The Power Of Water
by Kim Ayres
Water covers nearly 70% of the surface of our Earth. It makes up 60-70% of our body weight. All of our cells in our body are filled with it and without it our body would stop working. Most of us know that water is essential for life. This clear liquid, composed of oxygen and hydrogen molecules, infuses the body and all living things with hydration and is a substance that humans cannot live without, yet studies show that most of us do not consume sufficient water, despite the omnipresent water bottle.
There is nothing more important that we put into our bodies than water. This solvent plays a vital role in nearly every bodily function and every physiological, biochemical reaction from digestion and nutrient absorption, to circulation, temperature control, metabolism, and elimination. Water is called the ‘Universal Solvent’ because of its excellent ability to dissolve so many substances. This makes it possible for our cells to use all the valuable nutrients, minerals and chemicals in biological processes. Also, its “stickiness,” or surface tension, plays a part in the body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves and no less important in the ability to transport toxins and waste materials out. These fluids protect our organs, lubricate our joints, float our brain and bathe our tissues. Your body has a lot of important jobs to do and it needs water to do most of them.
The body uses water in so many ways it is easy to see how we might get dehydrated if we do not keep our daily water consumption consistent. We lose water every day through our breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. Other factors that have an effect on our water needs include our activity levels, exercise, the climate in and altitude we live at, our health status, any conditions we may have, medications we take, and/or toxins we may be exposed to in our environment or our diet.
Symptoms of early dehydration include lack of concentration, mental fogginess, headaches, mood swings, lethargy, confusion, dry lips, and constipation. Sounds a lot like the “all too familiar mid-day slump” experienced by so many who may not realize what their body really saying is, “I’m thirsty!”
Just a 1% decrease in your body water can cause a 10% decrease in your productivity and mild dehydration can actually cause a drop in metabolism. Think of it like a hierarchy of tasks: your body will take care of the MOST vital processes first to keep you alive…and then only if water supply is adequate will it get to the lower priority activities…like fat burning, muscle building, focus and memory.
Dehydration is really the deprivation of vitality. Consistent failure to drink enough water can lead to chronic cellular dehydration, a condition in which the body’s cells do not get hydrated enough. This leaves them in a weakened state and vulnerable to disease, thus putting the overall immune system at risk and leading to chemical, nutritional and pH imbalances.
“So HOW much is enough?” is a question that has been raging for ages. It is crystal clear that there are plenty of theories out there. The bottom line is that each day we must replace at least 2.4 liters of water. Although other beverages may contribute, these should not be the major portion of your fluid intake. These imposters can never do what clean fresh water does. The caffeine, sugar and/or artificial sweeteners and miscellaneous ingredients in these other beverages are just more work for your body to process through in order to glean a little H2O. Pure water is still your best bet because it’s calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.
The advice I find that makes the most sense is to aim for half your current body weight in ounces daily as your bare minimum starting point. So if you weigh 140 pounds you would start with 70 ounces of water daily. And a good rule of thumb is an extra 16-32 ounces for every hour of exercise. If you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) of colorless or light amber urine a day (please note that some supplements may cause brighter-colored urine), your fluid intake is probably adequate. Most importantly, listen to your body. Remember that the thirst signal can be weak or even disguised as hunger. So have a glass of water when you are “having a craving” to determine if you are thirsty before heading to the cupboards. It will not hurt. At the very least, it will keep you hydrated, if not leaner.
Kim Landry-Ayres is the owner of Mission Accomplished Personal Training & Nutrition Consulting Studio of Eau Claire, WI. She is a nationally certified personal fitness trainer, post rehab conditioning specialist, group fitness, yoga & pilates instructor, Thai yoga body worker and nutritionist with a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Let’s face it: there are some days when we just want a little something more. You can have your water and drink it, too, with the right combination of extra ingredients. Adding these little splashes of flavor will perk up your water and keep you sipping all day long: • Slices of lemon or lime • Slices of cucumber and oranges • A splash of unsweetened fruit juice • A drop or two of flavored stevia • Caffeine-free herbal tea bags • Flower essences • Peppermint leaves • Mineral water (use sparingly as the phosphorus present in the bubbles can leach important minerals from your bones) • Frozen berries
A gallon a day keeps the body going! Here’s a tip from Jeff at Infinitea in Eau Claire: you can cold steep any tea overnight and be set to drink it in the morning. Need: 1/2 gallon or large pitcher, loose leaf tea, warm water. Fill pitcher with water. Add 1 tsp. tea for every 8 oz. of water. Chill over night and enjoy!