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Functions of Water

Winter or summer, it's hard to drink enough water. Did you know that you could become dehydrated during the winter? It's easy to understand knowing that the human body is approximately two-thirds water. Getting enough water is necessary for healthy body functions, including:
  • Digesting food
  • Lubricating joints - such as helping knees, wrists and elbows move smoothly.
  • Providing a cushion for organs and tissues - for example, the brain needs enough fluid to stay "afloat" and remain protected from bumps and jarring.
  • Transporting nutrients and waste products - the blood needs to have enough fluid to have just the right "formula" that is necessary to transport nutrients. Likewise, the intestinal tract needs enough fluid to move wastes through the body.
  • Regulating body temperature - while this is especially key in the summer, it's also important in the winter, when dry heat can dry out skin and tissues.

What happens when I don't drink enough?

Drinking too little can cause mild dehydration, although most people don't realize they are dehydrated. The symptoms of mild dehydration include:

  • Headache
  • Not as quick at solving problems or thinking through solutions (such as math problems or paper work).
  • Fatigue
  • Lower your baseline muscular strength - for things as simple as opening a can with a can opener or completing your workout.

It's surprising that losing as little as three percent of your body's weight can cause the above symptoms. For someone who weights 150 pounds, that's just about 4-1/2 pounds. Losing 15 to 20 percent of your body weight as fluid can be fatal - which can happen during very hot weather and/or to athletes working out without drinking enough water.

We lose about 8 to 12 cups of water daily through respiration, perspiration, digestion and urine. Since the body does not store a lot of water, it must be replaced through food and fluids. Many foods are high in water content - most fruits and vegetables are 80 to 90 percent water. Following a balanced eating plan and drinking enough fluids both help hydrate the human body adequately.

Thirst is not always an accurate indicator of whether or not you are thirsty. In fact, the body's thirst mechanism does not kick in until you have lost that three percent of body weight that is an indicator of early hydration. Yes, the thirst mechanism is surprisingly inefficient! And, the thirst mechanism becomes even less efficient with age.

Try these tips for staying hydrated:

  1. Drink 6 to 8 cups of water daily. Develop a routine - drink water when you wake up, at each meal, between meals and before bed.
  2. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain loads of water. Go for those five to nine servings each day - recommended for your good health for many other reasons.
  3. If you don't like the taste of plain water, add lemon or lime.
  4. Sports drinks and diluted juices are good alternatives - as long as you keep track of your caloric intake. Limit these drinks to once or twice a day unless you exercise heavily. Also, look for reduced calorie juices and sports drinks with limited amounts of calories. There are several good varieties available on the market.
  5. Watch out for caffeine containing beverages like coffee, teas and soft drinks, which deplete the body of fluids. Alcoholic beverages are also dehydrating and promote fluid loss. If you do drink alcohol or caffeine containing drinks, replace each beverage consumed with the same amount of water.
  6. Invest in a sturdy, insulated water bottle and keep it with you during the day and whenever you workout. Have one to two cups of water around 15 to 30 minutes before working out and one cup for every 15 to 30 minutes of exercise. Weigh yourself before and after exercise especially in hot, humid conditions and replace each pound lost with 2 cups of water

Check your urine - clear and light coloured urine and frequent urination indicates adequate hydration. In other words, urine the colour of lemonade is one indicator that you are well hydrated, while urine the colour of apple juice means you might not be taking in enough fluid.

How Much Water do I Need?

If you can't be a camel, be a water bug! Well, unless you are a camel, then you need lots and lots of water everyday. Camels have this crazy ability to go several days without drinking water even in the hot, dry desert. They lose water slowly and can replenish large amounts in a matter of minutes. Because you're not a camel you need water every single day to live: in fact most people need more than they drink to feel better, think better and work out better. And the good news is you can meet your daily water needs by drinking good old H2O, other flavoured beverages, juices and even by eating foods like fruits and vegetables. Cool fact: The human body is 2/3 water.

What does all this water do in your body? Believe it or not it's the main ingredient of blood. Water is also found in ALL of the billions of cells of your body because cells need water to carry nutrients in and waste products out. Water helps to lubricate your joints (like knees and elbows) so that they move easier. Water helps to digest food and move it through your intestinal tract. It forms the basis of urine (which helps waste flow from the body). Water also helps you breathe properly.

Another cool fact: Water helps regulate your body temperature so you don't get too hot or too cold. When you "heat up" (like from playing ball or biking or just sitting around on a hot day), you sweat - and sweat is water. Sweat helps your body temperature stay normal. As you can see, water works hard in your body!

How much water do I need? A lot more than most people think or drink. Here's a rough guide, although you may need even more depending on personal factors like activity and climate. To find out how much water you need everyday, review the following equation and example:

Step 1: Your weight divided by 2 = The number of ounces of water you need each day! For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, divide 100 by 2 and you'll get 50 ounces.

Step 2: Divide the ounces you need by 8 = The number of cups of water you need each day.

Now divide the 50 ounces by 8 to convert ounces to cups (1 cup water = 8 ounces). 50 divided by 8 = 6.25 or about 6 cups of water each day.

Now try it with your weight!

Step 1 _____ (your weight)/2 = _____ounces of water you need each day

Step 2 _____(ounces you need)/8 = _____cups of water you need each day

What about waiting until you are thirsty to drink?

Unfortunately, that doesn't work. The body's thirst mechanism wasn't built very well. What this means for you is that you don't feel thirsty until you are already slightly dehydrated or when your body is already a little bit short on water. So the simplest advice is drink, drink, drink - water that is. And drink whether you are thirsty or not.

Do I need more water when I work out?

Yes, you do but remember that the body is really weird sometimes. When it needs water, you might not even feel thirsty at all. Instead you may feel tired, dizzy, have a headache or feel sick to your stomach. Here's how much to drink if you are playing sports or working out:

  • Before exercise: drink 2 cups (16 ounces) about 2 hours or so before your activity.
  • During exercise: drink 1 cup (8 ounces) every 15-20 minutes while you exercise
  • After exercise: weigh yourself before and after exercise especially when it's hot. For every pound you lose replace it with 2 cups (16 ounces) of water.

More water bug tips:

  • Carry a water bottle on your bike or in your backpack.
  • Drink beverages without caffeine before, during and after exercise.
  • Stop by the water fountain at school or at work whenever you can and take lots of sips!
  • Drink fluids throughout the day.
  • Keep fresh water in your room by your bed, in the car, wherever you are.
  • Drink when you're not thirsty.
  • Drink water with a straw.
  • Go lightly on caffeine drinks (soda or tea or coffee) because caffeine drains water from your body

Quick Tips: 8 Glasses a Day

  1. If you haven't been including a lot of water in your diet, slowly work your way up to the full eight glasses.
  2. To cover a few glasses, fill a 1 litre bottle of water and take it with you to work.
  3. Give yourself small rewards each week for drinking your eight glasses.
  4. Eat foods such as fruits and vegetables that are made up of more than 50 percent water.
  5. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages dehydrate the body. Always follow with an equal amount of water.
  6. To rehydrate your body first thing in the morning, drink water instead of coffee.
  7. Put Crystal Light Low Calorie Drink Mix into your bottled water to add a bit of flavour.
  8. Make a fun rainbow-coloured beverage just for kids: freeze prepared Kool-Aid Drink Mix in ice cube trays. Serve in your child's favourite drink.
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