Water: Meeting Your Daily Needs
Stacey Hitesman, registered dietitian
Ever notice how lifeless a house plant looks when you forget to water it? Just a little water and it perks right up. Water is just as essential for our bodies because it is in every cell, tissue and organ in your body – that's why getting enough water every day is important for your health.
Healthy people meet their fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and drinking fluids with meals. But, if you're outside in hot weather for most of the day or doing vigorous physical activity, you'll need to make an effort to drink more fluids.
Most of your water needs are met through the water and beverages you drink. You can get some fluid through the foods you eat. Some broth soups and other foods are 85- to 95-percent water such as celery, tomatoes, oranges and melons.
Water helps keep your body temperature normal; lubricates and cushions your joints; protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues; gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements; transports glucose, oxygen and fats to working muscles; and helps digest food.
It is important to replace the water your body loses through normal everyday functions. Of course, you lose water when you go to the bathroom or sweat, but you even lose small amounts of water when you exhale. You need to replace this lost water to prevent dehydration.
Your body also needs more water when you are in hot and/or dry climates; more physically active; running a fever or ill; have diarrhea or vomiting; pregnant or breastfeeding; and working vigorously outside.
To stay hydrated during prolonged physical activity or when it is hot outside, experts recommend you drink fluid during the activity, drink several glasses of water after the physical activity is completed and drink at least 2 cups of fluid for every pound lost during the activity.
Also, when you are participating in vigorous physical activity, it's important to drink before you even feel thirsty. Thirst is a signal that your body is on the way to dehydration. Signs of chronic dehydration include chronic fatigue, headaches and lethargy. Some people may have fluid restrictions because of a health problem, such as kidney disease. If your healthcare provider has told you to restrict your fluid intake, be sure to follow that advice.
Tips for drinking more water
• Carry a refillable water bottle for easy access when you are at work or running errands.
• Freeze some freezer-safe water bottles; take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
• Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. This tip also can help with weight management. Substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories.
• Choose water instead of other beverages when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
• Give your water a little pizzazz by adding a wedge of lime or lemon. This may improve the taste and you just might drink more water than you usually do.
• Need carbonation? Try seltzer water or club soda instead of sweetened sodas.
• Drink water first before sports drinks. Unless you are participating in more than 90 minutes of a vigorous activity you rarely need to replace sodium/electrolytes that are lost. Most Americans over-consume sodium, therefore, there is no need to regularly hydrate with sodium containing beverages such as Gatorade or PowerAde. These sports beverages have been designed for athletes to consume during performance, not as a daily source of hydration.
Stacey Hitesman, R.D., C.N.S.D., is a registered dietitian at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you’d like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o FMC Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC’s Web site at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.