By Nina Radcliff, MD
We have all heard the saying that “The best things in life are free.” There is no doubt that hugs, smiles, kisses, and laughter are priceless. Well, let’s add another one to the list: drinking water. Did you know that water makes up 60% of our body weight and is present in every organ, tissue, and cell? We are swimming in it, both literally and figuratively. Water is also essential to a number of vital bodily functions: digestion, blood circulation, and temperature regulation. And because we lose fluids from evaporation, sweating, breathing (17,280 breaths/day), fat-burning, or going to the bathroom, we need to replace these losses by drinking water.
Water is necessary to maintaining life’s basic functions. Despite this, water is second to one: soft drinks. Here are some “free” fun facts on how drinking water can keep us healthy, one of the “best things in life.” Maybe we can even make it our number one, go-to beverage.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About the benefits of drinking water:
1. Calorie comptroller. It’s a no brainer that choosing water over a calorie-containing beverage equals fewer calories consumed. So the next time we want to reach for an alcoholic drink or soda, consider opting for some “good ‘ol fashion” H2O. Additionally, water can fill up the tummy and decrease the number of calories that are consumed. Drinking just 2 cups of water before a meal, results in eating 75-90 fewer calories, on average, during the meal. Opting for a “fill-er-up” with water may curb our appetite for that second helping of fries.
2. Muscle power. We see Popeye reaching for spinach to pump up his muscles. Hopefully he is washing it down with plenty of water. When muscles do not have enough water, they shrivel up and are unable to reach their full potential. Consider drinking fluids 2 hours before exercising and during a sweat session in order to boost muscle function. Not to mention, proper hydration has been shown to decrease muscle and joint soreness due to exercise.
3. The fountain of youth. Unfortunately as we get older, our fountain of youth’s water level gets lower and lower. Although drinking water cannot erase wrinkles, it may be able to put a speed bump in the way of this process to slow it down.
4. Kidney function. These hard working organs are so important that we have two of them. Our kidneys “flush” out toxins and waste products to keep us balanced and healthy. Adequate hydration is crucial for our kidneys to function properly. Additionally, not drinking enough water is often the culprit behind those pesky (and very painful) kidney stones.
5. Keep it moving. Constipation—for a lack of better words—is a party pooper. One of the most effective treatments is to increase water intake. When dehydrated, our body will do everything it can to conserve water. This includes “pulling” or “absorbing” water from stool before it passes out of our digestive tract. The stool becomes hard and its transit time slows down.
6. Burn calories and melt away fat without breaking a sweat. Like a furnace, our body requires energy—in this case, calories—to produce heat. Drinking cold water burns fat in men and carbohydrates in women in order to bring the fluid to normal body temperature.
The age-old question is how much is enough? Despite the recommendation that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, it really depends on our weight, level of activity, diet, and surrounding temperature. And the good news is that there is a simple way to figure it out. When we consume enough water, our urine is usually pale yellow.
Remember, the best things in life are free. And it is important never to lose sight of that. Especially since “the second best are very expensive;” these are wise words from the one and only Coco Chanel