One of the first things you probably hear when you come into CoreLife is that you need to increase your water intake. Why? What’s so great about water? And how is increasing your water intake going to improve your weight loss?
First, the body is about 60% water. Why so much? Well, water is involved in just about every aspect of your health and life. Digestion, absorption of nutrients, circulation, saliva synthesis, nutrient transport, and body temp regulation all require a LOT of water. If you’re dehydrated, every one of these roles is compromised. Water is necessary to keep the cells hydrated and maintaining proper electrolyte balance. Electrolytes are necessary for cell signaling like muscle contractions and relaxation, among other things. So, especially if you’re exercising and sweating out even more electrolytes than you already lose throughout a normal day, replenishing them and the water that helps keep them balanced and allows them to function, is not only essential, but going to make you feel better and perform better.
Water is also necessary to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy. While proper hydration cannot “undo” wrinkles, dehydrated skin is more wrinkly and dry. Additionally, although your kidneys do a great job of detoxifying your body and getting rid of waste, they need a bit of help. The kidneys use urine as the primary method of excreting toxins and waste from the body. Because the cells of the body need water so badly, the body will do whatever it can to maintain its fluid balance. This means that it may hold on to toxins that need to be excreted to avoid losing more water. This makes the kidneys have to work a lot harder to transport waste out. Think of it this way, if you’ve just gone out and done a lot of yard work and are now covered in mud, grass, etc., and you come in to take a shower, which is more effective in getting you clean? A little trickle of water or a nice steady stream? Your kidneys and your body want a steady stream to keep things clean and working well. Dehydration reduces your waste removal to a trickle, slowing the detox process and perhaps even preventing some “dirt” removal altogether. And speaking of waste removal, if you’re dehydrated, your colon will actually “steal” water from your stool to rehydrate the body, resulting in constipation and uncomfortable, irregular bowel movements. Bloating and tummy aches, anyone?
So, how do you get in that necessary water each day? How much is enough? And what are the best sources? First, water is the best source of hydration. Herbal teas are acceptable. Caffeinated beverages like coffee and green or black tea are actually diuretics, which means that cause the body to lose water. Alcohol also results in further water loss, as the body utilizes water in the body to flush out the alcohol. How much? Well, you’ve probably heard the eight 8-ounce glasses recommendation. This isn’t a bad place to start, but might not be appropriate depending on your size and activity level. A good rule of thumb is to aim to keep your pee clear. Yep, that’s right, check your urine color. If it’s a very light yellow with no discernable odor, you’re hydrated. If it’s a solid yellow, or worse, a dark yellow/brown, you’re dehydrated. Get some water ASAP. How? I recommend starting your day with a nice glass of water. Aim to have 2/3rds of your water intake in by midday. If you wait until the evening to chug it down, you’ve spent most of the day dehydrated and you’re likely to spend most of the night up visiting the bathroom instead of sleeping. Try using a large water bottle, one that holds 3-4 cups of water at once. This way, you need to only drink about 2 full bottles a day, meaning you’ll have a better sense of where you are in your daily progress AND you won’t have to keep getting up or remembering to refill your glass. Don’t love plain water? Try adding a bit of lemon juice, a sprinkling of sea salt, and even a drop or two of maple syrup for a tasty, homemade electrolyte drink. And, as we get into the cooler weather, don’t underestimate the power of a nice hot mug of herbal tea. Herbal teas don’t contain caffeine, so you don’t have to worry about the diuretic effect and can get warm and hydrated all at once.
Water helps keep the body healthy and running at its best. It also helps prevent over-eating, as a stomach full of water is unlikely to feel “hungry”, helping you’re your appetite and making sure you’re actually hungry and not just bored. And, if you’re working out (as you should be!) as part of your weight loss plan, replenishing those lost fluids and electrolytes will help make ensure you’re performing at your best and getting the most out of your workout. What’s your favorite way to get your water in?
Aubrey Phelps, MD RDN