Confession time: I used to hate the taste of water. Hate is a strong word, but H2O was too plain-Jane for this soda-drinking and Crystal Light-loving gal. My tune has since changed. I’ve ditched the soft drinks and faux juice; I now drink water like it’s my day job.
My twenty pound nutrition textbook talks about the miracle and medicine that is water. I’ll give you the Coles Notes. Adults are at least 60% water. Water is the main component of every fluid—think blood, tears, lymph, and more—found in the body. It also plays a role in just about every function from digestion and absorption to circulation. Basically, water is a rockstar.
To maintain hydration, a minimum of 12 cups of water needs to be consumed each day. This 12 cups can be spread over the water that you drink, release during digestion (about one cup), and the water found in food (an average of four cups). So, this will differ if you’re eating water-rich fruit or living off processed goods. That leaves you with 7 or so cups of H2O to knock back. Not so bad, right? You can even enhance the taste naturally with lemon, cucumber, mint, ginger, lemongrass, berries, or citrus.
Keep in mind, if you’re active, sweltering like a hog in the summer heat, or drinking coffee and energy drinks—both of which can stimulate water loss—you’ll need to up your H2O quota.
Dehydration is a major league problem. Chronic disease, such as arthritis, depression, high blood pressure, migraine, asthma, back pain, and chronic fatigue, can be connected to too little water.
Your skin can also act as a window into water levels. Ever wonder why a baby’s skin is so soft? They are close to 80% water in the first year of life. Now, we may not be able to maintain baby-soft skin forever, but dry skin, dry eyes, and headaches can be a sign that you’re running low on H2O.
I drink around four litres of water per day. This changes with temperature, when I’m biking in the heat, or exercising heavily. I’m not hard-core about hitting this number, but it’s what I crave and how I feel best. If I haven’t consumed enough water in the morning, I almost always experience a muscle cramp during my afternoon workout.
Have you ever heard someone say that, if you’re hungry, you should try drinking some water first? Well, I’m all about eating when you need to eat. But, water aids the process of releasing and using elements of energy stores. So, if you’re body can’t access its nutrient inventory, it may signal that more is needed.
When I first prioritized water, I started with what felt like an attainable goal of two litres per day. In the first days of a habit, incremental and consistent steps are key. I filled a one litre bottle of water in the morning and promised to finish it by lunch. Some days, that meant small sips throughout the AM. Other days, it meant chugging at noon. I don’t recommend the latter, but I got it done. I re-filled the bottle and drank its contents before dinner. I used a Nalgene® bottle with measurements on the side, so there was little math, no adding up cups here and there, and zero excuses.
When you’re building a habit—make it easy. Your brain will find any reason to do what it has always done. Before bed, I fill up a large mason jar with water and leave it on my bedside table. The first thing I do each morning is drink one litre of water. And, hey! It’s already there and only an arm’s reach away. See? Easy! Drinking water upon rise gets your body, digestion, and bowels (TMI!?) moving and grooving. It also sets you up for a hydrated day. Try it and feel the difference.
From experience, I didn’t even know I was dehydrated. I don’t remember feeling bad, until I drank enough water—then I felt infinitely better. Now, I never leave the house without my wallet, cell phone, and bottle of water; H2O is the best accessory.
If talk of one or two litres seems scary, can you drink one, two, or three cups of water more today than yesterday? Be kind to yourself, but be dutiful. After all, more water means more life.