Water: Is It Really That Important?
from Deena's "Nutritional Guidelines" Booklet
Water is extremely important for our bodies to work properly. This is because water is responsible for moving nutrients around the body and most of the chemical reactions within our cells take place in water.
As your body works it produces waste products. Some of these waste products are toxic and the body gets rid of them through the kidneys in urine, which is mainly made up of water.
We also lose water by evaporation when we breathe and sweat. As the temperature rises and we do more activity, this increases the amount of water the body loses. To stay healthy, you need to replace the fluids that you lose.
How much water should I drink a day?
We don't often think of water as a nutrient, but it is as important to our health as any of the nutrients. This may seem obvious, as we know life cannot be sustained without water. The human body is made up of 60 -75% water and water is used by every cell of the body. All the many biochemical reactions and metabolic processes that take place in the body depend on water. The body cannot function optimally or efficiently when it is not well hydrated with fluids. Water is the primary component of our body fluids; it aids in digestion, provides the vehicle for circulating nutrients and oxygen through the body, as well as for the elimination of waste. It helps lubricate joints, protect organs, and maintain normal body temperature. A well hydrated body is necessary for optimal exercise and athletic performance.
On average, your body loses 8 - 12 cups of water a day. This is increased by:
- consumption of caffeine and alcohol containing beverages
In general men need to replace about 12 cups of fluid daily and women need to replace 8 -10 cups. Not all of this fluid is generally replaced by drinking water, although water is the major way of meeting your fluid needs. Fluid can be replaced by:
- non-caffeine, non-alcoholic beverages
- water found naturally in foods (vegetables and fruits are high in water)
Drink at least 8 cups of water a day.
You can count skim milk, 100% fruit juice, and decaffeinated teas as part of this because they are mostly water.
Tips for increasing your water consumption:
- At work keep a large water bottle on your desk.
- At home keep a pitcher of water in your refrigerator.
- Carry a water bottle with you when you leave the house.
- Change to decaffeinated coffee, tea and soda, instead of caffeinated beverages.
- For every caffeinated beverage you drink, drink a glass of water.
- Drink a glass of water before meals and snacks.
- Order water at restaurants.
- Add lemon or lime to your water if it allows you enjoy water more.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Yes, there is a condition known as "water intoxication." It is usually associated with long distance events like running and cycling. And it’s not an unusual problem. For example, water intoxication was reported in 18% of marathon runners and in 29% of the finishers in a Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon in studies published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine and in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise respectively.
What happens is that as the athlete consumes large amounts of water over the course of the event, blood plasma (the liquid part of blood) increases. As this takes place, the salt content of the blood is diluted. At the same time, the athlete is losing salt by sweating. Consequently, the amount of salt available to the body tissues decreases over time to a point where the loss interferes with brain, heart, and muscle function.
The official name for this condition is hyponatremia. The symptoms generally mirror those of dehydration (apathy, confusion, nausea, and fatigue), although some individuals show no symptoms at all. If untreated, hyponatremia can lead to coma and even death.
Water intoxication is a problem not only among athletes. For instance, it has become one of the most common causes of serious heat illness in the Grand Canyon. Some people hiking the canyon drink large amounts of water and do not eat enough food to provide for electrolyte (salt, potassium) replacement and energy. Fears of dehydration has led to a mistaken belief that the safe thing to do is to drink as much and as often as possible. But even with drinking water, there can be too much of a good thing.
Patrick J. Bird, Ph.D University of Florida, College of Health and Human Performance
Is Water Fattening?
Well yes, according to Time Magazine, some are. Five bottled water brands were pointed to by Time Magazine, August 19, 2002 as containing not only vitamins, minerals and herbs, but also sugar.
They were; Snapple Elements, Glaceau Vitaminwater, Aquafina Essentials, Gatorade's Propel and Hansen's E2O.