The story of creation begins with water. Water is an essential nutrient in our diet, but many people fail to address this important component of health. While part of the problem can be addressed by consuming foods such as fruits and vegetables that are naturally rich with water, taking in additional water is also important.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2
An amazing discovery was made in 2003. Lurking far below the surface of the ocean, an unusual squid was sighted with 20-foot long tentacles. It is estimated that only a very small percentage of the planet has been explored, and most of that is under water! We constantly hear about the "secrets of the deep" - the amazing life forms that the ocean displays to us, but we forget about the magic of our own bodies. Water is essential for health and nutrition. A co-worker asked me the other day, "How much water should I be taking?"
More than 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water (less than one percent of that water is suitable for human consumption). In excess of 75% of the human body is water. A coincidence? Maybe. When you measure your body fat, the amount of fat is called "fat mass" and the amount of remaining mass is called "lean mass." Many people mistake lean mass for muscle - in reality, the majority of that lean mass is water and skeletal tissue - typically less 1/8th is actual muscle mass!
In the human body, water lubricates joints and organs. It maintains muscle tone. Water keeps skin soft. Water regulates body temperature, filters out impurities, and keeps the brain working properly. Water transports nutrients to and from cells. While the human body can store energy as glycogen, fat, and tissue, it cannot "store" water - the body uses its own water supply and expects a constant resupply of fresh water to function. Water is critical in moving nutrients into and out of a cell, an action known as the "ion pump". When you take in the improper balance of sodium and potassium or do not drink adequate water, your body will increase a hormone and try to "retain" water by keeping your kidneys from filtering it. Ironically, one of the best ways to stop retaining water is to drink more water!
While humans can survive without food for several weeks (documented cases have shown lengths of up to two months), we can only survive a few days without water. Thirst is a signal that your body needs to be re-hydrated, but by the time you are thirsty it's already too late. Just a fraction of a percentage drop of your body's water supply can result into huge performance decreases. Even slight dehydration can be critical. In the recent sports season, a few deaths resulted from dehydration.
Contrary to popular belief, "chugging" a gallon of water is not going to provide your body with the water it needs. When too much water floods your system at once, your body will pass most of it on to your bladder, and only absorb a slight amount. Weight in the stomach is a signal for digestive processes to begin, and a number of biological chemicals enter your stomach and change the pH balance. This can result in indigestion and stomach pain. The best way to take water is to steadily sip it throughout the day. You should also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables - most of the produce you eat is filled with water, and the body can process this water very efficiently.
So - how much water? There are a million theories and equations. I've heard to drink "eight cups a day," which is better than nothing, but how can every adult, with so much variety of size, shape, metabolism, exercise habits, etc, require the exact same amount of water? Then there is the complicated equation that involves computing your basal metabolic rate and energy expenditure. I had to throw that one out, too - who wants to run a computer program every day just to figure out their water needs? I just prefer to drink like a fish and then I'm done with it. Just kidding.
What I've found is two ways for computing water intake that both work incredibly well. The first is a little too vague for some people to follow, but very effective - it is recommended by nutritionist Will Brink. Will says to drink enough water to have two or three absolutely clear urinations per day. If you do not have these clear urinations, then either you are not drinking enough water, are not eating healthily or have some type of infection or other illness. For a normal, healthy adult, two or three clear urinations is a great "ruler." If you do not have these, then increase your water intake until it happens.
If that is a little too general or explicit for you, another way is to take your weight and divide it in half. This is a "baseline" amount of ounces to drink every day. For every cup that you drink that is not water, drink a cup that is water. For every bout of exercise, drink a cup before and after, and one extra cup for every hour that you exercised (round up!). That's it. Let's take me as an example.
If I weighed in at 200 pounds, 200 / 2 = 100 ounces of water, or about 12 cups.
Let's say I also ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes. One cup before, one cup for the exercise, and one cup after is three cups total. 12 + 3 = 15 cups.
I drank two cups of coffee, so I should have two extra cups of water. 15 + 2 = 17.
That's it - today's water requirement for me is 17 cups! And I have no problem getting those in - I have an extra large mason jar that holds about 64 ounces. I fill these up and keep them full all day long. I sip them constantly. I probably end up drinking between one to two gallons today because I love my coffee and my exercise.
The type of water to drink is the subject of much debate. I prefer filtered tap water because of the potential for harmful agents in "raw" tap water - although many health gurus recommend tap water due to the fact that they provide plenty of vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that if you drink too much non-filtered water, you may increase your chances of acquiring kidney stones if there are many foreign materials that your body has to filter out. When you look at a water filter before you toss it out, that is exactly what your body's filter - the kidneys - would have had to process as well. Distilled water is also an option.
Now go out and drink some water!
Jeremy Likness is an International Health Coach and motivational speaker. After losing 65 pounds of fat, he discovered his true vision to coach thousands around the world to better health. A Certified Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Performance Nutrition, Jeremy is the author of the internationally-selling e-Book, Lose Fat, Not Faith and the companion 5-CD set. Jeremy has been published in major online publications including Tom Venuto's Fitness Renaissance and Bodybuilding.com. Jeremy's approach is unique because he focuses on fitness from the inside out. Visit Jeremy online at Natural Physiques.