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The Not-So-Secret-Beverage… water!

Glass of WaterMany people think winter time gives them the excuse to increase hot beverages, hot chocolate and let their water intake slide.  Water is important year round; especially with the drying season on forced air heat, lack of humidity and the increase of a sedentary lifestyle for many people in a Northern climate.  Water intake should really increase in the winter, not decrease water intake.

Water is one of the most important elements in the human body. Human beings cannot live after three days without water. It is estimated that 80% of Americans are dehydrated not from a lack of fluid but from an over-consumption of sugary and caffeinated drinks.  Coffee and other caffeinated drinks are taking the place of life giving water, and people remain thirsty at all times.  Many times people interpret thirst as hunger and graze the frig or cupboards in search of that thing to eat, when in reality it is the bodies desire for WATER that is calling.  You’ll eat undesired calories in the process, never feel satisfied and even have physiological issues.  Issues such as headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, chapped lips, brittle hair and nails, poor digestion and bloating, urinary tract infections or kidney harm (when taking medications and they are not diluted with water), bone and height loss from degeneration of the bones, discs and cartilage.  The list can go on and on of harm you do when you don’t drink enough water.

Our bodies are made up of 50-75% water. Water makes up an estimated 60% of our body weight. Many parts of the body contain great amounts of water. The blood contains 83% water, the muscles 75%, the brain 74%, and the bone 22%. Just think, if you are not refreshing the water supply in your body, what happens to stagnant water????  Picture that and flush your body with life giving and healing water.  Water is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The hydrogen atoms are attached to either sides of the oxygen atom. Water is called the universal solvent because it dissolves more quickly than any other liquid substance.

The benefits of water intake are endless. Consumption of water takes the toxins out of the body, builds up the body’s immunity to viruses, bacteria and many illnesses. It is an immunity booster. Water moistens tissues such as those found in the mouth, eyes, and nose, lubricates joints and muscles, regulates body temperature, protects organs and tissues, and helps makes nutrients available to the body. It also carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells and, in proper amounts, increases weight loss. It is natural moisturizer and gives skin a healthy glow.  Water leaves the skin smoother, softer, more supple and with fewer wrinkles. It can prevent the stomach distress that many medicines cause, and it rids the body of excessive sodium that can cause fluid retention.

Strangely, drinking more water enables the body to get rid of more water. The body tends to hold onto more water when it senses a shortage. The proper water intake controls blood pressure, balances electrolytes, insulates the body, and keeps the body from getting dangerously cold. It also controls hunger pangs. Drinking the appropriate amount of water also helps fight afternoon fatigue and maintain mental alertness throughout the day.

Every day you lose water due to urination, sweat, bowel movements and loss moisture through your breath. Foods provide the body with an estimated 20% of the daily water required; the remaining 80% must in liquid form. Fruits and vegetables contain up to 80% water, meats are comprised of 50-65% water and bread contains 35% water.

Experts agree that water intake must be at least eight glasses a day for individuals with a sedentary lifestyles; although, ideally women should drink nine cups a day and men should drink thirteen. Casual exercisers should replace water fluid with one or two cups every hour and those engaging in intense sports that last more than 45 minutes a day (such as tennis, running, weight lifting, and bicycling) should in take three cups of water an hour in addition to a sports drink. Hot weather, dry environments, pregnancy, viral infections and illnesses require an increase in water intake.

Dehydration is a common problem. Signs of dehydration include mild to excessive thirst, headache, fatigue, little or no urination, muscle weaknesses, dizziness, or lightheadedness. Early detection of these symptoms with increased intake of water can deter the problem of heat cramps or heat exhaustion. As little as two percent loss of proper water intake can result in lack of athletic performance and ten percent decrease in the bodies water supply can cause these medical symptoms.

Dehydration, if not tended quickly, may affect present and future workouts. If you urine is bright or golden yellow, you are not drinking enough water. A strong odor in the urine is another sign of dehydration. Urine that is clear or very pale yellow indicates that you are drinking enough water. Hypernatremia, an intake of too much water causing imbalance of electrolytes, is rare condition and usually does not happen during water consumption. If you feel bloated or too full after drinking water, however, you may be taking in too much water.

There are many ways to increase water intake: drink two cups of water at every meal, carry a water bottle, drink two cups of water after rising in the morning, and hydrate before exercise with two cups of water and one cup for each half hour of exercise. You should drink water every 15-30 minutes while exercising. Keeping a water bottle with you is an effective way to help you remember to drink often. Some people chart how much water they have consumed in a food journal or wall chart.

After a serious bout of exercise, be sure to weigh yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost during that interval is actually water loss and must be replaced by 2 1/2 cups for every pound loss during exercise. You have no excuse not to drink up and increase your water intake for better health!

About Janelle Baldwin

Janelle Baldwin is a physical therapist assistant (PTA) and lead fitness trainer for Agnesian HealthCare’s on-site fitness center, called the ZONE. She is a certified weight trainer (CWT), a strength and conditioning specialist (STS) and a certified strength and conditioning instructor (CSCI). Her 15 years of professional experience ranges from home care and work hardening/conditioning with the Agnesian HealthCare Sports, Spine & Work Center for many years to her role as a certified personal trainer; teaching fitness classes for which she is trained and certified for and maintaining the on-site fitness facility.

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