Americans have a hard time staying healthy. Television, video games, and computers make it easy to stay inside rather go out and be active. Fast food and sugary drinks are easy to come by and 86 percent of us sit behind a desk all day at work. In fact less than three percent of Americans meet the four criteria the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey considers essential to a healthy lifestyle – not smoking, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and low body fat. The good news is there’s an easy way to boost your health – drink more water. Drinking water helps you achieve every criteria from the National Health and Nutrition Survey. It gives you more energy, it helps you lose weight, it keeps you from over eating, and it can even cut down on nicotine cravings.
Health Benefits of Drinking Water
Our bodies are more than 50-65 percent water. It’s 25 percent of your bones, 75 percent of your muscles, 76 percent of your brain, 82 percent of your blood, and 90 percent of your lungs, so it’s not surprising that staying hydrated has a lot of health benefits.
Keeps You Energized
Dehydration during the day makes it harder to stay active after work. Fatigue, joint pain, and headaches are all major obstacles to healthy exercise, all of which can be overcome by drinking a few extra glasses of water.
Less than half of all Americans exercise regularly. It can be hard to find the time when you’re working all day, and even harder if all you’re drinking is coffee and soda. Caffeine is a mild diuretic. When you drink caffeinated beverages, instead of retaining all the water inside them, you expel a significant amount of it. If you drink three to five of them a day, you run the risk of mild dehydration, which makes you tired, groggy, and sluggish. Fatigue is one of the first symptoms of dehydration. As your body loses water, your blood gets thicker, which makes it harder to pump through your system, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells. This not only makes your muscles less effective – they tire more quickly and take longer to recover – but it affects every other organ in your body as well, including your heart and lungs. Your heart rate goes up three beats a minute every time you lose one percent of your body weight through dehydration. Breathing also becomes more difficult. Dehydrated lung cells release histamine, which causes your airways to constrict. You end up taking shorter breathes and it’s harder to catch your breath after physical activity. In extreme cases, it can even trigger an asthma attack.
Besides draining your energy, dehydration also exacerbates joint pain. The cartilage between your joints is 70-85 percent water and it’s one of the fist places your body draws water from to replace fluids in other parts of your body. Many people think of joint cartilage acts as a cushion, but it’s actually a lubricant. The water allows the bones in your joints to slide smoothly over one another instead of grinding together. As cartilage cells die, they’re replenished from the ends of your bones. Your body is constantly producing new cartilage, but the rate of production is directly affected by the amount of water in your body. When your cells are fully hydrated, the rate of production is equal to the rate of loss, so the cartilage in your joints doesn’t shrink, but as hydration levels drop, the rate of production declines, making your joints more vulnerable to pain and discomfort. Your spinal discs core are mostly made of water as well. As they become dehydrated, they also shrink, sometimes losing as much as half their height, which prevents them from adequately cushioning your spinal column. If back pain or joint pain is keeping you from being as active as you’d like, a few glasses of water is probably the best way to turn things around.
One of the most debilitating side effects of dehydration is headaches. Scientists are not exactly sure why dehydration causes headaches, but they believe it is most likely chemical shifts in the brain. As fluid levels drop, the amount of oxygen your brain receives goes down. The nerves in your brain are very sensitive, and the sudden deprivation may aggravate them, causing them to send out pain signals. Scientists have also found that dehydration constricts the blood vessels in your head, which intensifies the pain. Simultaneously, the blood vessels in your brain dilate, which causes swelling and further discomfort. Pain from dehydration headache can be felt at the front, back, side, or all over your head. Movement aggravates them, especially bending down or any aerobic activity, like jogging or calisthenics.
Helps You Lose Weight
Water contains zero calories, while the average can of soda contains 135. If you were to substitute a glass of water for a can of soda each day, you would reduce your yearly calorie intake by 49,275 calories. That’s the equivalent of seven pounds. But choosing water over soda has bigger effects. It not only makes it easier to stay active, but it also helps you burn more calories when you’re inactive. Studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that drinking water increases your resting energy expenditure by as much as 24-30 percent for up to 60 minutes. Subjects who drink 1-1.5 liters a day saw significant reductions in weight, waist size, and body fat.
Keep You From Overeating
A study conducted by the University of Birmingham in Great Britain, found that drinking 16 ounces to water 30 minutes before eating can lower your weight by as much as 9.5 pounds in just 12 weeks. The extra water helps fill your stomach, so you feel full sooner and eat less. The best results were achieved by drinking water before every meal, but drinking it before just one meal caused subject to lose almost two pounds over the course of the study.
Reduces Nicotine Cravings
Nicotine is water soluble, which means helps your body get rid of it faster, one of the first steps to reducing cravings. If you’re trying to quit, and having trouble with sudden cigarette cravings, drinking water also helps. Double your intake of water helps rid your body of toxins and overcome its dependency on cigarettes.
Other Heath Benefits
Besides improving your standing on the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey, drinking water has numerous other benefits as well.
|Aids Digestion||Drinking water helps break down food, especially fats. It also binds to waste material, which helps relieve constipation.|
|Prevents Kidney Stones||Drinking water keeps minerals from building up in your kidneys, reducing the chance that stones will develop|
|Keeps Skin Clear||Drinking water helps remove toxins from your pores, which helps reduce acne & pimples|
|Keeps Skin Looking Young||Drinking water keeps your skin plump, which makes lines & wrinkles less noticeable|
|Improves Concentration||Your brain is mostly made of water. Dehydration causes it to shrink & reduces the number of active synapses, which impairs the areas of your brain that control cognition|
|Improves Mood||A French study found that when people who drank less than the recommended amount of water (85 ounces) increased their water intake, they reported feeling happier during the day. Researchers believe that staying hydrated let the areas of the brain governing mood function more effectively.|
How to Drink More Water
If you’re having trouble getting enough water each day, there are a few ways you can trick yourself into drinking more.
- Drink Using a Straw. You drink faster using a straw than you do holding the cup to your lips. It helps you go through more water in less time.
- Buy A Water Bottle. Water bottles help keep water close at hand. The more convenient it is, the more likely you are to drink.
- Add Fruit to It. You can infuse your water with fruit flavors by adding a few pieces of fruit to the bottom of your pitcher or glass. Fruit that is naturally high in water works best. Try kiwis, lemons, strawberries, grapes, lemons, or watermelons. You can also use herbs, like basil, mint, or lavender.
- Invest in a Water Cooler. Cold water is more refreshing than water that’s hot or lukewarm. Cold water dispensers make it easy to enjoy cold water any time of day and encourage you to drink more.
Water is essential to your health. You should be drinking hand-an-ounce to a full ounce of water for every pound you weigh, every day. It helps keep you active, it helps keep you thin, and it helps keep you from smoking. If you haven’t started already, take it up now. There’s no easier way to stay fit.