Water, Your First Step Towards Optimal Health
Proper hydration is imperative for optimal health. Without proper hydration, your body will become dehydrated, which means your body does not have enough water to function at peak capacity. You lose water every day when you breathe, sweat and go to the bathroom. The water content in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink combine to hydrate your body. Drinking 8 cups of water each day is usually sufficient, but more may be needed if you are participating in vigorous activities.
Drinking water keeps your body tissues moist, flushes out harmful toxins and makes nutrients more readily available. It is also involved in getting oxygen to cells throughout the body and regulating temperature. This is why staying hydrated is so vital when playing sports or exercising. Your body’s demand for oxygen increases during physical activity and your internal temperature rises. In fact, even a minimal fluid loss can affect aerobic performance and reduce your level of physical endurance. Inadequate hydration can fatigue your muscles, reduce your coordination, make you dizzy and cause muscle cramps. The goal during exercise is to drink before signs of dehydration occur. Ideally, try to drink 2 cups of water two hours before exercising and continue to drink 1 cup of water every 20 minutes while you’re exercising.
Fatigue is the most common symptom of dehydration. Other common dehydration symptoms include; muscle cramps, fogginess, dizziness, light-headedness, headache, thirst and dry mouth/skin/lips. If you are unsure about whether you are currently drinking enough fluids each day, the color of your urine can be a good guideline. If you’re well-hydrated, it should be light yellow in color. The darker in color it gets, the more dehydrated you may be. Keep in mind, other medical conditions can alter this (such as kidney disease). Another test is to pinch the skin on the outer part of your hand or forearm. If the skin tents, meaning it stays in place and doesn’t quickly bounce back then this is a warning sign that you are dehydrated.
When choosing fluids to help you meet your daily hydration requirements, water is the ideal choice. Water will help keep you properly hydrated without the empty calories found in sports drinks, sodas or juices. However, very vigorous activities can warrant the use of carbohydrates and electrolyte replacements. To keep it interesting and add some zest, use slices of lemon or lime. Herbal teas, such as peppermint, berry or chamomile can “count” towards your daily fluid intake. Sipping water throughout the day is the best strategy. Drinking too quickly will reduce absorbability. As well, drinking water at meals might not be ideal. It can be beneficial for weight loss as it can make you fuller, however, it will also dilute your digestive juices. Drinking in-between meals is a better strategy.
Use strategies to help increase your fluid intake. Carry a stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go and make sure you finish it by the end of the day. Set reminders on your phone to drink water, or use post-it-note reminders. If you’re feeling groggy during the day, try drinking a glass of water instead of reaching for coffee or tea. Coffee and tea are diuretics, meaning they increase water loss from the body, and can actually be more dehydrating. For every caffeinated cup of tea or coffee, make sure you add an extra cup of water. Try drinking at least 2 cups of water first thing when you wake up.
Cheers to better health!