We all know water intake is important … after all it is August in Charleston. But even though it can feel like 100 degrees outside this time of year, as we age our sense of thirst is not as sharp, so it’s easy to become dehydrated and not even know it.
As the mercury rises, is it necessary to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to stay hydrated? Although there is little science behind this precise advice, there are plenty of good reasons to drink a lot of water. Doing so either plain or in the form of other liquids or foods is essential to your health. Most of your body is made up of water, and you lose it daily when using the bathroom, exposing your skin to the sun, when you sweat and even when you breathe.
Here are six reasons to make sure you’re drinking enough water or other fluids every day:
—Drinking water helps maintain balan
ce. Your body is composed of about 60 percent water, which is necessary for digestion, absorption, circulation, saliva transportation of nutrients and maintenance of body temperature. When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. Listen to thirst cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk or d
ecaf coffee — but not alcohol.
—Water has no calories. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While it doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for high caloric beverages certainly helps if you are trying to lose weight. Food with high water content looks larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal and beans.
—Water helps energize muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which causes muscle fatigue. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink 17 ounces of fluids two hours before exercise and continue at regular intervals to replace what’s lost by sweating.
—Water helps keep skin supple. Your skin contains plenty of water and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration dries and wrinkles skin. But more is not necessarily better here. If you adequately hydrate, your kidneys will pass any excess as urine. You can also help “lock” moisture into your skin with moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep water in.
—Water helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood-urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that passes through the kidneys and is excreted. When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color and odor increase because the kidneys trap extra fluid needed for normal bodily functions. If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones.
—Water helps maintain bowel function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along in your gastrointestinal tract. When you don’t get eno
ugh fluid, your colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result is constipation. Adequate fluid and fiber is a perfect combination to keep your bowels functioning properly.
Here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
1. Have a beverage (alcohol excluded) with every snack and meal.
2. Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high-water content adds to your hydration. About 20 percent of fluid intake comes from such foods.
4. Keep a bottle of water with you and drink whenever and wherever possible.
5. Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, water is your best choice because it has none.
So this summer and always, make water your beverage of choice.