As an individual with a proclivity for the outdoors, it seems that I am almost always losing and replenishing my body with water. Whether at my desk, hiking the trails or during an intense “sweaty” yoga experience, having a giant vat of water with me has become integral in my daily activities. However, outside of the vague suggestions that I have received from coaches, instructors and health professionals, water and its effects on the body remain somewhat of a mystery to me, and now that the summer heat is settling heavy on all of our activities, it is the perfect time to discover the importance of water while striving for total health and wellness.
1. Understanding Hydration
I know water is important for hydration, but I’m not quite sure what this means or what the consequences are of dehydration. Predominantly seen in its ability to regulate body temperature, hydration can simply be understood as the body’s ability to manage water through perspiration and metabolic function. Drinking water promotes health and wellness by helping carry nutrients around the body and promoting healthy organ function by flushing out toxins through perspiration and urination. Conversely, dehydration can have adverse health effects such as low blood pressure, headache, fatigue, hunger and disorientation and can be identified with symptoms such as lethargy, dry or sticky mouth, and uncharacteristically low levels of perspiration. Personally, walking around with the feeling that I have spent the last 3 days locked in the Phish tour bus is not ideal when trying to stay active and make myself available to those in my life, so I’m going to say hydration is pretty important.
2. Water & Weight Loss
Beyond helping us stay healthy and active, drinking copious amount of water may help us lose and maintain a healthy weight. By replacing sugar-laden sodas, juices and gourmet coffee drinks with water, we can eliminate a significant amount of calories that are often overlooked in weight management strategies. Another way that water works its magic is helping to eliminate thirst that is often mistaken as hunger. Sometimes it is hard for us to differentiate thirst from hunger, so the next time we experience hunger at an unusual or inconvenient time, drinking a large glass of water may be an effective tool in helping us discern our “real” need. Of course, I am not suggesting that we deprive ourselves of the healthy foods that are vital to comprehensive wellness, but drinking a large glass of water before indulging in a large bag of flaming hot Cheetos may be an easy measure to prevent an unsightly junk food binge.
3. Serving Suggestions
Although I love and trust my yoga instructors advice to “drink tons o’ water,” it might be nice to have a little guidance on how much is needed to ensure adequate hydration. Unfortunately, the guidance on this is not so clear cut and varies for each person contingent on a number of variables. Although I have heard countless times that we need eight (eight ounce) cups daily, sweating out a baby’s weight in water while working out has taught me that I need to adjust this number up to approximately 12 cups. This, of course, may be excessive for some, so sound advice is to drink until you are no longer thirsty. A common strategy used when determining how much water is needed to stay hydrated is to simply remain conscious of how we are feeling and be able to discern the signals of dehydration. I believe that our bodies are very intuitive and are well equipped to help us determine the right amount of water we need to stay healthy and well.
Water is fundamental to total health and wellness, and by staying hydrated, we can better participate in life and make ourselves available to those placed before us in our journey to happiness.