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What About Water?

by Liz Stovall, Division Manager- Fitness and Wellness

Water bottles seem to be everywhere you look. Perhaps right now there is one on your desk, or you filled a water bottle for your child as they headed out the door this morning. In fact, water has become the second most popular drink (behind soda). However, water lovers got a rude awakening recently when a new report found that the benefits of drinking water may have been oversold. Apparently, the suggestion to drink eight glasses of water is nothing more than a suggestion, not based on scientific research.

Don’t put your water bottle or glass down just yet! There are plenty of reasons to drink water. In fact, drinking water is essential to your health. Think of water as a nutrient your body needs. It can be found in other liquids, plain water and in high-water content food (fruits and vegetables). Throughout the day fluid loss occurs continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine and stool. These losses must be replaced daily for good health. When water intake does not equal output, dehydration occurs. In addition, fluid loss is accentuated in warmer climates (think summer in RVA), during exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.

Here are six evidence-based reasons to drink water:

  1. Drinking Water Maintains Body Fluid Balance- The body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and stabilization of body temperature.
  2. Calorie Control- While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, drinking water instead of higher calorie beverages can certainly help as a weight loss strategy.
  3. Muscle Energizer- Cells that don’t maintain their fluid balance shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. As a result, performance (either daily or exercise) can suffer. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend drinking 16 ounces of water two hours before exercise. During exercise, the recommendation is to drink at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
  4. Keep Skin Looking Good- Skin cells contain plenty of water and function as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration makes skin look dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration.
  5. Detoxification- Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in urine. The kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding the body of toxins as long as fluid intake is adequate. When getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor.
  6. Normal Bowel Function- Adequate hydration keeps things moving along in the gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When fluid is lacking, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration – and the result is constipation. Water and fiber is the perfect combination, because fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep bowels functioning properly.

Try these helpful tips to support increased fluid intake:

  • Have water with every snack and meal.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high-water content will add to your hydration.
  • Keep a water bottle in hand, in the car, on your desk or in your bag.
  • Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric water.