Lindsay Mustard is an Ottawa based Holistic Nutritionist and Personal Trainer. In this article, she discusses the importance of water, hydration, how to tell if you are de-hydrated, how much water you should be drinking, and ways to increase hydration in your diet.
Importance of Water
First and foremost, water is crucial for all our bodily functions. We are essentially almost all water. Men tend to have more lean muscle and less body fat. With lean muscle mass, you tend to hold more water than fat tissue does. Men are usually 60-75% water. Women, on the other hand, tend to have higher body fat mass and body fat percentage and holds about 55-70% of water.
Water has many purposes; it serves as a heat insulator in our body, metabolizes proteins and fats and keeps our joints lubricated.
In terms of fats, it will keep you fuller for longer and with a higher intake of water, you'll notice that your blood sugar stays stabilized throughout the day. So when you start to hit those peaks (10 AM or 3 PM) opt for a glass of water. If you still find yourself craving food, opt for something that has a healthy source of fats like nuts, seeds, avocado; or protein that has fats in it like salmon, coconut oil, and some green vegetables; or it can be a couple of apple slices or celery with some peanut butter.
Another micro-nutrient is Carbohydrates. Some people call it good carbs and bad carbs. We can simplify further by calling them simple carbs and complex carbs.
- Simple Carbohydrates – is anything that will spike your blood sugar and will lead you to have an energy drop in the day, which will lead you to crave sugar. So instead of reaching for that glass of water, you'll grab the candy bar instead. Simple carbohydrates are anything that's processed, pre-packaged, refined, prepared, and anything white – white flour, white sugar, white salt, white potatoes, and the like.
- Complex carbohydrates – are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.
Essentially, you want to make sure that anything you're consuming for carbohydrates is high in fiber. The more colorful the fruits and vegetables you're eating, the richer they are in water and nutrients. If you are unable to drink 3 liters of water a day, drink 2 liters of water consistently throughout the day, as well as eat water-rich vegetables and fruits. You can also create your own personal carbohydrate guide. Categorize Low, Moderate, and High Carb Vegetables. The higher the carbs, the less water content it has, and the lower obviously the richer. They are naturally lower in calories, they are higher in fiber, but they are also higher in water. Some examples would be radish, celery, any of the green leafy vegetables, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and anything that is crunchy, juicy, and watery. When you eat more water-rich vegetables and fruits, you stay fuller for longer.
If you are someone who has trouble eating a large volume of fruits or vegetables just because you have a small stomach, a great option is to have a smoothie in the morning. Just make sure that you have all 3 of your main micronutrients – your protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Water helps with detoxifying, flushing out the toxins that we take in. We are exposed to everyday toxins and drinking enough water is one way to naturally eliminate those toxins through urination. Healthy bathroom calls should be every 1 to 1 1/2 hours and urine should be a light pale yellow.
Ideally, time your water intake. Do not use water to wash your food down. This is probably one of the worst things that you can do for your digestion, but also for absorbing your nutrients. We recommend having a glass of water, half an hour before your meal. Lemon water is fantastic for stimulating digestion and also helps promote healthy elimination. After your meal, wait about 15 minutes before having your next glass of water to give your food a little bit of time to settle. You can also opt for warm herbal tea to help process your digestion.
If you are already dehydrated, you will often find yourself feeling very low on energy. You will snack a lot, and no matter how much food you're eating, you feel you still don't have that energy that you need to get through the day. Often, you will experience 2 energy low points in your day. It's usually right around 10-11 AM before lunch, and in the afternoon around 3-4 PM, right before dinner. Those who experience energy lows often use snacking or sugary drinks as a way to try to increase their energy and get through the day. They also tend to turn to dehydrating options, such as coffee, that will just leave them even more tired as the day progresses.
Signs of Dehydration
- Dry flaky skin – This is one of the visible signs that you are dehydrated and need to be drinking more water. Typically the affected areas are your hands, elbows, knees, and nose.
- Poor sleeping – If you find yourself waking up frequently through the night, often this is because you’re dehydrated and your body is trying to wake you up. We recommend having a glass of water before bed and keeping one by your bedside in case you wake up thirsty in the middle of the night. Ideally, you're sleeping for about 8 hours and perhaps waking up once to go to the bathroom.
- Dizziness and faintness – There are people with low blood pressure or they have feelings of light-headedness. This can also be due to not having any water circulating in their blood. This is a crucial component of why we lack so much energy. If we don't drink enough water, we can't increase our blood flow, which delivers oxygen to our brain, muscles, and tissue. So, we’re simply not giving ourselves fuel to operate.
- Dark sunken circles around the eyes – This is another visible sign of dehydration, even if we have a complete and good night's sleep.
- Weak brittle nails
- Dry mouth
- Lack of focus
Water helps increase the production of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is found in our joints and joint capsules. Being properly hydrated can help to alleviate stiffness and soreness. So, if have rheumatoid arthritis or have stiff, achy joints that crack and pop with movement; make sure that you consume enough water and lots of healthy fats. Good examples are avocado and coconut oil. Coconut water is also a very good source of hydration that contains some healthy fats.
How Much Water Should You Be Taking In?
A good rule of thumb: Drink half of your body weight in ounces. How you space out your water consumption throughout the day is also crucial. Have some water in the morning when you wake up, in the middle of the morning, in the afternoon, then easing off as you get later in the evening. If you experience muscle cramps, soreness, or aches, that can also be a symptom of lack of water and magnesium. In order to circulate and use magnesium, you need water to flush it throughout the body. Ensure that you're drinking enough water post-workout, and then space it out throughout the day.
If you are not a regular water drinker, gradually increase your water intake to about 1-2 cups every day until you reach the target mark, which is 3 liters per day. Increase your water intake gradually and eat water-rich fruits and vegetables.
Options For Incorporating More Water Into Your Diet.
- Plain and simple, drink it pure.
- Drink flavored sparkling water
- Infuse fruits in your water, like grapefruit, orange, lemon, or lime.
“Should we add a pinch of sea salt to keep from flushing out electrolytes?”
Yes. Essentially, electrolytes replenish your energy store and increase Vitamin C. Salt is a great way to reduce the elimination of electrolytes. If you are doing very high cardio-intensive exercise, an easy way to retain a bit more water is to add a little bit of pink Himalayan sea salt to your water. Sea salt is the key, not iodized salt. Pink Himalayan sea salt contains about 22 different minerals and is lower in sodium than iodized salt.