When we were kids in school, we learned that each molecule of water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. We also learned that it was great fun to fill up our squirt guns with water, at least until the principal caught us. What we really didn’t learn, however, was how much water we needed in order to be healthy human beings.
Why We Need Water
Our bodies are estimated to be about 60 to 70% water. Blood is mostly water, and our muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. Water is needed to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all our organs. Water also transports oxygen to our cells, removes waste, and protects our joints and organs.
Signs of Dehydration
We lose water through urination, respiration, and by sweating. If you are very active, you lose more water than if you are sedentary. Diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol cause us to lose water by tricking our bodies into thinking we have more water than we need.
Symptoms of mild dehydration include chronic pains in joints and muscles,lower back pain, headaches, and constipation. A strong odor to your urine, along with a yellow or amber color indicates that you are not getting enough water. (Note that riboflavin, a B Vitamin, will make your urine bright yellow.) Thirst is an obvious sign of dehydration and in fact, you need water long before you feel thirsty.
How Much Water To Drink
A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That gives you the number of ounces of water per day that you need to drink. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink at least 80 ounces of water per day. If you exercise you should drink another 8 ounce glass of water for every 20 minutes you are active. If you drink coffee or alcohol, you should drink at least an equal amount of water. When you are traveling on an airplane, it is good to drink 8 ounces of water for every hour you are on board the plane. If you live in an arid climate, you should add another 2 servings per day. As you can see, your daily need for water can add up to quite a lot.
The best source for water is plain, pure drinking water. Juices and sodas have a lot of sugar in them and aren’t a good source, so if you drink them, they don’t count towards your daily amount. Diet sodas aren’t a good choice either. Herbal teas that aren’t diuretic are fine. Sports drinks contain electrolytes and may be beneficial, just look out for added sugar and calories that you don’t need.
Carry A Water Bottle
It may be difficult to drink enough water on a busy day. Be sure you have water handy at all times by keeping a bottle for water with you when you are working, traveling, or exercising. If you get bored with plain water, add a bit of lemon or lime for a touch of flavor. There are some brands of flavored water available, but some of them have sugar or artificial sweeteners which you don’t need.