You cannot live without water. Water makes up about 60 percent of your body mass, 70 percent of your brain, 90 percent of your lungs, and 83 percent of the blood that carries oxygen throughout your body. Water is essential for all of the functions and processes that keep your body going; it transports nutrients to your cells, flushes toxins out of vital organs, and provides a moist environment for tissue in your eyes, ears, nose and throat. Water is needed to metabolize the nutrients that give you energy.
Water is also important for your brain function. Studies indicate that losing 2 percent of the fluid in your body impairs your mathematical ability, short-term memory, and hand-eye coordination.
Dehydration occurs when you do not have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. An unexplained headache and/or lightheadedness can be signs of mild dehydration; you may also feel unusually sleepy, tired, or lacking in energy. If these symptoms occur, try gradually drinking a glass of water. The elderly and children are more susceptible to dehydration, older people because their fluid intake may be reduced, and children because they can lose a lot of water while playing in the heat. Fever and diarrhea also cause the body to lose water. In infants or toddlers, sunken eyes, irritability and few tears when crying are signs of dehydration. Infants who do not wet their diapers for three hours, and older children who go eight hours or more without urination, need to consume more fluids. Whether working or playing, be especially vigilant when you are active outdoors in the Florida heat. Make sure everyone in your group has access to drinking water.
The water you lose every day through your breath, perspiration, urine, and bowel movements needs to be replaced regularly. There is no scientific evidence to support the common notion that everyone should drink eight glasses of water per day, but the Institute of Medicine advises men to consume roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women to consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. This includes all of your fluid intake from soups, coffee, tea, milk, juice, and other drinks as well as water.
The best indication that you are drinking enough water is the color of your urine – it should be clear or light yellow throughout the day. Darker yellow or orange urine is a sign that you should drink one or two glasses of water during the next hour.
During the night your body goes without water for several hours. A glass of water when you wake up in the morning helps to get your metabolism going and give you energy. Drinking water also helps you control hunger and manage your weight.
Any beverage contains water, but when choosing what you are going to drink, consider these facts:
- An average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch contains about 150 calories. If you add one can of a sugar-sweetened drink every day to your diet, you could gain 15 pounds in a year.
- 100% fruit juice can contain as much sugar as soda. A 12-ounce can of soda or juice contains 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children drink no more than 4-6 ounces of 100% juice daily.
- The effects of artificial sweeteners on the human body are still undetermined. Some studies suggest that they interfere with metabolism, or that they cause the body to develop a craving for super-sweet foods.
- Sports beverages are designed to give athletes extra energy and electrolytes during intense workouts. For sedentary people they just mean additional calories.
- A can of light beer contains about 96 calories; some beers contain as much as 200 calories. Other alcoholic beverages are not suitable for rehydration because of their higher alcohol content. Alcohol is a toxin that triggers increased urination as your body tries to dispose of it.
- Unsweetened coffee and tea contain no calories, but they do contain caffeine. Drink no more than two cups a day. Caffeine-free herbal teas are a good choice.
- Energy drinks contain as much sugar as soda, enough caffeine to raise your blood pressure, and additives whose effects on the body are relatively unknown. A recent report, published in the journal Pediatrics, warned that these drinks are harmful to children and teenagers because of their high caffeine content.
- A child feeding study in Texas found that 23 percent of young children were never offered water by their caregivers.
- The metabolism of one molecule of sugar requires one molecule of water.
- Though milk provides nutrients and calcium, it also contains calories and fat. A glass of skim milk contains 91 calories and 0.7 grams of fat. A glass of 2 percent milk contains 122 calories. It is recommended that you drink no more than 2 glasses of milk per day.
- Water costs very little, contains no calories, and has only beneficial effects on the body. Drinking water at regular intervals keeps your body hydrated and at peak performance throughout the day.
If you drink bottled water, be sure to recycle – 75 percent of plastic bottles end up being thrown away in landfills. The best solution is to get a stainless steel water bottle and fill it up at home for free!