Water: How Much Do You Need?

by Debbie Hickey, B.A., CPT/LWMC ACE
Special For eFitness

How often do you see someone with a bottle of water in their hand like it’s an appendage? I would wager it happens more often than not. I too am one of those "I can’t leave the house without my water bottle" people.

There’s good reason to provide your body with a sufficient supply of water. Generally, men’s bodies are made up of about 60 percent water and women about 55 percent. Everything that happens in your body requires water -- oxygen transport, brain function, cell reproduction and cellular waste removal, kidney and liver filtration, organ functions, metabolism of fat in the liver, temperature regulation through perspiration, joint lubrication, electrolyte balance, continued youthful skin, blood, urine... and on and on.

Proper hydration helps digestion, nutrient absorption and elimination. The amount of water you drink can also affect your energy levels. Dehydration causes a significant energy loss in approximately 80 percent of the population. On average, a 5 percent drop in body fluids can cause a 25–30 percent drop in energy. A 15 percent drop in body fluids can cause death.

Water is also the single most effective detoxifier our body has. It flushes out toxins, which helps prevent disease. We are exposed daily to harmful substances from the air, food and just about everything we touch. We can’t avoid toxins but we can get rid of them with proper hydration.

So how much is enough? Or too much? Each person’s needs are different depending upon weight, activity level and diet. To estimate how much water you need, divide your weight by two. The result is the number of ounces you should drink each day. You need more water if you're exercising and sweating profusely. You should drink water before, during and after your workout.

Water is your best choice because it has no calories, additives or preservatives. Research has also found that beverages containing caffeine are no longer considered the enemy when it comes to hydration. Studies performed at the Center for Human Nutrition followed a group of 18 men, 24-39 years old, who were given different combinations of water, coffee and caffeinated colas. During one phase of the experiment, the only fluid the volunteers consumed was water. During another, 75 percent of their intake was caffeinated. No difference in hydration was found between the two. But again, water is your best choice!

Our bodies are designed to run primarily on water. And the quality of the water we use can affect our longevity.

Bottled water is fast becoming a substitute for tap water. But the same standards don’t apply to both. Bottled water isn’t always as pure as people are led to believe. It also may contain lower levels of fluoride, which can cause a rise in tooth decay in children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't require that bottled water contain a certain level of fluoride.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires local water systems to report to the community no later than July 1 of each year with regard to the quality of the local water supply. No such reporting is required for bottled water.

A home filtration system is another option. Distilled water filtration systems remove a lot of fluoride while carbon and charcoal systems do not. Home filtration is convenient and inexpensive.

Here are some suggestions to be sure the water you are drinking is the best source for your health:

1. Check out this valuable information at the EPA's website.

Drinking Water and Health: What you need to know explains what contaminants may be found, where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, etc. www.epa.gov/safewater/dwhealth.html.

If your community report is online, you can find it here. www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.htm.

Drinking Water Standards -- www.epa.gov/safewater/standards.html

2. If your local water company’s report is not on the EPA website, call and ask them to provide you with a copy. Generally, the report outlines the levels in your water supply and what the EPA requirements are. If you're unsure about anything in the report, call and ask.

3. If you drink bottled water, check the company’s website for their water quality report. If they don’t have one online, call the number on the bottle and ask for it. If it’s not available, research different brands until you are satisfied with the information.

4. Consider home filtration systems. Many refrigerators now come with a built-in water filtration system. There are also systems that can be attached directly to your faucet or can be installed under the sink with a separate faucet. There are also systems that can be used much like a coffee filter, such as Brita.

No matter what your choice for your water needs, make like Gunga Din and always carry water with you throughout the day.

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