Monday, 21 February 2011

How Much Water to Drink a Day?

As the summer sends temperatures soaring, more and more of us are paying attention to how much we're drinking... our throats scratchy and dry, aching for some relief from that parched feeling. The thing is, if you feel thirsty you're probably already dehydrated according. But the question most people want to know is, 'how much water to drink a day?'.
Next to air, water is essential to our survival and good health, making up about 60% of our total body weight. While we can exist without food, the body can go without water for only a few days. Every system in the body needs it, to flush toxins, carry nutrients to cells and offer a moist environment for the tissues of the ear, nose and throat.
We lose water every day though breathing, sweating, urine and moving the bowels. It's important to understand that your need for water will depend on many factors - how healthy you are, how active you are, and where you live.
Any doctor or nurse will tell you that the human body works far more efficiently when hydrated properly. Many believe that we're not getting nearly as much water as we should, and many of us may be chronically dehydrated.
Lack of water leaves the body without the water it needs to carry out normal functions, and this can leave you feeling overheated, exhausted and lightheaded. You're also at increased risk of an electrolyte imbalance, muscle cramps and are at a higher risk of heatstroke until you replace the water your body needs.
It's important to understand that dehydration is a risk for anyone, even those we think of as "in shape". Remember when General David Petraeus fainted at a Senate Armed Services committee meeting recently? Dehydration was the cause. Workers cleaning up the BP oil spill are also battling dehydration as they work in brutally hot temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.
But is the old recommendation of 8 glasses a day still correct?
Many experts say no, that we need a good deal more than this.
Men should have over 13 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Women need 9 glasses a day, though if pregnant or nursing she should be drinking even more.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to keeping your body hydrated - if you rarely feel thirst and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or slightly yellow urine a day, you're taking in enough fluid to meet your body's needs.
It's important however not to confuse liquid with water. Soda, juices and other drinks don't count toward the recommended amounts. Nor do water filled foods like watermelon, tomatoes, eggs and celery count, though they are delicious. Other good choices of fluids, if water isn't available, include milk, herbal teas, low salt broth or 100% fruit or vegetable juices.
Getting the recommended amount of water not only gives the body the fluid it needs, but it also helps quash your appetite, a huge bonus for anyone trying to lose (or maintain) weight. Drinking two glasses of water between meals, as well as another while you're eating is one suggestion to be sure ensure you get enough liquid throughout the day.
Naturally if you're planning to do heavy outdoor work, or an intense workout, you need to drink a lot of water, especially as the temperatures go up. Drink two glasses before you exercise, the first one to two hours beforehand, the second a half hour before your workout. Have an additional two glasses 10-15 minutes before your session.
During the workout drink a half a glass of water every 15 minutes. After the workout is over drink two more glasses of water if you're thirsty, as this is accounting for all you lost through sweating. If you'll be out for a while, and are intent on performance, consider adding a sports drink to the mix. Avoid sugary drinks as this can cause stomach discomfort for some people, leaving them bloated, gassy and even nauseated... not the best way to feel for an effective workout. So when it comes to how much water to drink a day, while there are guidelines, it will vary from person to person depending on their hydration requirements.
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