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Water as important to your body as breathing

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What you put into your body is just as important as how you move it. Sport trainers and dieticians stress the importance of drinking enough water, especially if you exercise. But why do you need it? And what is 'enough'?

Water is the most abundant and most significant substance in the body, because the body needs it for everything it does. Water carries oxygen and nutrients, and flushes out toxins and waste. It lubricates joints, and regulates body temperature to keep organs from ‘overheating’. It aids in digestion and metabolism, the process that converts food into the fuel we need to power everything we do.

Water accounts for 60 to 65 per cent of total body weight. Muscle and tissue is 70 per cent water, while your blood is 90 per cent water. Drinking water throughout the day allows you to keep an optimum amount of water in your system, so your body can draw from it as needed. Just like you need to keep the water pump in your car at an adequate level, you also need an adequate supply of water available in your body.

When your body becomes deprived of water you become dehydrated, which saps your energy and makes you tired. By the time you’re feeling thirsty you are already dehydrated, which can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, cramping, dizziness, headaches, and other symptoms. If you continue without water, your organs will start to shut down, and you will eventually die. While the human body can survive for months without food, it can only go a few days without water.

In addition to all the internal functions of water, it can also improve your outward appearance. A well-hydrated body will emanate a ‘healthy glow’ over time, help make your hair shiny, and eyes brighter. And since water has no calories and is an appetite suppressant, drinking it instead of high-calorie beverages can aid weight loss and make you look leaner.

Despite its significance to our very existence, most people do not drink enough water. Instead, we choose coffee, tea, soda, fruit juice, milk, alcohol – anything BUT water. The average person might drink only one or two glasses of water each day out of sheer thirst. The key is to drink enough to avoid becoming thirsty. How much water we need daily depends on factors like age, what you eat, level of activity, the weather, your health, and what medications you take. A general rule to follow is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. This means a person who weighs 200 pounds should drink 100 ounces of water each day.

An easy way to check if you’re getting enough water is to monitor how often you go to the washroom, and the colour of your urine. If you urinate often and the colour is pale yellow or nearly colourless, you are getting enough. If the urine is dark yellow with a strong odor, and you go less than four times per day, your body likely needs more.

It’s important to balance the amount of water going into the body with the amount being used, especially when it comes to exercise. If exercising is part of your life, you need to drink even more each day to make up for the loss of water through sweating, and increased muscular and cardiovascular functioning. Adequate fluid intake for athletes is essential for comfort, performance and safety. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is. A good guideline is to drink 15 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercising. During the session, take small sips regularly to avoid becoming thirsty. Afterwards, consume another 15 to 20 ounces to replenish.

Here are a few tips to help increase your daily intake of water.

Form a routine: Drink a glass when you wake up, have one with each meal, and one in between each meal. Get into the habit of having water at regular times each day.

Keep it bottled up: Fill a plastic bottle and carry it with you. Take it in your car and keep it beside you at work. When it’s empty, fill it up again. Sip from it all day, with the goal of keeping yourself from getting thirsty.

Remind yourself: Set your watch to beep every hour, or include reminders throughout the day in your computer calendar. Track each glass and make sure you’ve met your daily quota before bed.

Make it flavourful: Squeeze fresh lemon or lime into your water. Add chopped ginger or a dash of fruit juice. Put mint leaves, cucumber slices or melon cubes into a pitcher and let it sit in the fridge overnight for a delicious dose the next day.

Ask for it: When dining in restaurants, always ask for water. Make a point of drinking your water first before enjoying a coffee, soda, or glass of wine.

Appreciate it: Each time you take a sip, think about all the good things it does for you. Become aware of how it makes you feel, and appreciate the life it allows you to live. Recognize water as being as important to your body as eating, sleeping, and even breathing. Because it is.

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