by Sophia Pollalis
Water. We can’t live without it. Our planet (and we) would die if it disappeared. We get excited when we find water or remnants of water on other planets because it means life to us. That should get you excited about water.
WATER IS LIFE. We are born in it. We bathe in it. We play in it. We are soothed by its sounds. It allows life within it. We utilize it for transportation. We are sustained by its ability to join forces with heat to harden an egg or soften potatoes (which are my favorite). These qualities and uses of water are amazing, but the most important thing we should be doing with it is drinking it.
Water is essential to our bodies. If we don’t drink enough, we die. If we drink too much, we die. There’s a large amount of leeway between those to extremes that allow us to survive, but how much is optimal? For years the general thought was drinking 8 cups of water per day. Some people say, no! You should be drinking so much more! Others said 8 cups was too much.
We don’t have to figure it out, we have to trust our bodies. Most people can get adequate hydration from drinking when they’re thirsty. The trick is differentiating between hunger and thirst. One thing I have found useful in differentiating this is drinking some water whenever I feel hungry. If that feeling doesn’t come back, I’ve quenched my thirst and I wasn’t actually hungry. The only time not to follow this is if you’re working up a sweat; you need to replace the fluid that you’ve lost1.
What if you don’t like the taste of water or the water quality in your area isn’t good? Do you have to force yourself to consume it, or buy a bunch of plastic water bottles and “kill the earth”?
Absolutely not! Water is in our beverages and food already. Our total hydration is calculated through everything we consume, not just water. About 20% of our water intake is provided by food2. Does your kid only like to drink milk? Guess what cows use to make milk? Do you have an addiction to diet cola that you’re not ready to tackle yet? The first ingredient in soda is water. If eat tons of fruit and veggies that have water in them and I feel hydrated, do I need to drink 4 liters of water on top of this? Only if you want to and you feel it benefits your body. Just remember that anything that isn’t water has other things in it like sugar, calories, preservatives, and other things that aren’t necessarily good for you.
Listen to your body. Trust it. It was created and has evolved to be able to support you.
Here are some fast facts about water and your body:
1. Water provides structure to your cells3. Think all the way back to high school biology. Remember looking at cells under a microscope? Remember how uniform and structured they looked? That’s mostly because of water. Think grape versus raisin, or a filled water balloon versus a dead one. Water takes up space. What products do we put on our faces to avoid or fill in wrinkles or on our hands in the winter when they crack? Things that hydrate or bring moisture to our skin.
2. Water lubricates joints3. Most of the joints in our body are synovial joints, meaning they have a fluid filled sack around them that provides lubrication for movement. Have you ever slid a glass across your table or watched it float around on its own because it’s in a puddle of condensation? Water provides the lubrication that allows to rough surfaces to glide across each other.
3. Water absorbs heat with minimal temperature change4. This quality is what allows life on this planet to be so adaptable. Water’s high heat capacity, or its ability to absorb heat with minimal temperature change, is due to the chemical structure of water. A water molecule is 2 hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom (H20). In order for the temperature of water to increase, the bond between the hydrogen atoms and oxygen have to break. This takes energy. A lot of energy. Think about boiling water for a big pot of pasta. Even when you have your heat on high, it takes a while.
4. Water helps remove waste products and transports nutrients throughout the body2,3. Our bodies have built-in detoxification systems (hello liver and kidneys!) that filter our blood of toxins and waste products that our bodies create. Paying attention to the color of your pee is a great way to tell if you’re hydrated enough. Staying hydrated enough also helps your bowels move easier.
5. Sweating allows diffusion of gases across moist body surfaces5. You have sweat glands all over your body, which allows water to rise to the surface of your skin, moisten the skin, and evaporate. The evaporation removes the water, which removes the heat. Refer to fast fact number 3 about water’s heat capacity.
6. Water provides a reactive medium within the body6. Our bodies are miraculous in all the things they do. There are millions of chemical reactions taking place inside your body at any given point. Creating energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP to be technical) is essential to everything we do, and water is a necessary element to its production. Water also provides a medium for solutions to be formed and reactions to take place in.
7. Muscle weighs more than fat per volume because of its water content7. Water is more dense than fat, therefore people with a higher fat percentage will float. Approximately 10% of fat’s weight is water, while a muscle’s is 73%. In general, women have a higher fat content than men because of our stores of fat, and therefore our water content is slightly lower. Typically, our bodies are made up of 40-70% water. Other factors, such as age and aerobic fitness, can also affect total body water content.