Why drink water?
Water, the most common substance on Earth, is also the nutrient that your body needs the most. Between 55 and 75 percent of adult body weight is water (about 10 to 12 gallons). Water is critical in regulating all body organs and temperature as well as dissolving solids and moving nutrients throughout the body. Research has shown that proper hydration may minimize chronic pains such as rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, migraines, and colitis as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Because water is naturally low in sodium, has no fat, cholesterol or caffeine and isn’t flushed straight through the body like many other beverages, it’s the natural solution that your body chooses to help reach its daily fluid quota.
How often should I drink water?
Believe it or not, humans lose a pint or more of water every day simply by breathing! Humans normally lose about 10 cups of fluid a day in exhaled air, perspiration, and other bodily secretions. What is lost must be replaced to maintain a fluid balance. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to pour a glass of water. By the time you feel thirsty, you’ve probably already lost 2 or more cups of your total body water.
How much water should I be drinking?
The right amount of water is essential for keeping your body functioning. The average person only consumes six 8-ounce servings of water a day. This is well below the recommended eight servings. How much you really need to drink depends on your body size, activity level and the air temperature. To determine your ideal daily water intake, experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest dividing your weight in half and using this number as the ounces of water you should consume. Going off of this formula, a 125-pound person should indeed consume the recommended eight servings of water each day; however, someone who weighs 175 pounds should aim for eleven servings. If you are physically active, the American Dietetic Association recommends adding one to three cups of water to your daily diet for each hour of physical activity.
Are there special times when I should drink more water?
In addition to being in extremely hot weather, you should also drink more water when in colder climates or at higher altitudes. This is because you are laboring to breathe, and water is evaporating quicker from your lungs. To combat low humidity on airplanes, drink one 8-ounce serving of water for every hour you are in the air.
There are other factors that affect how much water you need, so remember these tips:
- Drink extra water the day before you travel.
- When on a plane, low humidity means you should drink an extra 8-ounce glass of water for every hour in the air.
- Going to be outside in the summer heat? Drink an extra glass or two of water.
- Drink more water as it gets colder outside. Your body needs more energy and loses a lot of water through breathing when it’s cold.
- If you’re sick, avoid dehydration by drinking more water.
- Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate your body. Try to drink an extra 8-ounce serving of water for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you have.
- Nursing mothers need more water for breast milk.
- Smoking can also have a dehydrating effect. So if you smoke, be sure to drink more water.
The symptoms of dehydration
That headachy feeling you may be experiencing at the end of the day may very well be a sign of dehydration. Because the brain is made up of 75% water, moderate dehydration can often cause lightheadedness, dizziness, headaches and nausea. More severe dehydration may also raise the body’s core temperature, effect muscle strength, endurance and coordination as well as increase the risk of cramps, heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. One of the best ways to recognize dehydration is to pay close attention to the color of your urine – ideally, light to clear urine indicates proper water intake.
Smoking and dehydration
The chemicals in tobacco cause your blood vessels to temporarily constrict, a reaction that parallels what happens to your body when it’s dehydrated. When dehydration and smoking are combined, the body’s need for water is only intensified. Smoking also accelerates how quickly your body metabolizes caffeine and, as a result, it quickens caffeine’s dehydrating effect on the body.