Before we go anywhere with the sports nutrition idea, we must talk about water. Agua. 水. Eau. Wasser. νερό. Acqua. I’m getting too carried away with Google Translate.
Water constitutes about 60% of your body weight and even more for the children. Water does this for us:
- Maintains the structure of molecules like protein and glycogen (storage form of carbohydrates)
- Carries nutrients and waste products throughout the body
- Participates in metabolic reactions
- Maintains blood volume
- Aids in body temperature regulations
- Lubricates our joints, eyeballs, spinal cord, and amniotic sac for all you preggo’s out there
- Maintains osmotic pressure to balance electrolytes
- And the most interesting of all (I think at least) is waters ability to support the proper functioning of our senses. Hearing waves are transmitted by fluid in the inner ear. Fluid in the eye is involved in reflection of light. And for taste and smelling senses to function, the foods and odors need to be dissolved in water! Neat!
When we have an inadequate fluid intake our blood becomes concentrated (because the blood has lost the solvent but not the solutes, yay basic science!), our mouths become dry, and the hypothalamus (brain center that controls water balance, temperature regulation, and appetite) initiates drinking behavior. On the flip side when we have drunk too much the stomach expands and stretch receptors send signals to the brain signal center to stop drinking. You will most likely recognize this when your stomach feels like there is a watermelon in there and you hear sloshing when you walk. Basically, our body has a good way of knowing if we need more water, or if we have had too much.
One thing to be aware of is that thirst drives a person to drink water, but usually this lags behind the body’s actual needs. At this point you may even be close to dehydration. I say this because a lot of people aren’t water lovers. It’s not easy to just grab a glass of cool refreshing agua. So just because you don’t feel thirsty, doesn’t mean you don’t need to be drinking water!
So how much should a person be getting a day? General rule of thumb is you want to get about as many milliliters as calories you eat or expend each day in water. This usually equates to 2-3 liters a day (8-12) cups per day. But I like to tell people to just drink half your body weight in ounces every. single. day. If you are a training athlete or working out in heat, aka sweating a lot, replace the fluids lost!! The only way to do this without getting too scientific, is making sure your urine is clear.
Some other interesting things about water that may be news to you is that:
- Michaud and others found that men who consumed the most water had a decreased risk of bladder cancer because increased water intake could flush carcinogens from the bladder and colon.
- Some dietitians believe that increased water intake may help one reduce excess fat in the body-weight control program by increasing the sensation of fullness and suppressing hunger.
- The more water you consume the less chance you have of developing kidney stones
- More water = fewer asthma attacks
- And more water (when replacing soda’s, fruit juices, and coffee) contributes to better dentition!
If you still aren’t convinced and drinking more water is still going to be a drag for you, go out and buy a fun new water bottle! I recommend this to everyone who struggles. It’s nice to have a cute bottle with you all the time and you will be more motivated to drink water when you look so stylish. If that fails, remember that you can get water from food sources as well. Usually the average person gets around 350 ml (~12 oz) of free water from food sources. Especially from melons, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. And if all else fails, go get yourself some of those Crystal Lite® or Propel® flavored water packets. Or the Now® ones if you want to be more “natural.”