And we’re not talking Dianetics
We’ve all been told the same old story about how important it is to drink 8 glasses of water a day, and how the body is 65-75% water in a hydrated individual, but how often do you see the WHY? Why 8 glasses? Is that for you, or me, or does it not matter? What about the HOW? How is the body made up of so much water, yet regularly people fall short on a daily basis to consume the coveted 8 glasses… and they don’t die? For those individuals it makes sense to assume that water makeup will inevitably drop to a lower percentage… then lower… then lower, right? What is too low? I get that it’s a dramatic example, but really, why all the fuss about water?
The Fun Facts:
Water is by far the most abundant frame-worker in the body. It meticulously touches many of our daily functions including the transport of oxygen, nutrients, and waste products both in and out of our cells. Considering the fact water is a necessity in all avenues of both digestion and absorption, lubricates the mucous membranes in the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and respiratory tract, and serves as the medium for most chemical reactions in the body, you can see how paramount your level of hydration then becomes. Water accounts for 35% of what’s cruising along in your arteries and veins, and 65% of what’s beyond that. I repeat… 35% of what is coursing through your veins and retuned to your heart is water! That is huge! Especially when you consider what the heart then does with that retuned blood (runs it through the lungs for fresh oxygen), more specifically, pumps it out to literally touch every aspect of your functioning body. Are you piecing together yet how this affects even the layperson, let alone someone who is enduring rigorous work or training?
The Sad Facts:
Due to its relevant nature water then becomes either friend or foe (in a case of lack there of) to an individual. Since this is the “Sad Facts”, let us use the example of a person who under hydrates – How is this so harmful? I guess the simplest way to illustrate this is to look at the 35% water makeup that composes our blood. This very blood either supplies every inch of our body with oxygen rich blood to properly function at its highest capacity, or retrieves the waste and/or unneeded elements to be find its way out of the body. Losing any of this 35% leaves your body looking for the almighty homeostasis, and it does so by drawing out water from outside sources and/or intrinsically starting a variety of cascades to tell the body, “preserve what we have!” Whether it’s a mountainous cascade or redistributing water to compensate, all of this takes energy to conduct. None of this is a free pass, and take a guess at what plays an enormous role in metabolic reactions involving energy production? You got it, WATER! So now we have a body that internally is working harder to no fault of its own all because you decided the liquid in soda or juice is more than enough water to keep you on par (that is a whole other can of worms, so we’ll stay on topic). The heart begins to pick up speed leading to an increase in breathing to keep up with what the body is cycling in and out of our system. It’s a vicious cycle. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Take this into account as well – as your body’s overall water count steadily drops, the core temperature raises. This becomes a huge damper when someone tackles physical activity which innately increases your core temp. Which you guessed it – thermal increases also increase the heart and its workload. The faster things are moving the more sugar you burn through and the more lactic acid you accumulate. To an athlete this whole vicious cycle is flat out detrimental! When you truly think about what it is our blood keeps going, the trickling effect down to even the smallest of things, you can easily see how chronic dehydration can render severe consequences or even acute dehydration can persuade someone’s performance.
Some More Fun Facts:
The beauty of this all – the body is smarter than you. In the end, your body can and will make so many adjustments just to keep things running smoothly, so much that you sometimes have to push its limits to even notice things are off. Don’t think after all I said in the above writing that I’m downplaying staying hydrated, because piggyback on the fact that in most scenarios are body can hold it together to a high threshold before you feel it, but that’s the problem – by then you are way behind.
Understanding What You Need
The 8 glasses of water works out to 64 ounces or 1.9 liters, which is only one-half gallon of water. This may seem like a lot to some and nothing to others, but let’s put it into some perspective. The average person who lives averagely from sunrise to sunset loses close to a liter of water just through breathing and 1.5 liters through urination. Think about that – just existing, not doing anything extraordinary you lose more water than you take in, if of course you abide by the 8 glasses rule. This doesn’t account for water taken in through certain types of food, of course there are many variables to this whole thing, but we’re just talking from the standpoint of an average individual being gloriously average. This discrepancy prompted The Institute of Medicine to redefine the parameters in which we use to address water intake. They even went as far as to account for typical water intake through food, but still amounted a whopping 3 liters or 101 ounces for men and 2.2 liters or 72 ounces for women as the daily recommended water intake. This again is for the layperson, not accounted is the athlete or construction worker. Unfortunately for the people who live beyond average lives with varying activity levels, it’s a game of “knowing your body”. It’s been said that a good rule of thumb is to drink an extra 12 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of working out. It’s a worthwhile starting point, but remember it’s completely relative from individual to individual.
Here’s the kicker, you can overdo it. Paracelsus, a 16th century scientist took a bold stance that anything, dependent on dose, can be poisonous. The American Chemistry Society released a YouTube video showing all it takes is 6 liters to kill a 165 pound man. For some athletes that is nothing in regards to consumption of water, but again, even water is relative. How can water be so toxic? The short – one of the many functions the kidneys serve is to flush out what we don’t need and keep what we do. There comes a point that you can overwhelm the kidney and inevitable turn it on you by allowing much of this overdone water remain in your system, essentially watering down insanely important electrolytes. Sodium (Na) and Potassium (K) virtually keep your heart going by way of a 24/7 run Na/K pump, Calcium (C) plays a huge role in muscular contractility and its essential function, Magnesium (Mg) plays roles in countering that of calcium by being a potent smooth muscle relaxer, the list goes on. All of these electrolytes begin to lose sight of what their roles are, and especially sodium, which is a huge player in the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord. The excess water dilutes the cells and voila! You are not on a straight path to seizure – coma – death. Womp womp womp.
The Best News
It’s really simple. As stated above, it’s just about being mindful of your daily activity and recognizing that water should be your first go-to when trying to quench thirst – your body will thank you. If you’re out in the sun and/or sweating excessively, you’re losing both water and electrolytes, so be mindful and consume a sports drink, but get this, match it with water as well – your body will thank you. I cannot recall where I read it, but a certain study on water and athletes suggested something as simple as 20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before activity will help prime the body and be ahead of the curve when it comes to potentially dehydrating once activity commences. That doesn’t mean you’re out of the park, you still have to hydrate during whatever activity you take on, and equally important for hydration is once your activity ends. Many of our body’s daily “issues” can come back to not being properly hydrated. That isn’t to say it cannot be something more, but the harsh reality is that subtle and/or severe effects of skimping on the water are real. So drink up.
Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “ Make sure to stay hydrated, or you might die.” Just kidding, but the truth still remains – stay hydrated!
Your Body Will Thank You