of the job. Or you're ill and vomiting or running a fever. In all these cases, your body demands a good deal of water to get you through the day.
To help stay hydrated during prolonged physical activity or when it's hot outside, it is important to drink water even before feeling thirsty. Thirst is our bodies' signal that we are on our way to dehydration.
Some people who have certain medical conditions, such as kidney failure, however, may have fluid restrictions. If your healthcare provider has instructed you on restricting your fluid intake make sure to follow that advice.
What about sugar-sweetened beverages?
Though we can get water through sweetened beverages, such as juice, soda, sports drinks and coffee drinks, it's always better to choose unsweetened beverages or just plain water. Beverages containing sugar are high in "empty" calories that can sabotage weight loss attempts or management goals.
For instance, the average 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 65 grams of sugar — the equivalent of 16 teaspoons. That's a lot of sugar for 20 ounces of liquid!
Besides taxing your weight, excessive sugar can raise your risk for diabetes and tooth decay.
Tips for drinking more water
If you think you may not be drinking enough water or are choosing sweetened beverages regularly, the following tips may help to change your drinking habits:
- Carry a water bottle around at work or on the go for easy access
- Order water with your meal when eating out. You'll save on money AND calories!
- Flavor it up! Add some lemon slices or your favorite
fruit to a pitcher of water and keep in the fridge.
- Next time you're feeling thirsty, reach for the pitcher
and pass on the soda.
- Have a glass of ice water at the table with your meal, even if you've ordered a different beverage. Sip the water occasionally, rather than ordering a second sweetened or alcoholic drink.
- Freeze water in freezer-safe plastic bottles. Grab one on the go for ice-cold water all day long.
Water is important to you, just as it's important to life everywhere. Take a minute to think about how often you drink water. Is it something you’ve been slacking on?
Make water your beverage of choice and know you're drinking to your body's health. You'll feel the difference!