Shawn shifted his bicycle gears is he pedaled up the big hill. He only had one-quarter of a mile to go before he reached the top of the hill. The pedaling was getting harder, but Shawn was determined not to quit. The sun beat down on him and his mouth felt like cotton. His bandana and clothes were soaked with sweat. Huffing and puffing, Shawn finally made it. He rode his bike under a nearby shade tree and reached for his water bottle. The cool, clear water felt as refreshing as it had earlier in the day.
A Vital Nutrient
In some developing countries, people get sick from drinking the water. But in the United States, you can turn on the tap or open a bottle for safe water almost any time. Even though drinking water is so convenient, most people don’t drink enough. Some people don’t like water, or they forget to drink it. But since your body is from 50 to 80 percent water, it is necessary to drink up for good health. In fact, water is vital to life.
You can live for several weeks without eating any food, but only a few days without drinking water. Your body doesn’t store water the way it stores some other nutrients. Therefore, you have to drink plenty every day. Your brain, blood, and muscles contain a lot of water. Every system in your body needs water to work properly.
Water regulates your body temperature, removes wastes, and helps prevent constipation. It dissolves and carries other nutrients, including oxygen, to your cells. Water cushions your joints, lubricates your eyes, keeps your skin soft, and flushes out toxins that might harm your kidneys and liver. There is also evidence that water helps prevent certain diseases. Studies have shown that people who drank five or more glasses of water each day lowered their risk of colon and bladder cancer.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Whenever you have a cold, fever, diarrhea, or other health problems, you hear “drink plenty of fluids.” But how much fluid do you really need each day to stay healthy? One guideline is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water. For example: If you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink 75 ounces of water each day. That equals about nine 8-ounce glasses of water. However, you need to drink more when the temperature is hot or cold or when you consume caffeine. Caffeine increases water loss from the body, so go easy on caffeinated beverages. When you exercise, drink an extra 1 to 3 cups of water for each hour of activity.
Dehydration sets in when you don’t get enough fluids. By the time you feel thirsty, you may have already lost 2 or more cups of your total body water. Even that small loss contributes to fatigue and can impair your athletic performance. A good way to tell if you are drinking enough is to check the color of your urine. If it is pale yellow and looks like lemon juice, you are meeting your needs. If it looks more like apple juice and smells strong, you are dehydrated. Also, if you go to the bathroom fewer than four times each day, you need to drink more.
Water is the best choice to meet your daily fluid needs, but it isn’t the only one available. Milk, juice, soup, and most fruits and vegetables contain water. Foods that have a lot of water include romaine lettuce, tomatoes, watercress, zucchini, asparagus, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew melon, cottage cheese, tofu, and water-packed tuna.
If drinking lots of water doesn’t come naturally, Lynn Grieger, a registered dietitian, has these tips to help you drink more:
* Take a water bottle with you to school or work. Drink every time you get a break.
* Take a water bottle along every time you ride in the car.
* Drink a glass of water before each meal.
* Keep a bottle of cold water in the refrigerator.
* Use a larger glass at meals. If you normally use an 8-ounce glass, try a 10-ounce glass instead.
* Take a full water bottle on all bike rides.
* Buy a waist pack that holds a water bottle and take it with you whenever you exercise.
* Drink a glass of water when you get up in the morning and before going to bed at night.
* Have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
* Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack. Blend fresh fruit, seltzer water, and vanilla yogurt for a treat that’s also a good source of fluid.
Now is a good time to get into the water habit. Make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water each day, and your body will reap the benefits for years to come.
The Pros and Cons of “Fitness Water”
Drinking water used to be as simple to find as turning on the tap. Now you can choose from bottles of artesian water, mineral water, purified water, sparkling water, spring water, or the latest “fitness water.”
Fitness water is either flavored and vitamin-enhanced water or a sports drink with the electrolytes potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium added to it. Other types of fitness water have supplements added to improve athletic performance. Most have 50 calories or fewer per 8-ounce serving. They are marketed toward those people who don’t want the calories or sweetness of sports drinks but who don’t like plain water.
The most important benefit of any bottled beverage is to help you adequately hydrate yourself. If plain water is a turn-off, you might want to try one of the many brands of fitness waters available. If you are using it to drink more water before, during, and after exercise, that’s OK.
However, fitness water won’t meet all your nutritional needs. Susan Kleiner, author of Power Eating and sports nutritionist for the Seattle Supersonics, says: “These lightly sweetened fitness waters are nothing more than flavored water. You should not rely on these drinks to help meet your vitamin and mineral needs.”
You also need to know what you are drinking. Some products contain stimulants such as caffeine or ephedra (ma huang) that can be harmful. Too many of these additives can raise your blood pressure or cause other health problems.
Drinking fitness water can be beneficial, but it also costs money. If you don’t want to spend the extra money, try adding a lemon, lime, or orange slice to a glass of tap water for extra flavor.