Raise a Glass: A Toast to Water

April 2024

by tiffany ricci

One could argue that water is the most essential nutrient. But we’re friends here, so let’s not argue. Instead, Let’s dive into this incredible nutrient together to learn the roles water plays in our bodies, how much we need, and ways to increase our intake. Grab a glass of H2O and settle in - reading about water is bound to make you thirsty. 

Water is incredible because it’s the only substance on earth that naturally exists in three forms - gas, liquid, and solid. And it’s one of the few substances where the solid form is less dense than the liquid form.  

The unique properties of water suit our human bodies perfectly. Depending on the source, humans are made of about 60% water. Different tissues and systems contain different amounts of water, with our brains consisting of 73%, our lungs at 83%, and our skin at 64%. Because of this, our bodies need more water than any other nutrient - 50 times more than protein! Why do we need all this water hanging around in our bodies? Water has many roles in the body, including: 

  • Carrying nutrients throughout the body 
  • Cleansing the tissues and blood of wastes 
  • Participating in many chemical reactions of metabolism 
  • Lubricating the joints 
  • Maintaining body temperature 

Because water is so important, we need to maintain a good water balance. Dehydration is an example of water imbalance - a water loss. Dehydration can stem from illness but is most often related to insufficient intake. Dehydration can lead to a whole slew of problems including, but not limited to, headache, fatigue, decreased mental functioning, impaired physical functioning and athletic performance, constipation, and dental disease. 

You can see that some of the typical "overwhelmed" symptoms - forgetfulness, fatigue, and headaches - can be linked to dehydration and could be improved with a consistent and adequate water intake. 

Adequate? How much water do we need? Well, that depends. Several factors play into how much water you need. According to the National Academy of Medicine, men need about 13 cups (1 cup = 8 ounces), and women need about 9 cups daily. These are general guidelines and will likely need to be adjusted for age and body size. Additionally, other factors that play into water requirements include climate and environment - cold weather, hot weather, humidity, altitude; medication use; exercise frequency, intensity, and duration; your dietary intake of fiber; and your sweaty-ness or sweat rate (a sweaty sweater loses more water).  

The recommended daily amount of water can seem higher than your thirst sensation. As it turns out, thirst is not always the best indication of our water needs. For example, thirst can manifest itself as hunger. If you’ve ever felt hungry and nothing was satisfying - that might be a thirst sensation. Our thirst also decreases with age, so we must rely on recommendations and urine color to guide us.  

As you can see, hydration needs are highly individualized. For a baseline, though, you can generally assess your hydration level by the color and smell of your urine (adjusting for factors like medications, supplements, and breastfeeding). More concentrated urine (with less water) will have a darker color and stronger odor. Urine that is pale in color (light lemonade) without a strong odor indicates a positive hydration status. You may have fluctuations in the morning and after exercise, so check the toilet before you flush for a few days to see how your hydration level is doing.   

If you're far from the recommended daily amount of plain water, you can get there by increasing it incrementally. Add a cup (8 ounces) of water daily per week. For example, if you're starting at 5 cups of water daily, try 6 cups a day for this week, 7 for the next, and so on until you reach your goal.  

We know you're busy and on the go. It can be challenging to reach your goal. We've got some great tips to help you get there: 

Decide how you like your water. 
  • Ice cold or room temp? 
  • With a straw or without? 
  • In a glass, plastic, or metal water bottle? 
  • With meals or mostly in between? 

When you drink water how you like to consume it, you’re more likely to get the ounces you need daily. 

Use Reminders 

From apps to alarms to visuals - there’s a way to remind you to get your water in. 

  • Apps such as Waterllama, Water Time, and My Water (to name a few… there are tons out there!) can remind you to get your recommended amount of water daily. 
  • Old school options like an alarm on your phone can remind you to get in those sips hourly.  
  • A visual reminder might do the trick. Designate a daily pitcher of water you need to consume each day. Leave it on the counter or in the fridge so you'll know to refill your water bottle until the pitcher is empty. 
Track It 

Creating a habit tracker for your water intake might motivate you not to break the streak. Avoid chugging water at the end of the day by setting a schedule of when to get in your water: 2 cups first thing in the morning, 2 cups before lunch, 2 cups with exercise, and another two cups before dinner. Track your progress and keep your tracker visible to motivate you by your streak of water days.  

Dress up your water 

Water can be a little bland if you’re accustomed to sweetened beverages. Switching from soda or energy drinks can be challenging when your water lacks flavor. The good news is that our taste buds will adjust to a lack of sweetened beverages over time. While you’re adjusting - you can add a flavor punch to your water by: 

  • Infusing a pitcher of cold water with a combination of some of the following: 
  • Lemon, lime, or orange slices 
  • Crushed mint leaves 
  • Peeled cucumber or fresh ginger 
  • Raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries 
  • Sipping on flavored sparkling water. We call it “fizzy water,” but it’s also called bubbly water. These are made without sugar, a hint of flavor, and some carbonation, which can be quite refreshing.  

Water is an incredible nutrient that is essential in our bodies. To function at our best in nearly all facets of life, we need to stay hydrated. We’ll certainly clink our glasses to that!  

Originally printed in the April 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here!  

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