These days, there is so much attention placed on protein and carb intake, essential fatty acids, and supplements that it’s easy to see how something as simple as the importance of water can be overlooked or taken for granted.
Your body is 70% water, and every physiological process that takes place in your body – including fat burning and muscle development – depends on water. Water is necessary to regulate your body temperature, to transport nutrients, and to build tissues. Water is also required for energy production, joint lubrication, digestion, circulation, respiration, nutrient absorption, and excretion. So, a steady state of hydration is critical to your fitness success and to your health in general.
It is not uncommon for thirst to masquerade as hunger. When the body is dehydrated, it often sends hunger signals. Therefore, it is crucial to stay well hydrated throughout the day. As a rule, drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day.
There is also a widely accepted method of determining individualized water needs, developed by nutritionist Keith Klein. Klein recommends determining .66 times bodyweight, in pounds, to determine water needs in ounces. With this formula, a 172-lb. male would need 113 ounces per day, and a 125-lb. female would need 82 ounces per day. To get this estimate from your weight in kilograms, simply multiply your weight times 2.2 to convert to lbs. then multiply this number by .66 to get the approximate amount of water you should drink a day.
When you plan to attend a big dinner engagement, drink a few extra glasses to keep your appetite under control. And if you think you are hungry, drink a glass or two of water first; then decide if you really are hungry or just thirsty.
However, do not fill up on water with the intent of decreasing your appetite and/or hunger pangs. Filling up on water instead of eating a well-balanced meal will make you feel bloated and temporarily full. However, by the next meal, you may be so famished that you will eat anything in sight. Filling up on water to feel artificially full is not dealing with your physical hunger, but rather avoiding it. It will only reappear even greater later on.
If you wait to drink water until you are thirsty, you are already partially dehydrated. Try to drink water throughout the day to maintain a steady state of hydration. If your body isn’t getting enough fluids, it may send signals to you to eat more to obtain these fluids.
However, filling up on juice, ice cream, soda pop, popsicles, Gatorade®, or other sports drinks to cool off and replace fluids does not address the real problem, and it adds many extra calories. Most of these foods do not effectively replenish the fluids in your body because of their high sugar content; you will most likely still be thirsty and feel unsatisfied.
Many of the fluids people drink are, in fact, dehydrating. Alcohol, coffee, and tea are just some of the fluids that don’t return water to our system after it is lost; they simply do not work to re-hydrate us. Below are the signs of dehydration. Be sure to watch for these symptoms, as you can prevent dehydration if you attend to them by drinking more water.
– Fluid retention, such as swollen ankles.
– Dizziness or confusion
– Elevated heart rate or a weak fluttering pulse
– Urinating only small amounts or a dark urine color
Most people don’t drink simply to quench their thirst. Instead, they respond to a psychological need: they simply want to enjoy the taste of their favorite beverage. Changing from coffee or soda pop to water is a drastic change for most people – just like going from a cheeseburger to a veggie burger may be too drastic of a change all at once. People may shift to drinking water because they feel they should, rather than because they enjoy the refreshing taste of water.
Making the switch gradually to drinking water assures that you will soon develop a taste preference for water. Rigidly switching from soda to water is unlikely to become a permanent change. Adding water to your favorite beverages will help you gradually learn to enjoy and prefer water. It also makes beverages more appealing to the eye and palate, and will allow you to eventually appreciate the natural and refreshing taste of water.
Here are a few tips to spice up plain old water:
- add a splash of low sugar fruit juice such as cranberry, apple, or grape juice
- add a twist of mint
- add a squeeze of orange, lemon or lime
- make ice tea or crystal light
As you can see staying hydrated is crucial to your success! It’s really is a simple step that can make a huge difference in your overall success!
Your fat loss coach,
Kim Lyons, BS, CPT
Best-selling author of Your Body, Your Life
Co-trainer on The Biggest Loser
Your Fast Track to Fat Loss Coach