This article was originally published in the MassMEP Newsletter of June 2016.
When summer occurs, temperatures rise and can exceed 100 degrees. When it comes to drinking enough water, most Americans consume far below the recommended daily minimum, regardless of season. A recent study showed that 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration.
Staying properly hydrated will help keep your body feeling great and performing at its best. Proper hydration increases energy levels, makes you more alert and can even help reduce stress. Common signs of dehydration include achy joints and muscles, fatigue, headaches and dry skin. More serious hydration can lead to dizziness and nausea, and in more extreme cases, death. Your body requires adequate hydration to function properly. Without it, you may experience a host of unpleasant symptoms, such as increased hunger and cravings, fluid retention, bloating, and weight gain. You can speed up your metabolism by adding just one 8 oz. glass of water to your day. The metabolism is the rate at which your body converts the calories you eat into energy. For women, the average metabolism in the United States is 1,800 calories. For men, the average metabolism in the United States is 2,100 calories. It may seem unbelievable, but one of the simplest ways to increase weight loss and improve overall health is to drink more water.
Keeping your body hydrated helps accelerate your metabolism and means you are burning more fat. In fact, studies have shown that drinking too little water can cause fat deposits to increase, while drinking more can actually reduce fat deposits. It all has to do with how your body processes fat. It starts with the kidneys. They need adequate water to work well. If they don’t get it, they dump some of their workload onto the liver. That’s where the trouble begins because the liver is one of the key organs involved in metabolizing stored fat energy.
Are you getting enough water?
Humans aren’t like camels. We can’t store water. We need to replenish fluids daily. How much do we need? The National Research Council recommends about a quart (4 cups) for every 1,000 calories expended. That’s about 12 cups of water for a man and 9 for a woman. You need more if you spend a lot of time outside in the heat or are very active. About 80 percent of people’s total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages — including caffeinated beverages — and the other 20 percent is derived from food. A typical balanced diet of 2,000 calories contains 2-3 cups of water in the food. You will also get water in beverages that are caffeinated (coffee, tea, colas) or alcoholic (beer, wine), although you lose some, because alcohol and caffeine act as diuretics, increasing the body’s loss of water as urine.
Intensive exercise or work, especially in hot weather
You may lose fluids so quickly that by the time your thirst mechanism kicks in, you may already be a little dehydrated. Drink 2 cups of water in the 2 hours before exercise, and drink between ½ cup and 1 cup every 15 minutes or so while you exercise.
One indicator of the adequacy of fluid intake is the color of the urine: it should be pale yellow. If your urine is often very concentrated and dark yellow in color, try to drink more water.
How can I add more water to my day?
There are lots of ways to get more water in your day. Beverages like coffee, tea, iced tea… count toward your 12 or 9 glasses a day. But nothing is as good as plain pure water, so try these tips:
- Drink one 8 oz. glass of water every hour while at work. By the end of an 8-hour day, you will be well on your way.
- When you are craving, drink a glass of water before you do anything else. That craving may be the result of dehydration and the water will help you feel full.
- Drink through a straw. You will tend to take larger sips.
- If you are having some fruit juice, cut it one for one with water (50% water / 50% juice).
- After each trip to the restroom, drink a glass of water to replenish your system.
- If you drink Diet Soda during the day, drink two glasses of water between each 12 oz. Soda.
- At each meal, drink at least two glasses of water.
- With each snack, drink one.
What time is most favorable for drinking water?
- Drink water during well-defined moments to maximize efficiency in the body:
- 2 glasses of water just after waking up activates the internal organs.
- 1 glass of water 30 minutes before each meal improves digestion.
- 1 glass of water before taking a bath (or shower) lowers blood pressure.
- 1 glass of water before bed, avoid a stroke or heart accident.
- Drink water before bed, avoiding to have leg cramps at night.
- When there is cramping, your leg muscles are in search of water and humidity. So have a glass of water!