Everyday we have a plethora of choices about what to put into our bodies. Hopefully we’re making more good choices than bad choices. One of the best and easiest choices we have to make is how much we’re drinking each day. How much water we’re drinking. Not coffee (although that is my second favorite and does have some health benefits, at least that’s what I tell myself), not juice, certainly not soda, not alcohol (although I bet that’s what you thought I meant :)! Asking ourselves this question is important too, but meant for another blog). Back to the why and how of drinking water…
Did you know that roughly 60% of your body is made up of water? And, the majority of your brain, heart, lungs, skin, muscles, kidneys, etc. are made up of water!
Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going:
- Water helps maintain the health and integrity of every cell in our bodies.
- Water keeps the bloodstream liquid enough to flow through blood vessels.
- Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells.
- Water moisturizes the skin to maintain its texture and appearance.
- Water helps eliminate the byproducts of the body’s metabolism.
- Water regulates body temperature through sweating.
- Water moistens mucous membranes such as those of the lungs and mouth.
- Water lubricates and cushions joints.
- Water reduces the risk of bladder infections.
- Water aids digestion and prevents constipation.
- Water serves as a shock absorber inside the eyes, spinal cord and in the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus in pregnancy.
Practically speaking though, what does water do for us?
- Drinking more water helps with several health problems, such as headaches, fatigue, joint pain, constipation, kidney stones, and skin problems such as acne.
- Drinking water will help both physical and mental performance.
- Drinking water can cause mild, temporary increases in metabolism. (Some researchers estimate that drinking ~68oz. in one day can increase energy expenditure by about 96 calories per day).
- Drinking water about a half hour before meals can help us automatically eat fewer calories. (One study showed that those who drank 16oz. of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks, compared to those who didn’t).
How much water should we drink each day?
We’ve probably all heard the 8×8 rule of thumb, which is that we should drink eight 8oz. cups of water for a total of 64 oz. each day. If you are just beginning to increase your water intake, this would be a great place to start. But, that number doesn’t necessarily account for the many shapes and sizes we come in and our varied activity levels. Sixty-four ounces of water may not go far enough for many people, especially for those who have a larger stature or include exercise in their routine.
A rule of thumb that I have heard many times (by reputable sources such as friends who are registered dietitians), is to drink the number of ounces of water that is equal to between one half and the number pounds you weigh. For example, a 100 pound person should drink between 50-100 ounces of water each day.
What are some easy ways to make consistent water intake happen?
I once was terrible at drinking water. But, I now follow the above rule and regularly drink four – five 750ml Camelbaks, which is 100-125 oz./day, every single day. If drinking water is so good for us and should be so easy, why is it so hard for so many of us? Here’s what helped me become a regular water drinker:
- I bought re-usable water bottles that I love and that are mine.
- I carry my water bottle with me wherever I go. It’s on my desk, in my car, literally with me at all times. If I go out anywhere, I grab my keys, my phone, and my water bottle.
- Drinking water is a family routine/rule. My kids have their own water bottles and carry them with them wherever they go. We don’t do juice. We definitely don’t do soda. We drink water (or milk).
- If you struggle to drink water, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to add variety. Add, ice cubes made from fresh fruit. Or infuse your water with cucumbers, mint, or another flavor you like.
This is what my counter looks like on a daily basis.
Why not fruit juice and soft drinks?
When I worked in the Pharmaceutical industry, I talked to hundred of pediatricians regularly. I would often spend a day with some of them, while they saw their patients. Over and over I heard the same thing. Juice and soda were the biggest contributing factors they saw to cavities and childhood obesity. Now sports drinks have also been added to that list.
Drinks containing sugar such as fruit drinks, most juices, vitamin-style water, flavored mineral waters, energy and sports drinks, and soda might provide energy to our diet, but provide basically no other essential nutrients. They are great for excess calories, tooth decay, reduced bone strength, causing us to crave additional sugar, and lots of other life-long health problems. These drinks steal water from our body and never actually quench our thirst. They interfere with digestion, essentially stealing the nutrients from the food we just ate.
I am kind of a nazi mom with my kids about drink intake. I can’t remember the last time I bought soda and when I did it was for a party or to take somewhere as requested. I don’t buy it for our family to drink. Outside of our beach vacation which is the one time a year my kids get to pick out special (JUNK) snacks and drinks, I have never bought juice for them to drink. Instead of juice, they get a piece of fruit. Instead of packing a juice box in their lunch box, they get their water bottle. In fact, my 11 year old son tried soda for the very first time this year at youth group – nice :)!
Oh, if you think you are in the clear because you’re choosing “diet” drinks with artificial sweeteners (which is what I used to drink too much of and is now my very occasional special treat), you’re wrong. Artificially sweetened drinks add very little calories to the diet and therefore may not contribute to weight gain, but that’s pretty much all they have going for them. The list of the negative affects such as headaches and other potential dangers associated with artificial sweeteners could be another whole blog.
Bottom line: Drink water. Make it your primary drink. Buy yourself a re-usable water bottle and keep it with you wherever you go.