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Benefits of Drinking Water: How Much and When?

We have all heard the popular mantra that we need to drink more water. We carry around bottles of water to the office, the gym, just about everywhere. Unfortunately, the guideline of eight glasses of water a day is just that…a guideline. While we may not need to drink that much water, there is a real benefit to drinking water on a regular basis. Water is present in just about everything we ingest, from water or other drinks to our food. We here at HPFY can give you some insight into how much water you may need and when it is appropriate to drink it.

Why water is important to Human Health?

So, why is water so important to us? Basically, the human body has a built-in system that prevents us from getting dehydrated and water is at the center of that system. Not to mention, our body and cells are predominantly made up of H2O. Our body uses water for everything from flushing waste from our system to aiding in brain function. The benefits of water include:

  1. Saliva: The main component of saliva is water, as well as, electrolytes, mucus, and enzymes. A key role of saliva is breaking down food and keeping your mouth healthy.
  2. Regulate Body Temperature: As we sweat during exercise or in hot environments, we lose water and electrolytes that can lead to us getting dehydrated. Unless we replenish the water in our bodies we can simply overheat. Never good!!
  3. Expel Waste: It is crucial that we expel waste from our bodies and water is a cornerstone of urination, bowel movements, and even sweating. Sweat helps regulate our body temperatures and water helps our kidneys function properly to filter waste.
  4. Prevent Constipation: Our bowels work best when there are proper amounts of magnesium, fiber, and most importantly water. Without the proper balance of these nutrients, the onset of constipation can lead to abdominal pain.
  5. Digestion: Water aids in the digestion of the foods that we eat. Drinking water before, during, and even after a meal can help the body break down the food you eat.

Water plays a key role in the many-body system's functions. It impacts the central nervous system and our cognitive function as well as helping us avoid urinary tract infections and kidney stones, which I don’t need to tell you are potentially debilitating.

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How much water should you Drink per day?

We have been told to drink eight glasses of water a day. While it may be a great marketing slogan for companies that sell bottled water, the amount of water you need to intake depends upon a number of factors. Overall health, individual activity level, and even where you live may impact the amount of water you need to intake. In order to have our bodies properly function we need to replace the water in our bodies that we lose due to perspiration, urine, and even breath. If not, we run the risk of dehydration. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine came up with the following guidelines:

  • Men: 15.5 cups (3.7 L) of fluid daily
  • Women: 11.5 cups (2.7 L) of fluid daily

As you can notice, these daily recommendations are for fluids, not necessarily water. Part of this recommendation can come from other fluids and foods. Roughly 20% of our daily fluid intake comes from food and the rest comes from liquids. The 4 greatest factors that dictate how much water you need to drink are:

  1. Exercise: As we exercise, we tend to sweat (hopefully) and this requires a greater intake of water to replace what we have sweated out. We should drink water before, during, and after any exercise session and if that session last longer or is more intense, it’s a good idea to drink a sports drink to replace lost electrolytes.
  2. Environment: Living or visiting a hot or humid location can lead to an increase in sweating which requires more water intake. Also, exercising in cold climates or altitude requires an increase in water or fluid intake.
  3. Overall Health: When we are sick and may have a fever or experience vomiting/diarrhea, it is crucial to replace these lost fluids. Anyone who may experience UTIs or kidney/bladder stones will also benefit from an increase in drinking water.
  4. Pregnancy/Breast-Feeding: A woman who is pregnant or may be breast-feeding should increase their daily intake of water to avoid dehydration. The Office on Women’s Health recommends women who are pregnant drink 10 cups of fluids daily and those who breast-feed should drink 13 cups daily. There is no easier source than water!!

 

Yes, it can be a little boring to drink water only. Finding beverages that are predominantly water can break up the monotony of drinking out of the same water bottle every day. Fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon or spinach, can contain large quantities of water and beverages such as milk and herbal tea are predominantly made of water. If you are thirsty, it is your body’s way of telling you that you are becoming dehydrated. Drinking too much water though can be dangerous. If you intake too much water your kidneys have a tough time expelling this water and you can experience hyponatremia. This is a dilution of your sodium in your blood and can be life-threatening!!

 

Water is always your best bet for hydration and has a multitude of benefits that should not be ignored. Consult your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine how much water is appropriate for you and your lifestyle. Remember, water is the essence of life!!

 

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