Just thinking about the holidays and all of the scrumptious food that surrounds you, can make anyone hungry! It is a common mistake to think you’re hungry, (especially when surrounded by all of those holiday treats) when you’re really just thirsty! See below to learn more about hydration, and why it is so important!
Water; the single most important nutrient to the human species. We’ve all heard it; drink before you’re thirsty, drink 8-10 cups a day. But why? And how does it affect our bodies and minds? How much do we need?
Water is the most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. It is not only the most important nutrient in the body, but also the most abundant. Water makes up 2/3 of our body weight. The brain is 85% water, the lungs are 90% water, and our blood is approximately 80% water. Water is critical to the balance of all the body’s systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and muscles.
Proper hydration is required for maintaining a healthy blood flow, proper kidney function, proper sodium/potassium /electrolyte balance and proper digestive functions. Even being slightly dehydrated can leave us feeling fatigued, confused and light-headed. Additionally, it can slow our thinking, cause muscle cramps, and decrease our concentration.
Let’s take an even closer look at some of the health benefits of having proper hydration.
1. It helps maintain the balance of body fluids. The function of these fluids include digestion, circulation, nerve function, absorption, transportation of nutrients, development of saliva, and maintenance of body temperature. When we are not properly hydrated, and our electrolyte balance is off, these functions do not work at their best.
2. It helps control calories. Many times, we mistake being hungry for thirst. Drinking a glass of water before heading to the pantry may just be the trick. Although water isn’t your direct ticket to weight loss, food with high water content tends to be higher volume which requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods including celery, cucumber, tomatoes, green peppers and cauliflower have a high water contact amongst other fruits and vegetables.
3. It helps to energize our muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrink, which results in muscle fatigue. When muscle cells don’t have sufficient fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer. Additionally, when electrolyte balance is off, our nerves cannot relay messages to the brain the way it is supposed to.
4. It improves our cognitive function. Drinking water ensures our brain gets the oxygen it needs to perform at an optimal level. If we are lacking, it can cause us to have more difficulty focusing and making decisions, as well as impair our short and long term memory.
So, how much do we need? There are many factors that go into your individual water needs. These include how active you are, your health conditions, and where you live. Although there isn’t a single formula that fits every person, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day. The daily minimum required is 8-10, 8 ounce glasses of water. However, if you are an active individual who exercises regularly, for each hour of exercise, an additional 16 ounces is required to keep up with the loss of fluid. Another good measure is to listen to your body. If you are feeling thirsty, it means you are already dehydrated. If you are yawning at 9am, and got a good night’s rest, you may be dehydrated. If you just ate dinner, and an hour later you feel hungry, it could be thirst. Do your muscles feel fatigued and tired? You need more water.
Is water enough, and do we need electrolyte replacement? When we sweat, we not only lose fluid, but we lose calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. If we lose too much, and do not replace it, it can be dangerous and cause light-headedness, confusion, and even cardiac abnormalities. So if you are an active individual, and you feel fatigued, nauseous, and urinate frequently, you could need an electrolyte supplement. Most sports drinks contain water, sugar and electrolytes. Look for one that does not have artificial ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it, steer clear.
The benefits of water are endless. How much water to drink depends on many different factors. Water should be your drink of choice the majority of every day to prevent dehydration. Listen to your body; it will steer you in the right direction. Question? Contact me via Julia@Verve360nutrition.com, to find your personal hydration balance and be one step closer to your health and fitness goals!