Water is truly an amazing substance. It is the only naturally occurring substance on earth to appear as a solid, a liquid and as a gas. Of almost all liquids, it dissolves more substances in greater quantities, conducts the most heat, and (unlike most known substances) becomes less dense when it cools.
Though it has many impressive properties, the most important is how it works to sustain life and healthy bodies. As you probably know, about 60% of the adult human body is water. In fact, a person could live a month without food, but less than a week without water.
The Benefits of Drinking Enough (and Danger of Not) Water
Water is essential to the proper functioning of each and every cell and organ system in your body. Your car might run perfectly fine with a half a tank of gas but your body is a lot less tolerant when it starts running low on water. If you are just 2% short of your optimal water supply you’ll begin to experience symptoms of dehydration such as excess thirst, memory lapses, difficulty focusing, headaches, and daytime fatigue.
Medical experts have estimated that about three quarters of adults and more than half of children regularly experience mild, chronic dehydration. While we may shrug off the symptoms of dehydration, brain functions can be so affected that new research suggests dehydrated driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving.
Water, Water Weight and Weight Loss
The importance of water is a particular concern for people who are trying to lose weight.
One of the realities of any weight loss program is the fact that initial weight loss is primarily due to the loss of water. Failure to replace that water will not help you maintain that sudden weight loss; in fact it will actually cause your body to burn less fat.
It all starts with your kidneys. If you are not getting enough water, the kidneys have trouble doing their important work in filtering toxins, wastes, salts and ingested water out of the bloodstream. So, some of those tasks are pushed off onto your liver.
This is not a good thing.
One of your liver’s primary functions is metabolizing fat. If your liver is busy filtering toxins, wastes and such, it becomes less efficient at metabolizing fat. That excess fat gets stored in your body. To make matters just a bit worse, lack of sufficient water also lowers your liver’s productivity which means even more fat storage.
Another negative aspect of not consuming enough water is the potential for water retention. If your body is convinced a shortage of water is going to be part of the regular routine, it will work to hold on to what water it has. Though simply a survival mechanism, this can really complicate hopes for success in losing weight. Since the body tends to store water in the face, waist and ankles, it can be a discouraging and even painful condition.
Fortunately, once your body realizes that it will be getting a steady supply of water, it usually lets go of the water weight is has been hoarding.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
One of the trickiest aspects of moderate dehydration is the way we often misinterpret the body’s signals for thirst as hunger. Instead of reaching for a glass of water which contains no calories, we decide to have a snack. The best way to avoid this danger is to drink a large glass of water whenever hunger strikes. Around twenty minutes after drinking water you’ll be able to make a better decision on how much food you actually need. Studies show that drinking water before a meal really does reduce appetite, so water can be a helpful piece of the weight loss puzzle.
While we've often heard heard the rule of thumb is to drink eight, 8 oz. glasses water a day, that's not exactly right. It varies person by person depending on gender, environmental conditions, age, etc. One of the biggest factors is whether you exercise, where it is important to increase water consumption throughout the day. If you're curious exactly how much to increase it by, you can calculate the amount of water you should drink to replace what you've lost. There's actually an online "sweat rate" calculator you can use to determine how much that is here.
So, consider the "8x8" number a baseline. If you exercise, particularly outdoors in the warm weather months, you should consider increasing that number to three or four quarts.
While it's best to stick with water to hit your total, there are many other fluids that can contribute such as water in food, milk, or fruit juices. Surprisingly, studies have found that coffee (partially) counts, as well as tea. You should not count soft drinks, diet drinks or other drinks that contain salt, however.
The Benefits of Drinking Enough Water
One of the best ways to integrate water into your regular routine is to start your day off by drinking one or two glasses of water every morning and to carry a bottle of water with you on your daily adventures. You should take care to drink water before you actually feel thirsty because by the time thirst strikes you are already mildly dehydrated. Your body actually loses water in more ways than you'd expect, such as breathing and digestion.
Here are a just a few of the reasons to drink enough water each day:
- It helps body flush out waste and toxins
- It aids in digestion
- It can help improve certain health conditions, such as bladder infections and urinary tract stones
- It plays a major role in regulating body temperature
- It helps protect the spinal cord and acts as a lubricant in joints
When it comes to overall health, losing weight and maintaining weight loss, water just might be your greatest ally. Put it to work for you and you might be amazed at the results.