By Alana Hutchins, Momivate Director of Energy
I have the privilege of living in the glorious state of Colorado where I can just turn on my tap and out pours crystal clear, sparklingly clean, delicious mountain water. You may or may not be as lucky as I am. I am guessing that even if your tap water doesn’t taste like it came from the spring in the garden of Eden, that it is better than the alternative. At least your water has been run through a water treatment plant and you can be reasonably assured of its safety for consumption. The alternative to being able to turn on the tap being that you have to walk a mile down to the local well or stream every morning with a five gallon tub on your head just to do the morning dishes. More than the inconvenience of the chore, if you are unlucky enough to live in that situation, and do not go in a group, and even sometimes if you do, there is always the threat of being attacked or raped on your pre-dawn excursion. Assuming that you avoided an attack, if you want to drink the water that came from the stream with any degree of confidence you will have to boil it first just so it is palatable. Are you getting a clear picture here? Am I trying to make you feel a tiny bit guilty for taking this amazing natural resource for granted? Maybe just a little bit- is it working?
Everyone knows that water is important to the body, but they may not know exactly why. Water is the body’s natural highway system. Most blood, nutrients, and chemical signals travel around in fluid made mostly of water. Water keeps your eyes, skin, mouth, and respiratory systems moist and functioning. Water is your body’s main carrier of waste as it exits the body as urine or feces. Drinking water lessens the burden on your liver and kidneys. Water helps oxygen travel to the brain and assists in regulating body temperature. Water protects vital organs and cushions joints. Water is literally life.
Water is also crucial to your digestive tract! I cannot over state this fact. I’m currently seven months pregnant and dealing with all the blessed side effects of housing a growing fetus. During my second trimester I developed some mild constipation which is usually never a problem for me. Knowing that the triumvirate of avoiding constipation is plenty of exercise, fiber, and water I considered what I could be doing wrong. I was still getting my exercise and fiber, but I had slacked off on my water consumption and was paying the price. Recently I’ve been more diligent about pumping the H2O and my problem has largely alleviated itself. Fiber needs water to properly bulk up feces to make your bowel movements soft and easy to pass. Do yourself a favor and drink lots of water to avoid hours in the bathroom and strain on your internal organs. Besides being constipated, dehydration can quickly lead to fatigue and headaches. Since the brain is mostly water, water helps you think, focus and stay more alert.
Obese people have been able to stop eating entirely for over 300 days (!!!) without adverse side effects, just living off body-fat stores, but three days without hydration and the body is in bad shape. Your organ systems risk serious damage and begin shutting down entirely in a domino-like sequence. Thirst can often be misinterpreted by your body as hunger so when what your body really wants is water, you may reach for a sandwich instead if you are not in tune with your thirst signals. Conversely water helps us feel fuller longer, assisting in weight loss or weight maintenance. Talk to any slender person, they drink water all the time.
Milk does an OK job of substituting for some of your water needs, but soda has a diuretic effect and is basically the opposite of drinking water (making your body excrete fluid usually in the form of urine). Some sodas are comparable to drinking ocean water. There is enough salt and caffeine in Coca-cola that you will be losing more fluid than gaining it when you chug one down. Your thirst will only be satisfied temporarily, but after a few minutes, you will magically discover you are thirsty again- a very sneaky trick by the manufacturers to get you to drink more of their product in a never ending thirst/satiety cycle.
So how much is enough? It depends. All our bodies are different shapes and sizes with different needs. If you are vigorously exercising for two hours a day then you will need more water than the casual walker. Some say 8 glasses (64 oz or half a gallon) is a good rule of thumb. Some say as much as a gallon. I say listen to your own body, try to drink enough to avoid feeling thirsty and hydrate so your urine is a pale-yellow color. If you have waited till you are extremely thirsty then you have waited too long to take a water break. It is possible, but very hard, to drink too much water. Even just lying down can dehydrate us since we expire water vapor when we breath. After eight hours of sleep, and not drinking anything, start your morning off with a glass of water and keep a glass handy throughout your day. Manage that, and most of us will stay well hydrated.
If you live in a state where the water is not quite as palatable as Colorado- say Florida where the water tastes like sand- there are a few things you can try. Many people chose to buy bottled water, but I prefer to add a few drops of lemon juice to my water to give it a hint of flavor. A splash of any 100% juice will do the trick. Try to skip on the water enhancers since their chemical sweeteners may cause headaches and other side effects. You could also try seltzer water or soups that contain lots of water. Many fruits and vegetables that are high in moisture content can also assist you in staying hydrated such as tomatoes, cabbage, strawberries, melons, and celery. Gatorade and other power drinks are ok in a pinch, but then you are back to either extra sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Are you thirsty yet just reading this post? Go indulge yourself! Have a nice tall glass of water.
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