We all know we need to drink more water. We hear it repeatedly: how water is good for you; how it’s necessary for life; how it’s just plain healthier for you. We don’t even listen anymore- yeah, yeah, I heard you the first billion times!
So this will be one billion and one: you need to drink more water. There are all kinds of calculations out there for how much water you should drink based on your weight, your exercise habits, your age and there are experts who pooh-pooh the 64 oz rule and there are those who support it. I’m going to land somewhere in the middle: I think you should drink at least 64 oz of water a day on top of whatever else you drink. Most of the ‘experts’ I’ve read believe this is a safe starting point. However, you should try to drink more water than anything else: coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, sports drinks, etc. Most of these drinks have sugar and a lot also have caffeine. Caffeine especially is a diuretic. This means it will dehydrate you, so you drink 8 oz of coffee and some it comes right back out. The same can be true of sugar, especially if you are a type 2 diabetic. Your body keeps the sugar in solution, so the more sugar you eat/ drink, the more you pee it out. This is one of the reasons diabetics have kidney problems. The same is also true of a lot of the sodium and other electrolytes in the sports drinks: they need to be diluted in the body, and if you have too much of them, the body will pass them out through the urine. In and out usually in a short while, unless you sweat it out, which amounts to the same thing: less water in the body!
Most of us know that our bodies are mostly water, but what some of us forget at times is that we are also an electro-chemical machine and the ‘wiring’ that keeps us running is the water in our cells. Most of us know that the more dehydrated we are, the darker our urine is. It’s because the dissolved solids are more concentrated because there is less water available to dilute them (sorry to be a bit gross). There are experts who say we need to drink enough water so that our urine is clear. I think that may be a bit much, since ‘more’ is not always good. It’s not widely known, but we can die from water intoxication. This is when we drink too much water. If we drink more water than our bodies can process, we will literally drown in our own tissues. That electro-chemical machine not only ceases to function when it gets too dry but also when it gets water-logged.
So how much water is too much and how much is too little? This is why I said 64 oz of water on top of whatever else you drink is a good enough number to start with. If your urine is pale yellow or more clear than yellow (again, sorry to be gross), you are doing okay. You don’t need to limit yourself to that number though: if it’s a hot day or you are doing something physical, you should probably drink more. If you are sweating, a sports drink along with some water might not be a bad idea. The whole idea behind sports drinks is the replacement of electrolytes, which we lose through sweat and urine, so replacing them is a good idea, but bear in mind, we get these also in the foods we eat. So if you have an energy bar or even just a regular meal, you will get a lot of the minerals and salts in the foods you eat daily, especially if you are making an effort to eat healthy.
Water also lubricates our body. Researchers are finding that dehydration may be one of the causes of stiff joints and fascia, especially in older adults. Our connective tissues hold a lot of water and the drier they are, the less flexible they are. So if you are always feeling stiff and creaky, try drinking more water. As we age, we tend to lose our sense of taste, which is one reason older adults have a decreased appetite, but researchers are finding that we also lose our sense of thirst, and as a result, older adults are more likely to be dehydrated than younger people. The problem is that since older adults don’t get as thirsty as they used to, they are not prompted by their bodies to drink as much as they should.
I confess I am as guilty as everyone else: I rarely drink my 64 oz. In fact, I got a new water bottle last year (it was on my Christmas list) and I have been gamely trying to use it as much as possible. I also use the water feature on My Fitness Pal to track how much I drink during the day. Keeping track is a good way to remind yourself to drink more water, and there are a variety of free apps that will not only track how much water you drink, but will remind you to drink something. One of the easiest ways is to get a bottle, glass, whatever you want and drink an entire bottle with every meal, especially since water will keep everything moving through your digestive tract very nicely. Dehydration can lead to constipation (yeah, I know-gross but true!) It also helps with the absorption of vitamins and nutrients and everything else you are eating.
There are usually a few people who think that drinking more water means retaining water and less weight loss, but really, when the body is conserving water because it’s not getting enough, it retains more water than when you are well hydrated. When we are well hydrated, we are actually less hungry because your body will trigger you to eat when it wants water: we misinterpret the signal as hunger rather than thirst, and we also get a fair amount of water in some foods. Restricting our water intake not only won’t help us lose weight, it can really cause problems in our bodies, such as muscle cramps, constipation, poor concentration and light-headedness among other things. None of those are conducive to health or weight loss and they sure won’t help with working out.
I know that water isn’t flashy or exciting, but it’s a easy hack. Staying well lubricated is key for health and weight loss and it’s not that hard to do!