If you love water, you must love me! Water is mostly what I am made of. Water, the liquid portion of our cells and tissues, makes up more than 60 percent of our body weight. It is the nutrient the body needs in the greatest amount. Every cell, tissue, organ and nearly every life-sustaining body process needs water to function.
Water needs vary greatly for each of us depending on the foods we eat, the temperature and humidity in which we live, our activity level and other factors. Generally speaking, however, women need about 2.7 liters of water each day (91 ounces or about 11 cups) and men about 3.7 liters (125 ounces or 15 cups). Periods of intense activity or high temperatures result in higher sweating and will increase our water needs.
Water enters the body primarily through liquids and foods. Water leaves the body through evaporation of sweat, moisture of exhaled breath and excretion.
We maintain a balance of water in our bodies with help from electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium. Electrolytes are electrically charged particles found in body fluids. For example, if the sodium (salt) content is high, the body will stimulate thirst to drink and absorb more water to maintain fluid balance. During periods of high water loss (e.g. hot weather or exercise), it may be helpful to eat some salty snacks to help retain cellular fluids or stimulate thirst.
Here are some other suggestions to add more water to your diet:
n Choose water instead of soda at vending machines and restaurants.
n Drink water, skim milk or juice (limited amounts) with meals and snacks.
n Add extra water to juice or juice beverages.
n Limit alcohol intake, as it increases urine output causing dehydration.
n Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as they contain water.
Carrying around a water bottle is also an excellent habit to begin if you haven’t already. It allows you to drink normal amounts of water at regular intervals throughout the day. This makes it easy to absorb and retain fluid to keep you hydrated. Drinking large amounts of fluids all at once (e.g. when you feel thirsty) causes your stomach to fill up. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot absorb it all at one time, so much is lost through urination.
We are approaching another long, hot, summer. Get outside and enjoy the beautiful parks and activities the Las Vegas Valley has to offer, but heed some advice.
If you are going to exercise or participate in physical activities, especially outdoors, prepare for potential dehydration problems.
Hydrate slowly for about two hours before your activity to allow time for fluid absorption and then drink periodically during the activity.
Beverages such as sports drinks loaded with electrolytes can provide fluid and help the stomach absorb fluid better. Be careful, however, that those containing carbohydrate concentrations don’t exceed 8 percent (or even less), as highly concentrated carbohydrate beverages reduce gastric emptying.
Adults older than 65 also should rehydrate before and during exercise but should consider the risks of excess water or sodium retention. Because older adults are slower to excrete water and electrolytes, too much water or sodium can cause the body to retain fluid and contribute to high blood pressure.
It is clear that water is an important part of our regular diet. We drink it by the glass, we get it from foods we eat and we even use it to prepare instant foods. I guess it’s a good thing water is easy to purchase and prepare, because if we had to buy instant water, what on earth would we add to it?
Annie R. Lindsay is an assistant professor and exercise physiologist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She conducts research and programming in adult fitness, physical activity, body image and childhood obesity prevention. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.