Why you should drink more water – even when you’re swimming!

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Swimming SEC 2007 Claire Maust

Healthy poolMarch 2017 marks the 37th annual National Nutrition Month. This year’s blog focuses on one of the most important aspects of healthy living: hydration.

Why drink more water?

Our bodies are made up of 60 to 70 percent water and every metabolic process that occurs in our bodies involves H2O. There is a plethora of research confirming that staying hydrated:

  • Improves mood
  • Improves skin health
  • Makes breathing easier
  • Flushes out wastes and bacteria
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Prevents cancer (colon and bladder cancer by up to 50 percent)
  • Prevents headaches and improves cognitive ability and athletic performance

The list of benefits of staying hydrated goes on and on. As a dietitian, I’ll say that the number one way to improve your health from what you consume is to be sure you’re drinking enough water each day.

How much water should I drink?

The best rule of thumb to know how much water to drink is to monitor your urine color, your sense of thirst and other body signals like: dry mouth or throat, cracked lips, headache, fatigue and hunger can all be signs of dehydration.  

More specifically, drinking a half ounce of water per pound of bodyweight is the minimum hydration recommended.  For example, a 150 pound person should drink 75 ounces of water per day minimum and this amount could increase if they are exercising or if the weather reaches high temperatures.

When should I drink?

It’s best to spread your water consumption evenly over the day. Sipping water every 15 to 30 minutes is better than chugging half of your daily water needs in one gulp.

Important times of day to be sure to drink water are first thing in the morning and before, during and after exercising. Drinking eight ounces of water before eating or drinking anything else in the morning can increase your metabolism. Drinking before, during and after exercising helps to replenish lost fluids through sweat.

Which water should I drink?

There are various different brands and types of water. While tap water is often contaminated with arsenic, aluminum, fluoride and disinfection byproducts, buying bottled water is not the simple solution, as 40 percent of bottled water is actually just tap water. Filtering your tap water is the best option. Some large grocery stores have reverse osmosis filtered water on tap where you can fill up a large bottle. You can also use a filter at home — look for granular carbon, carbon block or ion exchange filters.

But water tastes so boring and bland!  

If you think water tastes bland or boring, the best way to improve the flavor would be to add fresh fruits or vegetables to your water to give it a natural flavor.  For example, you can add sliced cucumber, add sliced strawberries and mint, or add chopped melon and a few fresh mint leaves and a bit of honey. If you’re looking for a convenient product, there are many drops or tablets you can add to water to add flavor — some even include electrolytes and vitamins.

How will I remember to drink?

Here are a few strategies to help you remember to drink more water:  

  • Use a water bottle — this serves as a convenient reminder to drink throughout the day.
    • Carry a water bottle around all day.
    • Keep a water bottle at your desk at work.
    • Keep a filled water bottle in the fridge for those moments when you are just bored and looking into the fridge for something to eat when you are not actually hungry.
  • Set an hourly timer to remind you to drink water every hour during the day.
  • Check your urine color light yellow to clear is a sign that you are hydrated; bright to dark yellow indicates that you need to drink more water.
  • To make sure you’re getting enough, you can put rubber bands around your wrist or your water bottle.  When you finish one bottle or one glass of water, you can remove the rubber band.  Then you can see how many bottles or glasses of water you have consumed by looking at how many rubber bands remain on your wrist or bottle.
  • Use hydration apps.

What about when I’m exercising?

If you’re exercising at a low to moderate intensity for less than 45 minutes, drinking water as you feel thirsty is adequate.  This applies to all exercise — including swimming! If you’re exercising at a high intensity or doing activity for 45 minutes or longer, it’s important to replace the electrolytes lost in your sweat. Sodium and potassium, along with lesser amounts of calcium, magnesium, chloride and phosphorous, are lost in our sweat.  These electrolytes can be replaced by eating mineral-rich foods or salty foods are high in sodium; fruits/vegetables are high in potassium, or by adding an electrolyte powder or drops to your water.

From someone who loves the water, take care of yourself by making sure you are drinking enough clean water and also swimming in clean water.

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