Water is the one of the most important elements in the human body. Once water is ingested, it is used to transport, digest, and absorb nutrients throughout the body. It also helps to transport waste outside the body such as stool and urine. This helps to maintain normal bowel function and prevent constipation and irritation. Individuals who stay constantly under hydrated also are at a higher risk of kidney stones and kidney failure. The kidneys act as a filter to cleanse the body of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), the main toxin within the body. Urine is the easiest way to tell if you are hydrated. Urine should be odorless and colorless to light, like the color of straw. If your urine has a darker color or strong odor, you should drink water immediately.
Proper hydration increases circulation and help maintain a safe body temperature by sweating. Your skin also uses water to moisturize the epidermis, or top layer of skin, to protect the body from the cold weather. The problem is that we use water in many different metabolic processes that we need to replenish our storage often. This can be done by drinking water, juices, electrolyte rich sports drinks or by eating foods that are rich in water such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes. Soups, stews and other broth-based foods are also water-rich and aid in hydrating.
Physical activity increases the need for water by speeding up heart rate, adding strain to the muscular system, and raising internal body temperature. Increased heart rate leads to faster transportation of nutrients and metabolic processes. Muscle cells use water to contract the muscles against the weight load during exertion. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests drinking 16 to 20 ounces of water two hours before exercise and sipping during exercise to maintain hydration.
Water is also a great weight loss aid. Not only does it increase metabolic efficiency to expel waste faster, it also satisfies thirst better than any sugary caloric beverages. This helps to cut calories and maintain a healthy diet. Hydration also increases skin elasticity and moisture to keep the wrinkles away a little longer. When skin gets dry, it chaps and cracks leaving open areas for bacteria, viruses, and infections easy access into the body.
Most people do not need the standard 8 glasses of water a day, but the majority of Americans do not drink as much as they should. The best way to stay hydrated is to keep bottled water close by, in the office or at home. If you feel thirsty or if your urine is dark, then you are on the edge of being dehydrated and should drink a bottle of water soon. If you are not having any of these issues, then you are hydrated and should try to maintain your current daily intake of water.
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