The Importance Of Water
Our bodies are made up of 60% water. With air being the most essential substance for our survival, water is second. We need hydration before nutrition. We can live up to 14 days without water, when we can survive without food for up to 8 weeks. The other functions of water are; keeping joints lubricated for movement, keeping mucous membranes moist and keep our core temperature regulated. (See Figure 1)
Figure 1: What Water Does For The Body
Photo Courtesy of: brighstarcare.com
Water is essential, because it has the ability to move things that are attached to it. Minerals, vitamins and nutrients are suspended in water and hitch a ride to all of our cells. One of these nutrients is: oxygen. Anything that travels through our bloodstream is carried by water to wherever it is needed. Water also has the ability to permeate any of the cells in the body to move the nutrients inside of the cell. (See Figure 2) It also helps tears to flow and moisturizes the mouth, the nose and the lungs to humidify the air that we breathe.
Figure 2: Water/Cell Transport
Photo Courtesy of: magistralearning.com
Water also flushes out chemicals and toxins from the body. It also helps to flush out the byproduct of fat cells after they are broken down. Water can also help keep blood sugar levels stable, by diluting the concentration of glucose and helping the kidneys excrete it in the urine. If you eat a high carbohydrate meal or extra sugar, you can drink extra water to help flush out the excess sugar or glucose. If byproducts of exercise or excess glucose remain in the body it can be very hard on the liver, kidneys and blood vessels, without extra fluid to flush them out.
When you increase exercise, you sweat and your body loses sodium and water. Water in the body regulates sodium levels and water does not contain enough sodium to replace any that is lost. Drinking extra water can deplete sodium and therefore, sodium must be replaced with an electrolyte solution. Water alone causes a condition called Hyponatremia. This happens when too much sodium is lost and not replaced. Water alone cannot replace sodium.
Water and Weight Loss
The more fat tissue in our body’s the less water we have. This is because fat tissue takes up more space in the body. As you lose fat weight, the requirements for fluids in the body will increase. In order to lose weight in a healthy way, we need to slightly cut the calories we take in and increase the number of calories we burn every day. Increasing exercise will help to burn off fat cells and break them down. During this time, we need to increase our intake of water to replace the space where fat is lost. This will also help us measure “true weight loss” because most initial weight loss is fluid loss. (See Figure 3)
Figure 3: Water Gain/Water Loss
Photo Courtesy of: flatworldknowledge.lardbucket.org
Water is also important during weight loss, because after fat cells are broken down they are transported to other organs to be broken down even further and the waste products of the fat cells are flushed from the body with? You got it, water. However, increasing your intake of water will not actually cause weight loss. True weight loss all depends on how you eat and exercise. Just remember, water is vital during diet and exercise to help the body receive all the valuable nutrients and minerals it needs. It will also help prevent dehydration during periods of heavy exercise and flush out the toxins leftover from fat you burned off during exercise.
How Much Water Do You Need During Dieting?
In normal situations without diet and exercise, the body needs at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. This will keep the body adequately hydrated without taking into account extra needs due to sweating. The only relationship water has to weight loss, is not drinking enough fluids can cause fluid loss and you may think you are losing weight. This is true in the first weeks of dieting when most weight lost is actually fluid losses. Fluid loss in dieting happens a lot with fad diets. Diets that encourage the body to go into starvation mode can cause fluid loss. This is why many fad diets do not work long-term. Many people find that after the diet ends they gain the weight right back. That is due to fluid loss and not weight loss and the body was actually dehydrated, when you begin to take fluids back in, you gain the weight back.
During dieting and exercise, the need for water increases. It is important to take in enough hydration prior to exercise. The recommended amount for pre-exercise is up to 20 ounces 2 or 3 hours before you exercise. Then drink another 8 to 10 ounces 15 minutes before you exercise. During exercise, drink 8 to 10 ounces every 15 minutes during exercise. If you exercise longer than a 90 minute period, you will need sodium replacement with a sports beverage. Drink this every 15 to 30 minutes of exercise over 90 minutes. Remember to rehydrate yourself after exercise and include carbohydrates and protein to replenish any important lost nutrients.
It is important not to over-hydrate your body. Too much water can flush out electrolytes and cause a condition called “water intoxication.” This happens when the extra water depletes your sodium and other vital electrolytes. Complications of this condition include; swelling in the brain and other body tissues. Sodium helps keep water in the bloodstream and only the needed amounts in the other tissues. Make sure you do not drink more than recommended amounts.
There are other situations when increased fluids are necessary including; hot days, high altitudes and when you take in caffeine. All of these situations can dehydrate you. If you are dieting and exercising at high altitudes or in hot weather, increase your fluids to 16 to 32 ounces every hour and maybe more if you are extremely high in altitude (over 10,000 feet) or extreme heat. Remember to take in extra electrolytes during these types of situations and avoid caffeine if you can.
Water is great during weight loss because it will also help you feel full and decrease cravings. When you feel hungry and it’s not time to eat yet, try reaching for a glass of water instead. Sometimes our bodies may misinterpret dehydration for hunger. The good thing is water is calorie-free! It is shown that people, who drink a glass of water before meals, eat less at each meal. Also, water boosts your metabolism to digest and burn the calories you ate more efficiently.
Water will not cause actual weight loss, but it is needed to help flush out the byproducts of dieting. Water is essential during periods of increased exercise to replenish vital elements that are lost and keep the body hydrated. It can also help decrease food cravings and snacking by filling you up temporarily. Water is a very helpful tool for dieting and your body will thank you!