By: Julie Rothenberg MS, RD, LDN
As a registered dietitian, people always ask me what the ultimate nutrient is, and I always say, with a slight but confident laugh …. Water. Without water, we just can not survive. Our bodies are 60% water and we are constantly losing it when we breathe, sweat, and digest food. It is commonly known that hydration helps maximize physical performance, but it also has major effects on energy levels and brain function. Studies show that even mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1- 3%) can cause an impairment in mood, memory and brain performance.
It is commonly recommended that we consume 8-10 cups of water on a daily basis.
Water helps to:
- Regulate your body temperature
- Transport and absorb nutrients (IE: water soluble vitamins – vitamins B and C)
- Lubricate and cushion your joints
- Protect your tissues
- Prevent wrinkles
- Regulate kidney function and eliminate toxins from your body: The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water soluble toxin, that is able to pass through the kidneys and be excreted as waste in your urine.
- Promote digestion: Binding with fiber to bulk up stool and make the excretion process faster. However – when you don’t drink enough water – the colon actually pulls water from the stool – making it harder to excrete and you more uncomfortable.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:
- Consume about 16 – 20 ounces (a little over 2 cups) of water 2 – 4 hours before exercise
- 15 minutes prior to exercise, drink between 8 and 10 ounces
- During your work out: Drink 3 – 8 ounces of water every 15 – 20 min. when exercising under 60 min. Drink 3 – 8 ounces of a sports drink every 15 – 20 min. when exercising over 60 min
- If you are sweating heavily, you may need to drink even more water especially if you are out in hot weather
- For every pound lost from exercise – replace it with 20 – 24 ounces of water
Re-think that sports drink:
Unless you are working out for an extended period of time (greater than 60 minutes) a sports drink is not necessary. It provides extra sugars that your body is not in need of.
7 Tips for drinking more water:
- Drink a glass of water within an hour after waking up: Flush the night time toxins from your body, rehydrate after a night’s sleep, and feel energized for the day to come
- Drink a glass of water before every meal: This will help you to fill up before meal time, and eat less during meals. Some studies show this helps with weight loss, especially if you are replacing extra calories from sugary beverages during meals or snacks with calorie free water
- Carry a water bottle with you and keep it at your desk at work: Be sure to choose one that is BPA free. Fill it up at a reliable source – many tap waters are not filtered and have harmful toxins
- Water Prep: Fill a pitcher of water and water bottle before you go to sleep at night to make your water consumption that much easier and mindless during the day. Make sure you have a Britta or water filter to enjoy safe water
- Get a handy dandy water bottle holder for running or biking! : Install a water bottle holder to your bike. Camel backs, bottle holder or hydration belt for runners
- Eat your water!: Many fruits and vegetables contain a high amount of water. Cucumbers (96 % water), Iceberg lettuce (95.6 % water), celery (95.4 % water). radishes (95.3% water), tomatoes (94.5 % water), green peppers (93.9 % water), cauliflower (92.1 % water), watermelon (91.5 % water), spinach (91.4 % water). Broth soups also contribute towards a good amount of water – however be careful with soups because they are often high in sodium which can actually cause water retention and result in dehydration.
- Infuse your water!: Flavoring your water will help to avoid sugar sweetened beverages and soda and also aid to boost your metabolism / add vitamins and minerals from various fruits, vegetables and herbs. See below for some water infusion tips!
Water infusion: Combine one or all of the below:
Fruit: Citrus: grapefruit, lemon, Meyer lemon, key lime, lime, blood orange, orange, tangerine. Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries. Tropical: pear, pomegranate, mango, pineapple, banana, kiwi, star fruit. Melons: honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon. Other: grapes, apples, plums, peaches, nectarines, coconut
Vegetables: Cucumbers, carrots, celery, peppers (hot or sweet).
Herbs: Mint, sage, rosemary, basil, cilantro, thyme, stevia, lavender, parsley
Spices: Ginger, cinnamon stick (ground cinnamon will float), black pepper, cloves
Step 1: Take fruits / vegetables – chop and add to glass or jug. Suggest to muddle or slightly mash the fruit / vegetables to release some flavor– Tip: peel citrus fruits from skin to avoid bitter taste.
Step 2: Take the herb / spice and gently bruise the leaf to release natural extracts / oils
Step 3: Add either filtered or sparkling water – let it sit for any period of time – and drink up!
Some of my favorites include:
- lemon + (mint or cilantro or basil)
- pear + ginger
- cucumber + watermelon + mint
- lemon + orange + ginger
- strawberries + basil
- pineapple + ginger
- carrots + apple + lemon + ginger
Want to know if you’re drinking enough water??
The color of your urine will indicate how your hydration status is:
When you’re happily hydrated: you will have clear urine that is free of odor.
In the depths of dehydration: your urine will appear dark – when your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid to ensure the body maintains function
Don’t have time for yoga?
You’re in luck! By drinking water, you are nurturing your mind, body and soul in just a few sips 🙂