We all know that water is essential for life. Without it, we would only survive a few days! Not only that, but being hydrated is essential for health as it supports every cell and function in our body.
Water makes up 60% of the human body so it only makes sense that without it our body would simply fail to function. It is the primary component of your blood; it helps to protect and lubricate your joints and helps us to digest our food. It also helps to stabilise our blood pressure and heart rate and helps to regulate our body temperature and mineral levels.
When we are dehydrated we immediately feel the negative effects on not just our physical health but also on our mood and level of concentration. We experience headaches and dizziness, fatigue and lack of energy overall and struggle with constipation. The list of health issues would go on and on. But what about weight management? Does our level of hydration impact on how easy or difficult it is to lose weight? Read on...
With most things, it is all about BALANCE! Believe it or not, it IS possible to have too much of a good thing! If we drink TOO MUCH water we can experience an entirely different array of health issues although it is very difficult to get to this stage as most of us tend to drink too little.
But, there are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink, what influences our water levels and how it affects our weight loss efforts. Let's try to clarify some of this....
How much water does the human body need?
We have probably all heard the advice, "drink 8 glasses of water every day!" Right?
But is it really that simple? How big do those glasses need to be? Is 8 glasses enough for everyone no matter their gender, size or activity level? Maybe 8 glasses is too much for some.
Some health professionals recommend simply listening to your body and drinking as much or as little as it takes to quench your thirst. The human body in most cases is extremely smart and has built-in notification signals to alert us to imbalances of all kinds; whether this is minerals, vitamins, enzymes, or our water level. These notification signals are otherwise known as symptoms. The problem is we often ignore symptoms in the hopes they will go away on their own. This is how long-term health issues develop....because the underlying cause of our symptoms isn't addressed and fixed so the symptoms keep reappearing.
If we think about our water level, our body shows us plenty of "symptoms" to alert us when water levels may be out of balance. Besides thirst, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.
There are a few other things to consider when evaluating your hydration status. If you’re sweating a lot, or are in a hot/humid climate, then logic says you should drink more. Breastfeeding moms, elderly people, and people at risk of kidney stones need to drink more water too. So do people who experience vomiting and/or diarrhea, as both can quickly dehydrate our bodies.
What counts toward my water intake?
All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs. But be careful....some fluids and foods can also take away from your overall water retention.
To increase your water intake, naturally drinking fluids predominantly made up of water is the best choice. But if you're not drinking pure water, consider the negative effects that the other ingredients in those fluids have on your body.
Drinks containing sugar such as alcohol, soda and juices will mess with your blood sugar balance and often end up leaving you feeling thirstier than before!
Alcohol can make you feel out of control and in extreme circumstances can damage your liver when consumed in excess.
And what about caffeine? There has been a lot of confusion around this common ingredient...
Most people believe that caffeine leads to dehydration because it falls into a category called "diuretics". Diuretics tend to promote the removal of water from the body via the kidneys. Now, if you are taking high dose caffeine pills, or drinking excessive amounts of espresso coffee which contains very little water content, then sure, this can cause fluid loss. But the idea that coffee and tea don't count toward your water intake is an old myth. While caffeine may make you have to go to the bathroom more as a result of the diuretic effect, that effect isn't strong enough to negate the hydrating effects of its water content. Plus, if you drink it regularly, the diuretic effect is even smaller as your body adapts. So, don’t worry that you have to counteract each cup of coffee or tea with an equal sized glass of water. That isn't necessary.
And don't forget, foods that are high in water content also add to your daily water intake. These include common fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water content, so they are good sources of hydration.
So, you don’t need to count your plain water intake as your only source of hydration. All fluids and foods with water count.
So does a well hydrated body actually help to lose weight or is this a myth also? Well this is actually true! It does in several ways.
How does drinking water help to lose weight?
1. Water helps to boost the body's natural metabolism.
If you focus on drinking ice cold water at regular intervals, the temperature "shock" will boost temporarily speed up your metabolism which will help to burn calories much quicker.
2. Water helps to cleanse your body by removing waste products
When we eliminate toxins from our body regularly, our body is allowed to function optimally. Less toxins in our body means less of a burden on the major organs, specifically the liver and pancreas. And when these organs are able to function at their best, blood-fat and blood-sugar levels are properly maintained. Both of these levels are important for effective, long-term weight loss.
3. Water helps to reduce feelings of hunger and therefore reduces cravings
Often, when we think we are hungry, drinking a glass of water can take away the urge to eat and the craving for unhealthy snacks. This is often the case when we aren't in fact physically hungry but instead are emotionally hungry. If a glass of water negates the need to eat, then you are more likely dehydrated and/or struggling with negative emotions or boredom than actually hungry.
4. Drinking water helps stop the body from retaining water which cuts down on bloating
It may seen backwards, but it is true. The more water we consume, the less our body feels the need to retain water which results in bloating and swollen joints. If we deprive our body of water, similar to when we deprive our body of calories, the body goes into its natural survival mode and hangs onto what little water and calories it has. Give the body what it needs to survive and thrive and excess water will freely leave the body taking toxins with it.
You cannot apply a "one size fits all" approach to how much water everyone needs to drink in a day because there are too many different variables to consider. However, you can safely say that children, pregnant women and the elderly should drink more than an average adult because their body needs extra hydration to function optimally. People trying to lose weight should also consider drinking more water than usual to support their weight loss efforts. We also need to consider that at certain times we all need to increase our water intake, for example when experiencing episodes of vomiting or diarrhea. The simple solution is to pay attention to your thirst and other signs and symptoms of dehydration such as dark urine, sweating, constipation, and kidney stones.
Water is your best source of fluids both for health overall and for successful weight loss. But other liquids, including caffeinated ones, help too. Just consider the effects the other ingredients have on your health as well. And many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don't forget about them. Avoid sugary drinks and foods at all costs and focus on food and drink rich in pure water content wherever possible.
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Recipe (Hydration): Tasty hydrating teas:
You may not love the taste (or lack thereof) of plain water. One thing you can do is add some sliced or frozen fruit to your water. Since we learned that you could hydrate just as well with other water-containing beverages, here are some of my favorite herbal teas you can drink hot or cold.
● Lemon Balm
● Rose Hips
● Lemon Verbena
Hot tea - Place tea bags in a pot (1 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey and slice of lemon, if desired. Serve.
Iced tea - Place tea bags in a pot (2 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey, if desired. Chill. Add ice to a glass and fill with cold tea.
Tip: Freeze berries in your ice cubes to make your iced tea more beautiful and nutritious.
Serve & enjoy!