The importance of Water to your Health and Wellness
Drinking enough water is one of the biggest challenges for many people looking to improve their health and wellness. But how much water is enough?
Did you know that you need to drink approximately 3% of your body weight in “good quality water” each day in order to stay completely hydrated? Generally this means that for every 1kg of body weight, you need to drink 33ml of water. So if you’re 100kg, you need to drink around 3.3 litres of water each day. So why do you need it? How do you get “quality water”? How do you get more water into you during the day?
Why do you need it?
Water regulates your body temperature and transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, aids in digestion, protects joints and even helps you to breathe – your lungs need to be moist in order to take in oxygen. Failure to consume an adequate amount of water slows down and inhibits many of the bodily functions that you need to occur every second in order to maintain optimal health.
So what is “quality water”?
Tap water has chlorine added to kill off bacteria and parasites but the smell or taste is not enjoyed by some. Bottled water is usually sterilized or purified to remove harsh chemicals and bacteria but it can become quite costly if all you drink is bottled water. Water filters have varying levels of chemical and mineral removal but they often take out the good stuff too. So what are our options?
If you read the label on some of the more expensive brands of bottled water, you will notice that this water contains a higher content of dissolved mineral solids than their less expensive counterparts. This water contains “good” minerals that the body needs in order to maintain optimal performance and are often filtered out by water filtration systems. So how do we get the “good minerals” back into our water?
Although we have long heard about the benefits of lowering our salt intake, the addition of a pinch of “pure, unrefined sea salt” to every litre of water that we drink will assist our bodies in maintaining the delicate balance of water and minerals we require. Due to its pure, unrefined properties, sea salt, that hasn’t been treated or bleached, is slightly grey, pink or purple in colour and is tasteless when added to the water in such a small quantity. If sea salt is perfectly white then at some stage in the treatment process it has been bleached. Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Rock Salt can commonly be found in Health shops. The salt also gives the water a softer, more palatable texture which means generally, you want to drink more of it.
How do I know if I’m not getting enough water?
Some of the more common symptoms of dehydration are listed below:
• Sore muscles and joints
• Poor muscle tone and size
• Water retention.
If you’re not drinking enough, your body may retain water to compensate.
Thirst is an obvious indicator that you need more water but most often, you need water long before your thirst tells you so. As we age, our bodies become so used to not having enough water that our thirst becomes a poor indicator of our body’s need for water. A note of caution, the thirst reflex is often mistaken for the hunger reflex. Often you will feel hungry when you actually just need water. If you’re not sure whether you’re thirsty or hungry, have a glass of water, wait a few minutes and see if your hunger goes away, if it doesn’t, think about the last time you ate and consider whether you are actually hungry or still thirsty
How to get more water into your day
If you’re not currently drinking enough water, it can seem a daunting task to increase your intake. Below are a few tips you might like to try:
• Keep a bottle of water on your desk to remind you to drink regularly
• Drink 2 glasses when you get up in the morning, preferably 20 minutes before you eat, 2 glasses between breakfast and lunch, 2 glasses between lunch and dinner and 2 glasses after dinner (can be modified to ensure you meet your daily water intake requirements)
• Setup a reminder in your online calendar or phone every hour to remind you to drink water. If you need to go to the office water filter to grab a glass or water this has the added benefit of getting you up out of your seat on a regular basis
• Carry a bottle of water with you when you run errands or shop so there’s no excuse for not having access to water
• Order a glass or bottle of water when you first arrive at a cafe or restaurant
• Add a bit of lemon or lime for a touch of flavour if you get bored with just water. There are some brands of flavoured water available and whilst this is not ideal, it may help you make the transition to just water.
• Watch out for extra calories with flavoured waters. If you don’t like the taste of water and need to wean yourself off the sweeter drinks, start with a very diluted concentration of cordial and water and gradually reduce the concentration of cordial until you can comfortably drink water on its own.
What’s the big deal? It’s all liquid anyway?
Our bodies need water, free of chemicals, in order to maintain an optimal balance and facilitate the many biochemical reactions which take place every second. Other fluids such as caffeine, tea, diet drinks, alcohol and manufactured beverages contain dehydrating agents or diuretic properties which are toxic to our bodies. Whilst these drinks often contain water, the consumption of diuretic agents results in the need to drink more water because they trick your body into thinking you have more water than you need. Some sports drinks or vitamin waters are useful for topping up during exercise but always read the label to ensure you are not just overdosing on kilojoules or sugar.
Add a bit extra for exercise
If you’re planning to exercise, plan to manage your water intake too by:
• Ensure your body is fully hydrated prior to the event or activity. Typically this means that urine is clear or very pale in colour. Air-conditioned offices and work places can dehydrate the body. If you’re working outside then you really need to up your water intake. Add to that exercising as part of your health and wellness activities and you really need to be conscious of how much fluid you are losing and need to replace before you exercise.
• Taking every opportunity to drink some water during the event or activity. Even if it’s only a few sips, waiting until you are thirsty often means you are already dehydrated. Planning post activity fluid replacement. The amount of water required to replenish the body’s stores depends upon the activity and duration but a common rule of thumb is to drink a litre of water for every hour of activity once the activity is complete or keep re-hydrating until urine is clear or pale in colour.
Good Health is about doing the right things on a consistent basis so start small and increase your water intake by a glass or two each week until you reach your required intake.