Our bodies are made of between 60% and 75% water. The difference in the percentages is accounted for by a lean body mass. Individuals who have more muscle will have more water because muscle holds more water than fat. This means that over half of the weight that we carry around each and every day is comprised of fluid. Our cells are filled with fluid, our arteries are filled with fluid and our veins are filled with fluid. Our heart pumps approximately 1 1/2 gallons of blood through our body over and over again. Even our eyes are filled with fluid. There is fluid that circulates around our brain and fluid that is helps to cushion our joints.
Any fluctuation in our hydration can change the way in which our body functions. Fluctuation in hydration can also change the numbers on your bathroom scale. Some of today’s bodybuilders who participate in competitions will purposely dehydrate in the hour of their competition in order to make their muscles appear more defined.
Water actually plays a multitude of roles in our body and in health and wellness you can enjoy each and every day. For instance, the amount of hydration that we maintain will play a significant role in fluid retention in the body. Most months women of childbearing age experience their menstrual periods. During this time they often also experience bloating, or the subjective and objective belief that they are retaining water. In fact, bloating can occur at almost any time of the month and especially when an individual becomes dehydrated. In order to reduce these affects we should drink at least 96 ounces of water each day so that our body does not hang onto any extra fluid and we excrete the proper amount.
Our lungs expel between two and 4 cups of water each and every day, just through normal breathing. More water is expelled on cold days. Our feet can sweat up to a cup of water a day, especially during heavy exercise. And, although a person would have to lose 10% of their body weight in fluid to be considered clinically dehydrated, it takes as little as 2% to affect athletic performance, critical thinking abilities and cause an individual to feel tired.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration can include excessive thirst, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, little to no urination, muscle weakness, dizziness and lightheadedness. However, one interesting and little known fact is that the first sensation you have when you are thirsty is the feeling of hunger.
There is actually two different ways to determine how much water and individual really needs based on their specific requirements. Most of us drink water just to quench our thirst and rely on perceived need. However, this is not always accurate and leaves most of us functioning slightly dehydrated on a daily basis. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink about 13 cups of water per day and women drink about 9 cups of water each day based on national food surveys that assess people’s average fluid intake. (1)
Ultimately, an accurate measure of how much water you are drinking boils down to the color of your urine. It should be very light to colorless and you should be headed for the bathroom at least every three hours. Each of us will also find a variety of factors will influence the need for water in our diet. The amount of exercise we engage in, the environment in which we live, any illnesses or health conditions and whether or not we are pregnant or breast-feeding will influence the amount of water that our body requires.
Water also drastically decreases your appetite. By maintaining adequate hydration we increase the amount of fat that is used for energy in the body and improve the ability of the liver and kidneys function. The liver functions to assist in the filtration of the blood of waste products and ultimately eliminate them from the body. However, this is only done adequately when the kidneys have plenty of water with which to work. When the kidneys are deprived of water it lowers the total productivity of the liver to excrete waste products. This alone sets the body up to store more calories as fat.
It is also important to spread out the amount of water we drink throughout the day. Guzzling down 40 ounces of water in the morning and 40 ounces of water in the afternoon is not the healthiest way in which to get your water intake. Try to create a habit for yourself during the day by taking three or four times when you drink a large glass of water. If you feel yourself getting thirsty then you have already become dehydrated.
If you get bored by drinking large amounts of water try adding a few squirts of your favorite fruits, such as a slice of lemon, lime or small amounts of very juice. This will help to flavor the water while not adding the extra calories, sugars and additives that you get by drinking other flavored waters.
Consider stopping any water intake at least two to three hours before going to bed. By drinking all the way up to bed time you increase the risk that you will be running to the bathroom throughout the night. You will probably awaken slightly thirsty and so should drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning. Creating these habits in your life will help to encourage a healthy lifestyle that results in appropriate weight loss, adequate amounts of energy and sufficient waste removal.
(1) Institute of Medicine: dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water