Water gives you energy in more ways than one
By Jennifer Motl
Boost your energy, stamina and memory, and reduce your risk of diabetes and being overweight. This sounds like a scam, but it’s actually an accurate description of what drinking enough water can do for you.
Yet Americans fall woefully short—indeed most of us are slightly dehydrated, according to NHANES, a national survey of our eating and drinking habits.
Drinking enough water may reduce the risk of diabetes, according to startling new research. Scientists monitored 3,600 French men for nine years. Those who drank more than four 8-ounce cups of water daily had a 20 percent lower risk of high blood sugar, compared with men who drank half as much.
Scientists say water affects the kidneys’ production of a hormone, vasopressin, that can affect blood pressure and blood sugar.
Other intriguing research shows that drinking cold water can actually cause the body to burn more calories. Israeli researchers found that overweight children who drank extra water increased their metabolic rates. Theoretically, the water alone could help them to lose about 2.5 pounds a year.
The studies on water and diabetes and weight need to be replicated. But many studies already show that drinking enough water can reduce the risk of kidney stones, ease constipation, and make people feel more energetic.
Our bodies are composed of 55 to 75 percent water. Even minor dehydration, 2 percent or so, can decrease athletic performance.
But you don’t have to be an athlete for this to be important. Any activity that requires physical stamina—from shoveling snow to carrying groceries to dancing—feels better when you’re hydrated. Water can even ease some headaches.
And drinking enough water doesn’t just make you feel better physically. It makes you feel more alert, helps you concentrate, and even improves your short-term memory, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
EIGHT CUPS OR MORE?
How much water do you need? It depends. Needs can range from the oft-cited eight 8-ounce cups of fluid a day, to 13 cups for women who are breast-feeding, and as much as 26 cups a day for athletes competing in hot weather.
Someone running a marathon in Florida obviously would need more water than someone sitting at a desk in a climate-controlled office.
To find out if you’re getting enough water, check the toilet bowl. Not to be rude, but your urine should be clear or pale yellow. If your urine is dark yellow, you need to drink more fluid.
Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to dehydration. As we get older, we’re less sensitive to thirst, and that’s not a good thing.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need lots of extra fluid. And having a fever, vomiting and having diarrhea also increase your needs for fluid.
If you’re sweating due to heat or exercise that lasts an hour or longer, you likely will need not just water, but minerals.
You don’t need to drink Pedialyte, Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks unless you like them—regular and chocolate milk also are good sources of fluid and electrolytes.
Another trick is to weigh yourself before and after your workout. Then drink as much fluid as you lost. For example, if you sweated out two pounds (32 ounces) during the workout, you would drink four cups (or 32 ounces) of fluid.
It’s easier to get enough water than it sounds. There’s usually no need to buy fancy bottled waters, which are often lower in fluoride than municipal water.
Instead, invest in a good-quality water bottle that you can refill and reuse. I like the wide-mouthed bottles—they’re easier to clean than bottles with small necks. Stainless-steel or aluminum water bottles are durable and keep water tasting fresh.
Some plastic bottles give an off flavor to the water. If you prefer plastic anyway, look for a bottle that’s BPA-free.
Consider carrying your water bottle almost everywhere—while shopping, exercising, driving, and everything else.
When eating out, consider drinking only water. It’s easy on your wallet and your waistline.
If you don’t like plain water, spruce it up. Try adding sliced lemon, lime or cucumber to your water, or a combination of the three. It’s really refreshing. Or use the water to make mint or chamomile tea—these herbal teas are caffeine-free.
Caffeinated drinks like black tea, coffee and colas do count as fluid, but the caffeine can make you urinate more, thus losing more water.
Sweet beverages such as lemonade, fruit juice and soda also count as fluid, but they contain so much sugar that they are not as healthy as water.
Water is the most important nutrient—we last only a few days without it.
With enough water, you can survive and thrive, feeling more energetic. And it costs less than other beverages. What a steal!
Jennifer Motl welcomes reader questions via her website, bright eating.com, or by email at healthy firstname.lastname@example.org.