Dictionary.com defines water as a “colorless, transparent, odorless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms.” Sounds a little boring, huh? Have you ever wondered why we really need it? Let’s dive in!
It’s more than just a thirst quencher. It makes up 60% of your body weight. Your brain and heart are 73% water. Your skin is 64% water. Muscles are 83% water. Even your bones are 31% water. Without it, you’d be a creaky dry, mess. To maintain proper hydration and keep your body from turning to dust, you need a regular intake of water. How much? According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the average woman should aim for 2.7 liters of fluids per day; 3.7 liters for men.
Water is Crucial to Many functions:
- It helps regulate your body temperature. Sweat helps to cool you off when you’re hot or when you exert yourself, but if you don’t replenish the water you loose, you become dehydrated and your temperature will rise, like a car with a leaky radiator. And extreme dehydration can lead to serious problems, like low blood pressure and hypothermia.
- It lubricates and cushions. In addition to cooling you when we exercise, it also makes all movements more comfortable, as it helps to lubricate and cushion joints, the spinal cord, and tissues throughout the body.
- It helps clean out the junk. Your kidneys and intestines need water to flush out waste and keep food moving through the intestinal tract.
- It protects babies in the womb. Amniotic fluid starts with water and, among other things, provides a protective cushion for those little whippersnappers as they prepare to enter the world.
- It helps with digestion. Drinking water before, during, and after a meal helps your body break down food and make use of valuable nutrients. It also helps dissolve vitamins and minerals and deliver them to where they’re needed.
- It helps prevent medical conditions, such as constipation, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and hypertension.
- It helps you look fantastic! In addition to hydrating, it also helps to remove toxins, contributing healthy skin, hair, and nails. (Protecting yourself from the sun also helps.)
Does Anything Else Hydrate?
There’s water in beer, right? It’s the first ingredient! True. But unfortunately, the alcohol content of most beers has at least a slightly negative impact on hydration. (It can still contribute to your need for water, but not as well as the pure stuff.) But coffee and tea count! While caffeine does have a slight diuretic effect (makes you want to pee), it’s so minimal that the hydrating properties of these beverages are positive. Unfortunately, caffeinated beverages can cause headaches and insomnia. But if you can get past those problems, feel free to count that morning latte or pot of Oolong toward your total daily need.
What’s Even Better than Water?
Milk. Studies have found that drinks with a little bit of sugar, fat, or protein actually do a better job of hydrating. Milk, even skim, has all of those, and they help to keep the fluids in the stomach longer so that hydration continues over a longer period of time. Too much sugar, however, can be a problem. Sports drinks are only for times when exercising intensely for more than an hour, as they do more than hydrate. They also replace electrolytes lost through perspiration and sugar to help boost energy. But when you’re not exercising, sugar just contributes to weight gain.
Tired of all that drinking, but still want to hydrate? There are lots of foods that can satisfy the need almost as well as a cool glass of agua. Watermelon, tomatoes, celery, zucchini, and lettuce are all more than 90% water! They not only help hydrate, but also contain fiber and several vitamins. The average person gets about 20% of their daily fluid intake from food.
In the end, it’s hard to beat water. No calories, no alcohol, no caffeine…and it’s free! So raise a pint of H2O. Cheers to your health!