Anyway you say it, water just might be the best kept health and fitness secret
By EDNA COX RICE, RD, CSG, LD
The benefits of drinking water for overall health and fitness are numerous. Water is an essential nutrient, vital to almost every cell in your body. In fact, the body is composed of between 60% and 80% water, depending on body size and age. A rule of thumb is 2/3 of the body consists of water. Here’s a breakdown of water composition in tissues and organs: Muscle consists of 75% water; the brain 90%; blood 83%; and even your bones consist of approximately 22% water.
Water is an essential component of bodily fluids in most body functions and processes including:
- Maintains hydration
- Regulates body temperature
- Helps with nutrient absorption
- Transports nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Protects vital organs
- Protects and moisturizes joints
- Eliminates toxins
How Much of a Good Thing?
The amount of water needed daily continues to be debated. Some experts advise 8 to 10 glasses daily. The Institute of Medicine further recommends adults should drink 9 to 16 cups of water each day. Consumption varies depending on your activity level, age, and the amount of water – rich veggies and fruit eaten.
Not taking in enough water may leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Other signs of dehydration may include a headache or migraine, muscle cramps, irregular blood pressure, dry skin and hair, digestive problems, and thirsty. Feeling thirsty is a sign that you are already dehydrated.
Top Ten Benefits of Water
Muscle Fuel – drinking water regulates your body temperature; sweating at the gym causes muscles to lose water. The increased body temperature and water loss causes muscles to get tired. Even being slightly dehydrated affects your ability to put effort into a workout. A 2% dehydration level causes a 10% decrease in athletic performance. Drinking water before and during exercise will help you feel more energized. Adequate hydration can give you the extra energy for a better workout.
Brain Boost – Your brain is made up of 90% water. When you’re low on water your brain gets less blood circulation. Adequate water intake helps you think better, be more alert, and improves concentration.
Glowing Skin – Water is the best beauty treatment. When you drink water you moisturize your skin from the inside out. Approximately 20% of our skin is water. Just like a plant, when skin loses moisture, it gets dry. This lack of hydration dries skin, leading to more wrinkles and causes skin to sag faster than it normally would. Hydrated skin looks plumper and younger. The skin tissue is replenished and elasticity is increased. Water is also essential to deliver nutrients to the skin cells. This in turn enhances the complexion and gives skin that healthy, glowing appearance.
Weight Control – drinking water can help you lose weight. In a clinical trial, researchers found that drinking two eight-ounce glasses of water before meals can suppress appetite. Drinking the water fills your stomach and reduces the tendency to overeat. It helps increase the rate at which the body burns fat, and promotes the breakdown and elimination of fat cells.
Calorie-free water is also a great replacement for high-calorie drinks like soda, alcohol and sugary drinks that contribute to weight gain.
Fatigue Buster – feeling fatigued? There’s a chance that it could be due to inadequate water consumption. Fatigue is often one of the first signs of dehydration.
Headache Relief – Headaches and migraines are often caused by dehydration. If you have a headache, the first thing that you can do to get some relief is drink plenty of water.
Immune Booster – drinking plenty of water helps fight against the flu and other conditions like kidney stones, respiratory disease, and intestinal problems. Adequate water intake can help to improve your immune system.
Improves Digestion – water improves the functioning of the GI tract. This helps in digestion and prevents constipation. Inadequate water intake often results in constipation. Sufficient water boosts your metabolism and helps the body properly digest food.
Pain Prevention – Lack of water causes less blood circulation often resulting in muscle cramps and aching joints. Proper hydration helps keep your joints and muscles lubricated, so you’ll be less likely to get cramps and sprains. A little water can go a long way in preventing aches and pains.
Good Mood – Studies show that when hydration level is even one or two percent lower than optimal your mood and ability to think may be negatively impacted. Even mild dehydration can cause irritability. Drink up to improve your mood.
Stay Hydrated – Start your day by drinking a glass of water. Thirty minutes before meals have a glass and drink water with and between meals snacks. Get in the habit of keeping a water bottle on hand at all times. For the majority of Americans, at least one fifth of their calories come from things they drink. So Think before you Drink.
- Plain water is your best hydration choice. It quenches thirst and has zero calories. If this gets boring, spice things up by adding a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange to the glass.
- Unsweetened tea and coffee count. Since they contain caffeine it is suggested to limit intake to 2-4 servings daily.
- Limit artificially sweetened beverages to up to 32 ounces daily.
- Avoid drinking your calories. The worst offenders are sugary drinks – sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweet tea, and sweet coffee. These beverages can add up to 500 calories per serving. If you’re not ready to totally give up sugary beverages, limit yourself to an eight ounce serving once a day.
Making water your number one drink of choice has endless benefits. Drink up!