When I am asked, what is the most important nutrient, my immediate response is water. Why, you might ask?!?
Well, up to 60% of our body is made up of water; 73% of the brain and heart, 83% of the lungs and 79% of the muscles and kidneys are made up of water. This in my mind solidifies the fact that water is the most important nutrient for our bodies and we need it every day, even before food and before our morning cup of Joe!
Just to drive the point home, an average person can go 3-4 weeks without food but only 3-4 days without water.
What are the benefits of drinking water?
1) Boosts your metabolism
2) Decreases food cravings and amount of food eaten
3) Regulates your hormones
4) Boosts your mood
5) Improves focus and memory
6) Improves digestion
7) Helps regulate your weight
8) Prevents constipation
9) Prevents kidney stones and bladder infections
10) Prevents migraines and headaches
Research shows even mild dehydration can impair memory and mood, from children to adults.
Did you know staying hydrated can help decrease the amount we eat and food cravings? That’s because food does contain water and when our bodies don’t get enough, it can signal us with cravings to eat more so at least it gets some water with our food as well.
Are you getting enough water? Without including exercise, our bodies need at least 1/2 our weight in ounces of water per day. For instance, a 200 lbs. individual needs at least 100 oz water per day. And this does not include exercise, in which case, we need more!
What if you don’t feel thirsty? Did you know our bodies stop sending signals of thirst the longer we go dehydrated? It’s true, I like to use the comparison of walking into a room with a candle burning. You smell it when you first walk into the room, but after a few minutes, you don’t smell it anymore. Has the smell gone away? No, but your body has stopped sending signals to your brain about the smell. The same happens with thirst. After a while, even one day of being a little dehydrated, our bodies may stop signaling we are thirsty. That’s why it’s important to drink water throughout your day, even if you don’t feel thirst.
How do you avoid having to constantly go to the bathroom? Start by increasing your consumption of water by 1-2 cups per day for a few days and slowly increase to your final goal. When you reach your goal, you don’t have to stop there, listen to your body and drink more if you are thirsty.
It’s ok and normal to have to go to the bathroom every hour to two hours, it’s our body’s way of detoxing and getting rid of toxins and waste. Even when traveling, it can be extremely beneficial to stop every 1 – 2 hours. It gives your body a chance to move and feel less fatigued and stiff. Trust me, you will have more energy and feel so much better and less jet lag if you drink water even while traveling.
You will probably notice once you start drinking water, your thirst for water comes back. This is normal and helps us to remember to drink throughout our day.
What counts as water?
2) Sparkling water
3) Fruit-infused water
Teas, coffee, energy drinks, sodas, other artificially flavored drinks and alcohol are not as hydrating, in fact, caffeinated beverages and alcohol dehydrate us.
Tips for getting your water in:
1) Drink 16 oz of water first thing in the morning before your coffee or tea. Water naturally wakes us up, gives us energy and boosts our metabolism without the jitters.
2) Carry a large water bottle with you at all times, even for short errands. I like Hydroflask (I’ve had mine over 3 years! to keep the water from getting too hot in my car in the Texas weather. Or, I like Cactaki water bottles because they tell you how much to drink each hour to meet your daily goal.
3) Fill up your favorite water bottle at night so it’s ready and waiting for you to grab and go in the morning.
4) Stop drinking 1 – 2 hours before bed, just have a few sips instead so you do not wake up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night.
5) Try infusing your water with fruit instead of artificial flavorings or diet sodas. Take a large pitcher, fill it with 1-2 cups of your fav frozen fruit, I like strawberries and basil or lemons and limes, and let it infuse overnight so it’s flavorful and tasty. Then, fill up your water bottle and you’re good to go.
Share with me, how are you doing on your water consumption?
Written by Jill Roberts, MCN, RDN, LD