Water! H2O! We all know what it is, and maybe even have a bottle of it at your side all day, every day! You might not think of it as a nutrient, but it’s an essential component in our diet! It serves many functions that you might not have thought of. Let’s talk about water for a bit, just to give you an idea of how important it is (without getting too sciency!)
What does water do for my body?
Water makes up the fluids in your body. It’s the primary component in blood, lymph, and the fluid within and between cells. It’s everywhere in your body, and it does so much more than just lubricate!
In our blood vessels, water maintains blood volume and affects blood pressure. It keeps blood fluid so that the nutrients traveling in the blood can get to the cells that need them. Conversely, it helps to carry wastes to the kidneys, lungs, and through our pores to excrete them.
In (and outside) our cells, water maintains electrolyte balance. Electrolytes are minerals that exist as ions in our cells – they have a charge. Sodium (Na+) and Chloride (Cl–) come from table salt (NaCl) in our diets, and are very important to the functioning of our cells. Water makes sure that the correct concentrations of these electrolytes exist both inside and outside of cells, to avoid them from rupturing or collapsing.
Water acts as a solvent for nutrients so that they can participate in metabolic reactions. It also participates in some of these reactions!
Water is a lubricant for our joints, within the eyes, and in the spinal cord. Without water, there would be a whole lot of friction going on! Ouch.
Water is also great at regulating our body temperature, even through more than just sweating. It regulates where in the body blood can travel to provide heat. If you find yourself out in the arctic (why are you out there?!), blood will tend to stay in the abdomen to keep your vital organs alive, knowing that you can keep living without those extremities of yours! Bye bye, toes!
There’s more than a few good reasons to drink water throughout the day!
How much water do I need?
You’ve probably heard of the “8 glasses a day!” recommendation for water, which isn’t a bad rule! It’s actually not easy to make one solid recommendation due to the differences in height, weight, activity level, and your environment. There is a rule of thumb that says you should consume 1 to 1.5 mL of water per calorie you burn throughout the day. There’s an easy way to find out how many calories you burn throughout the day (or, at least, a good estimation). But if you’re not interested in that, let’s make it simple: If we can assume 1/2 C (120mL) of water is required for every 100 calories, and the average person burns 2,000 calories, that means we should be drinking about 10 cups of water per day. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to be measuring mL and portioning out my water – I have enough to keep track of! Here’s my recommendation:
If you’re thirsty, you’re already a bit dehydrated. Drink water until you’re no longer thirsty. Keep drinking water to avoid the sensation of thirst from returning. Drink it throughout the day as you want. Keep a bottle or glass nearby so it’s always there, and not a chore to have to go alllll the way to the kitchen to get some. Take a bottle with you when you leave the house so you don’t have to buy a drink while you’re out.
Here’s the thing – we get water from more than just water itself! It’s in our diets in the form of other beverages and foods. Fruits and vegetables can be up to 90% water! Even meats are 50% water. You’re getting water even when you’re eating – but you still should be drinking it by itself to keep yourself totally hydrated.
Water is awesome!
I know! It’s such an important component of our bodies, more so than people think. Make a conscious effort to drink more water to keep your body balanced and happy. Think of it as an essential nutrient like protein or vitamins, and you’ll (probably) never be thirsty again!