Water is a crucial part of our daily diet
PHOTOGRAPH: © JK1991, FOTOLIA.COM
Remembering to sip water can be difficult, especially when you’re busy enjoying the sunshine on a hot summer day. However, as the temperatures rise, so does our need to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is vital for our bodies to function properly and maintain optimal health.
Water is a huge part of who we are. In fact, over 60 percent of the human body is comprised of water. “Our bodies are made entirely of cells, and every cell needs to be properly hydrated to function the right way,” says Andrea Collins, RD with the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.
How much does the average person really need to stay hydrated? According to Collins, the old adage of eight glasses a day is close, but there’s more to it.
“Women need nine eight-ounce glasses of water a day, and men need about thirteen,” she says. Collins suggests eating hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables to help reach these daily hydration goals, as well as avoiding excess caffeine, which is a diuretic.
“When you’re dehydrated, the balance of sodium and potassium in cells is altered and they don’t respond how they’re supposed to,” she explains. “Mild signs of dehydration are dry skin, fatigue, dry mouth, mental confusion, constipation, bad breath and urine that is darker in color. More advanced symptoms include lethargy and muscle cramping.”
Additionally, Collins notes that drinking fluids is especially important for the elderly. “When people get older, their thirst meter decreases and they don’t feel thirsty as much,” she says. “In an aging body, it’s especially important to stay hydrated to help keep it running smoothly.”
For those who are athletic, however, drinking more water is necessary because of the increase in fluid lost through perspiration
“I stay on top of hydration by keeping a cold,
thirst-quenching bottle of water near me
throughout the day so that it’s appetizing to drink,
even when I don’t feel the need to.
I know immediately during a training session
if I haven’t had enough water that day.
I’ll have low energy, feel rotten after the session
and have a hard time with recovery. It’s the same
feeling I get when I haven’t eaten properly,
then expect my body to perform well.”
—Melissa “Mo” O’Reilly
World Ice Swimming Champion
and Lawrenceville native
“For someone who is athletic, getting to know your body comes first when it comes to fueling and hydrating it,” says Eric Schwartz, president of the Athletic Trainers Society of New Jersey, in Trenton. “Everybody is different. Water consumption needs to be assessed on an individual basis.”
For the average active person, Schwartz advises following the simple rule that if you’re thirsty, drink; if you’re not, don’t. However, when it comes to competitive athletes, conscious hydration is important.
“People running marathons should pre-hydrate as well as drink during and after competition to keep their body at peak performance, as well as to sweat properly to help cool them down,” he says. “On the other hand, athletes need to watch out for over-hydration as well. Hyponatremia is rare and has similar symptoms as dehydration, including muscle cramping [and] nausea, and in serious cases can cause seizures or coma.”
One simple way to monitor your intake is by carrying around a water bottle with fluid ounces indicated on it. You can even download an app to track water intake on your phone. According to Schwartz, though, the best way to monitor your hydration level is to weigh yourself before and after exercise to see how much water weight you lost.
If you’re athletic, talk with trainers, nutritionists and physicians to find what’s best for you. Until then, fill up your glass and raise a toast to moderation.