Published on June 10, 2017
For years, researchers and health experts have recommended drinking eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day. I agree that that should be the minimum. I do not agree with those who say it’s not necessary to drink at least that amount, that there are other ways to get water into the body through so-called “water equivalents”—any liquid substances that aren’t 100% water, but provide water/hydration to the body, such as 100% fruit juices, coffees and teas, electrolyte drinks, fruits and green-leafy vegetables. Water is water. A juice is a juice. A vegetable is a vegetable. Water in its natural state is water, by no other name.
When I meet clients for the first time many, if not most, not only have bad eating habits, but they also are in the habit of never drinking water or hardly ever. They consider the sodas they drink, the bottled name-brand ice teas they consume, the multiple coffees and teas they have each day, and the fruits and veggies they might eat as being enough. It is not. I make sure they understand the important role that water plays in the body, and why not only is 8 cups a day the minimum they need, but that for every 25 pounds they must lose I am going to add another 8-oz cup to their daily tally. So, for example, if someone has to lose 50 pounds, they should be drinking 10-12 cups of water a day. As I explain to them, let me share with you why water is so important.
Water has four bottom-line functions in your body:
. . . and that’s why we’re built with so much of it! It’s not a coincidence!
Almost 60% of the human body is water.(1)
Now, to make the point of just how much water that is in our bodies, take a look at the diagram immediately below. Down the right side I’ve listed as many parts and functions of the body as I could immediately recall that requires water for proper function and good health. ALL total comprise 40% of your body. Then, look at the left: The other 60% (or more) is water.
So, and as I ask younger kids to do, imagine that all the listed body parts on the right are animals —elephants, rhinos, giraffes, deer, tigers, etc.—that you might see on a National Geographic TV special and ALL of them are drinking out of the same desert watering hole on the left, and as they do, the watering hole becomes smaller and smaller. Well, the whole long list of your body parts are drawing on the same 60% pool of water in order to function at normal levels throughout the day.
OK, now let’s talk about losing water.
Most people only understand that they lose water through their sweat because obviously you can see yourself sweating. However, you also lose water through breathing, sleeping, talking, everyday simple activities such as getting in and out of your car, climbing up stairs, walking your dog, cleaning the house and then of course through exercise. Through it all, the water level in that 60% pool is getting lower. But, the 40% of “all the rest of you” (all those body parts on the right of the diagram) still needs the right amount of water for normal, optimal function, right? So, what happens when the water level in the pool goes down but your body needs it to be at capacity?
When the body is threatened by a lack of water, it starts holding on to every drop it can find and storing it in “extracellular” spaces just outside the cells of your body. So, from that now-smaller pool of water is where the body starts pulling water and storing it. What does this mean exactly?
Imagine that you are that little blue circle in the middle, and the gray circle around you is the swimming tube you used when you were a kid. Your swimming tube was filled with air and it was puffy, right? Well . . . when your body’s cells starts storing water in those extracellular spaces, that ‘puffiness’ is what you know as ‘bloating’ or ‘water retention’ and shows up on your body as swollen feet, legs and fingers. (This is why, to give you an example you’ll recognize, after overnight sleep of 6, 7 or 8 hours or more — during which time of course you aren’t drinking water and are becoming dehydrated — your ring fingers will be puffy; and if you fell asleep with your watch on, your watch will be tighter on the wrist.)
And let’s not forget where your body is taking the water from in order to store it: From your brain, blood, muscles and bones. When your brain doesn’t have proper fluid, you get fatigued, have trouble focusing or concentrating, and can become dizzy. When your blood doesn’t have proper water, it becomes thick, and your heart has to work harder to pump and that affects your blood pressure. When your muscles and bones don’t have proper water, you can get terrible cramping. Lastly, since water is a major component in the efficient waste removal from your body, when your colon becomes dry, what happens? Right . . . you become constipated.
So, what does all this have to do with weight loss?
. . . it weighs 3-1/2 pounds!
So, if you’re not peeing it out, it shows up on the scale!
In order to prevent yourself from becoming bloated, you need to drink water all day. The ‘weight’ of the water you drink will prevent the cells of your body from storing; it will push excess water out. Urination is your body telling you, “Thanks, I have enough and I’m releasing the rest.” It might be convenient for you not to have to urinate throughout the day, but it is not healthy.
– * –
Finally, I want to say two more things as relates to water: one to answer a question I’m often asked by clients; and one to advise as a public service announcement, which I explain to every single client, especially in the summer.
Is it possible to drink too much water? Almost never. 99.99% never. Our kidneys are equipped to efficiently process 15 liters of water a day . . . an equivalent to drinking about 60 glasses of water. There is, however, a rare condition called psychogenic polydipsia that does cause one to drink an unhealthy amount of water. Abnormal thirst exhibited by people with this illness is based on a psychological disorder rather than on dehydration.
It’s almost summer here in the northeast, and millions of people will head to beaches and pools. Way too many people don’t drink any or enough water at these locations: sodas, six-packs of beers are too commonplace . . . as is people falling asleep on beach chairs and towels. Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because heat stroke (when the body can no longer sweat to cool itself while the body temperature is rising) results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, usually in combination with dehydration . . . which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. The medical definition of heat stroke is a core body temperature greater than 105 degrees. Sounds high, right? But, do you know how easy it is for that to happen when summer temperatures are in the high 90’s and low 100’s? VERY.
Fainting may be the first sign of heat stroke. Now, if you’re standing up when you happen to faint and fall, well obviously people will see that and come to your assistance quickly. But, if you’re already asleep, and were dehydrated before that, and becoming more so while sleeping, and your body temperature becomes too high, and you faint or suffer heat stroke while you’re asleep, who’ll notice? People won’t realize how long you’ve been asleep until you’re already in trouble: Some of the signs are uncontrolled muscle contractions, and muscle breakdown leading to the release of toxins in the blood which may cause cardiac arrhythmia and death. Believe it: People do die every year. Plus, if you initially fell asleep exposed to the sun, instead of under an umbrella for example, you will also suffer the consequences of a really terrible, excruciating painful sun burn.
So, please folks, make sure your drink of choice at the beach or pool is water. Lots of it. If you decide to take a nap, ask someone to poke you in an hour to wake you, and then drink water . . . and do the same for whoever you’re with on those occasions, especially younger kids and older adults. And although it might seem weird or make you feel a little funny, if you happen to see someone lying still in the sun (especially if they’re alone) for hours without moving, bring it to a lifeguard’s attention and have them wake that person. Or do it yourself. They’ll be grateful for your concern, as I know you would be if someone did that for you.
In my post, It’s What You Don’t See That Can Kill You, I take you through the conversation I have with every new client to make them see what they don’t see when they look in the mirror: The ugly, visceral toxic fat that’s lurking inside their bodies. Well, I also take the time to have “the water conversation” with each of them as well. Why? Because I understand that in order to change their soda-only, six-pack-of-beer nightly, 5 cups of coffee a day habits, I have to create the ‘visual’ of what’s actually going on inside their bodies and educate them on how crucial water is for proper body function and good health. Water must be a daily habit, not only for their bodies but for their brains. It’s my job to make them see, and I hope that I’ve done that with you today.
__________________1 The Water in You; The USGS Water Science School, 12/9/15
10 Things Experts Wish You Knew About Water Weight