I like mine cool, not cold, but even lukewarm is OK. For my husband, the colder the better. We all have our preferences and ideas about what makes water the most enjoyable and we are privileged enough to live in a place where we can get it exactly the way we want it. With clean water sources, water filters, and bottled water available almost everywhere, we have no excuse for not drinking water yet many Americans don’t drink enough of it. Why is that?
I’ve heard the argument many times. “Coffee is made with water and I drink coffee therefore I drink water.” “Fruit juice is basically water so what’s the big deal?” “I drink a small glass of water every morning when I take my pills. That’s all I want.” “I only drink Diet Coke and I’ve never had a problem so why does it even matter?”
It matters because all these other beverages include more than just water, like caffeine, sugar, artificial ingredients and preservatives, and can’t do your body the good that water itself can. Technically, all beverages, including caffeinated beverages, count toward your daily water intake. Water makes up 60% of your body weight and supports every system in your body. It flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and helps to lubricate and cushion your joints. Drinking adequate amounts of water is essential for maintaining good health and meeting your fitness goals.
Every day you lose water by breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. That water needs to be replenished. According to the Health and Medical Division of The National Academies of Medicine, men should drink 3.7 liters (125 ounces) and women should drink 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of water each day. That’s a lot of water! To put this in a different perspective, one gallon contains approximately 128 fluid ounces. So men should consume one gallon of water and women should consume 3/4 gallon of water each day. Fortunately for everyone, about 20% of your daily water needs comes from food. So that leaves about 100 ounces for men to drink and 73 ounces for women to drink.
As your level of activity goes up, so does your water requirement. By properly fueling and hydrating your body, you can do more for a longer period of time. When you engage in physical activity, follow these guidelines to replenish the water you lose:
- Drink 15 ounces of water 2-3 hours before activity and another 8 ounces 15 minutes before activity. You want to give your body time to absorb the water. Any water not absorbed is kept in your stomach. If you’ve ever chugged water and then headed out for a run, you’ll know how uncomfortable this is.
- If engaging in constant activity for 90 minutes or longer, drink 8 ounces of a sports drink every 20 minutes to replace the electrolytes lost. The sports drink should be no more than 8% carbohydrate solution, meaning the level of glucose should be less than 8%.
- Drink 15 ounces of water post-exercise. For people exercising at extreme levels, it is best to drink 20 ounces of water per pound of weight lost during the activity. Because most people don’t participate in extreme exercise and won’t experience this level of water loss, drinking a tall glass of water post-exercise should be sufficient.
It is important to not wait until you are thirsty to have a drink. If you’re thirsty, you’re already a little dehydrated. Rely instead in the color of your urine. Amber colored or dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. When you are properly hydrated, your urine should be clear or light yellow.
There are other signs of dehydration as well. The first signs of dehydration include:
- Sticky, dry mouth
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Muscle weakness
Signs of severe dehydration include:
- Very dry mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Rapid heartbeat
- Confusion and irritability
- Sunken eyes
- Cessation of sweating
If you experience any of these symptoms while exercising, stop all activity and drink some water. It is unlikely that you will be hydrated enough later that day to resume exercise. Focus instead on getting properly hydrated so you can continue with your workout the next day.
FitTip: Drinking fluids other than water do count toward your daily goal, so does the water content in your food, but you should not consider these as water replacements. Adults should consume almost a gallon of water each day to maintain proper hydration levels. Have a glass with you at all times; when you empty it, immediately fill it back up. If you care for children, pay close attention to them for signs of dehydration. Their bodies do not conserve and regulate fluids as well as adult bodies so they need to be properly monitored and given appropriate amounts to drink. Encourage them to drink and always having a cup of water within their reach.