That’s a good thing, since two-thirds of the body is composed of H2O. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to function. It lubricates your joints and allows them to move freely. It’s also critical for healthy digestion and kidney function. Water regulates your metabolism and body temperature, and helps remove waste. It’s also vital to cardiovascular health. In fact, 75 percent of your heart is composed of water and 85 percent of your blood.
But here’s the catch: You’re losing water with each and every breath you take—up to two quarts every day. You lose another six cups through your urine and two to four cups through perspiration. You even lose about a cup of water through the soles of your feet! Replacing this water daily is a key to good health.
Not drinking enough fluids throughout the day can lead to dehydration, a condition marked by fatigue, light-headedness, heat intolerance, and flushed skin. Mild dehydration—which affects up to 75 percent of Americans—can even be mistaken for hunger. Fortunately, the body has a warning system to help prevent dehydration—thirst. Your body’s hydration level is measured by blood concentration (the concentration of sodium in the blood). The higher the concentration, the more dehydrated you are. When this concentration increases by just two percent, you get thirsty.
While it’s important to pay attention when you’re feeling parched, it’s better to be proactive and drink fluids before you get thirsty. But forget the old advice that you need to drink eight 8-oz. glasses each day. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, it’s simply not enough—the institute recommends that women should imbibe (or get through food sources) 91 ounces, and men 125 ounces—considerably more than the recommended 64 ounces. People who work outside in the heat or those who exercise should increase that amount.
For those who have a hard time even thinking of drinking that much—let only actually doing it every day—take heart. Hydrating beverages typically account for only about 80 percent of your fluid intake, with the rest coming from the foods you eat. Fruits and vegetables, for example, contain 80 to 95 percent water. Plus, these foods are packed with essential electrolytes and phytonutrients. Eating produce like broccoli, celery, cucumbers, jicama, tomatoes, and watermelon is one of the easiest ways to improve your hydration levels.
How do you know if you’re getting enough fluids? Check your urine. If it’s clear or a very light yellow, you are well hydrated. A medium to dark yellow tint means you are underhydrated and that it’s time to drink up!
Rethink Your Drink
What you drink also matters. Water is the No. 1 choice, but because it lacks flavor, many folks prefer tastier options. Enter the new world of flavor additives. Available in powders and liquids, these products can make a simple glass of water seem fruity and exotic. But before you reach for a chemically created flavor additive, consider a more natural approach. Look for products without artificial fla-vors, colors, and sweeteners. Or try adding sliced cucumber, orange and lemon slices, or a few sprigs of mint to give you the flavor you crave.
Sports and energy drinks are ideal for athletes and exercisers who want to replace what they lose in sweat and supply their muscles with fuel during a workout or sporting event. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association recommends choosing a sports drink that contains at least 70 mg of sodium per eight-ounce serving to increase fluid intake, maintain fluid balance, and ensure healthy hydration. An effective sports drink should also include carbohydrates—about 14 gm per 8-oz. serving—to promote rapid fluid absorption, fuel working muscles, fight fatigue, and provide sweetness. But bear in mind that too many carbs (above 18 gm per 8-oz. serving) can actually hinder fluid absorption, so check the label.
PICK A BETTER BOTTLE
Once upon a time, if you wanted a drink of water you would head for the tap. Today, most people are more likely to grab a bottle of water from the fridge or vending machine. Yet those seemingly innocent bottles are a common source of Bisphenol A (BPA)—a plasticizer that mimics estrogen. According to a study by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, BPA readily leaches into the contents of plastic water bottles, even at room temperature.
If you love the convenience of bottled water but would rather forgo the chemical chaser, switch to a reusable water bottle made from stainless steel, glass encased in rubber, or eco-friendly plastic that boasts a “BPA-free” label. Not only are these bottles resistant to breakage, they don’t give off the funny “plastic” aftertaste you get from single-use water bottles. The bonus: since they don’t contribute to already burgeoning landfills, they are also an eco-friendly way to stay hydrated.
SIGG water bottles, available in a variety of colors and designs, feature an innovative sport top designed to minimize spills on your favorite shirt.And the EcoCare liner is BPA- and phthalate-free.
WATER BOTTLE BOOSTERS
Mix these powders in your water bottle for super-powered H2O.
Summer activities such as a long bike ride, backpacking, or a trip to the beach require extra fluid intake—and a little extra energy. Rev up plain water with energizing nutrients. Many naturally flavored and sweetened portable drink-mix packets also give you a dose of vitamins and minerals and are readily absorbed.
VITALAH Oxylent Oxygenating Multivitamin, in individual packets, mixes in water for an effervescent, sugar-free, zero-calorie drink in tasty flavors, including Blackberry Pomegranate, Sparkling Berries, and Mandarin Orange. Oxylent instantly rejuvenates with enzymes and electrolytes, plus delivers essential nutrients, including B vitamins, CoQ10, bioflavonoids, and vitamin D3.
CELSIUS Outrageous Orange On-the-Go Sticks contain zero calories and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. The best part? You
can actually burn up to 100 calories just by drinking it, thanks to a blend of natural metabolism boosters such as taurine, guarana, green tea, and ginger.
AMERICAN HEALTH Ester-C Effervescent, in Natural Orange Flavor, combines nonacidic Ester-C, electrolytes, and B vitamins to boost immunity, energy, and metabolism. One user says that after drinking it she “feels like a plant, revived, in seconds.” Each box contains 21 single-serve packets.
BRICKER LABS Carni-Fizz Effervescent Lemon Lime is a refreshing way to energize, with L-carnitine to promote a healthy weight, assist muscles in exercise recovery, and help maintain healthy heart function. Carni-Fizz boasts Carnipure, a proprietary and high-quality form of L-carnitine.
SURVIVE ... OR THRIVE?
Like an underwatered plant, your body can survive on less fluid than it wants, but it certainly won’t thrive. Hydrating only when you’re thirsty may actually undermine your energy and vitality. On the other hand, constantly sipping or gulping calorie- or chemical-laden beverages is also a bad idea. Get in the habit of drinking a hydrating beverage such as a cup of green tea or a glass water first thing in the morning. Also, drink proactively—this is especially important on long airplane flights, in hot weather, and during strenuous exercise (always take a sports drink or a water bottle with you).
Kim Erickson is a health and beauty writer based in Las Vegas.