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Staying Hydrated

Water is important. Without it, we simply would not be. All living things depend on this precious resource, and during these hot summer months, especially August, it can be easy for us to forget to stay on top of our water intake. Dehydration can often result in symptoms as mild as feeling fatigued, hungry and/or cranky, and can be as severe as contributing to heat stroke and worse.

The Basics:

The human body is comprised of over 60% water. Water makes the basis for all fluids (blood, plasma), and is a vital element of our more dense connective tissues, like fascia, muscles, and organs. During the day, we use water we drink, absorb through our skin, and breathe in through the air to regulate the balance of these fluids and tissues. On an average day, we expel about 120 ounces of water (breathing, using the restroom, sweating to keep ourselves cool)… and that’s an average day! If it isn’t replaced, how can we expect our bodies to work?

Wait, That’s How Much Water We Use Doing… Nothing?

Yep. Let’s go beyond the day-to-day body maintenance. What if you’re not just spending your day sitting on your duff eating bon bons? Do you have a demanding physical profession? Do you work outside consistently? Do you workout the recommended 3o minutes to one hour each day? Then you need to increase that water intake! To keep your body functioning at its peak, you should drink half of your body weight in ounces each day. (Example: if you weigh 135 pounds, you should drink 67.5 ounces of water) When you engage in strenuous physical activity, you’re using up much more water (breathing harder, sweating more).

Why do you need water, especially that much of it?

Muscles are comprised of individual fibers that work together as a unit. When pushing those muscles to perform and/or stretch, little teeny-tiny healthy rips will occur. These are called “micro tears”, and they’re how our muscles can change size and flexibility. Muscles are designed to repair themselves, needing oxygen-rich blood to do so. Otherwise, those tears can’t heal fast enough, resulting in pain. So… if you’re not drinking enough H20 (emphasis on the ‘O’ part, or ‘oxygen’ for those that have forgotten their chemistry class(es)), your muscles won’t be able to make those repairs. Muscles will then get, shall we say, cranky, and have no qualms sharing, nay, spreading that crankiness! And soon, muscles that work in conjunction with those original cranky-pants muscles are going to have to work overtime to give the sore muscles time to recover– before you know it, you’re whole body can be sore!

Deeper than muscle tissue, water affects the health of what they’re anchored to– bone tissue. Water keeps not only the bones themselves healthy, but keeps up the proper levels of fluid in between joints to keep them cushioned. Without enough fluid, those joints (including the spine, shoulders, hips, knees, etc.) will begin to wear on each other in a way they’re not designed to handle, putting you in unnecessary discomfort. Just like before, muscles that are connected to those joints will do what they can to relieve that wearing, but over time, more and more muscles will be pulled in to work in ways they’re not supposed to, snowballing into one giant mess of ouch. To avoid temporary pain and permanent joint damage, the solution is quite simple– keep up that water intake!

How Do I Know If I’m Dehydrated?

Do you know what the largest organ of the human body is? It’s not your brain. It’s not your lungs. Even if you were to eat a truck full of Big Macs, it wouldn’t be your stomach. It’s your skin. Yes, your skin, which covers your entire body, is 16% of your body, and like all other organs, needs water to function. Skin will show very obvious signs of dehydration- usually feeling dry to the touch, cracking/splitting/chapping, and having the consistency of paper or parchment. (The same signs affect the lips. Before you drown your pucker in lip balm, try drinking a glass of water and see if that makes a difference.)

Here’s a good test of proper hydration: grab a small section of the looser skin on the back of your hand and gently pull up. Hold it for a few seconds, then let it release. Did your skin immediately go back to normal? If yes, congratulations! You’re staying hydrated! Did it take a second… two seconds… ten seconds? Drink water now! Properly hydrated skin is firm and taut, and will not show redness (or too much redness, depending on your natural skin tone) during a test like this. Skin that’s dried out will not only take a few seconds to “flatten out” again, but will also show more redness as the blood underneath rushes in to rehydrate the organ. Rather than try to hydrate skin from the outside in (with lotions, oils, creams, etc.), it’s cheaper and healthier to drink your water.

Beyond keeping your skin pur-ty, water goes a long way in keeping you at a healthy weight. Chronic dehydration often confuses your body, making it more difficult to differentiate the signals for thirst and those for hunger. That translates into overeating without feeling satisfied, and now you’re full of the wrong request. If you’re trying to lose or manage weight and can’t seem to stop eating, increase your water intake– that will curb your appetite and help your body flush out more metabolic wastes. (You should be relieving your bladder an average of 5 times a day to keep your insides just as pretty as your outsides.)

Makes Sense… Now How Do I Stay Hydrated?

Picking up new habits always requires some work. The two keys to adopting a healthy routine: consistency and mindset. If you keep a safe reusable water bottle close by and use it regularly for 21 days, that brand new healthy habit will be easy to hold. Make it a challenge, something that you know you can do, and remind yourself as often as possible. Feel free to mix things up, too; try adding lemon slices or mint leaves to your water to keep you coming back for more. Staying hydrated means drinking water, not sugary drinks like Pepsi or iced tea that have been sweetened to death, but that doesn’t mean you must now be completely and forever deprived of flavor!

While speaking of flavor, coconut water is a tasty drink for those that are sweating out a lot during their day due to increased physical activity or hotter weather. Coconut water is naturally high in potassium and other electrolytes, making it a great beverage to help you recover after high-intensity workouts. Diets (not “lose weight” diets, but rather “the food you eat everyday”) high in fruits and vegetables will keep your H20 levels high, more so if they’re consumed raw (safely), as cooking leeches water out of those foods. Try watermelon, cucumber, and celery, all of which have other nutrients that pure water won’t.

One Last Thing:

Please remenber the other living things around you that rely on water to keep them functioning during these heat waves. Plants, indoors or out, lose water quickly with extreme heat, dry climates, and intense sunlight. Be sure to water everything at minimum twice a week– plants do not engage in physical activity, unless there’s some rare Bolivian Jumping Sprout out there, so they will hold their water much longer.

Furry pets like dogs don’t sweat, but rather pant to cool down when they get heated. But their open mouths will release a lot of water, so be sure that they have an adequate water supply, be it an indoor dog or outdoor dog. And resist the urge to shave off their thick fur. That fur is designed to keep them warm and keep them cool. Brush them regularly to clean out any build-up of thicker undercoat, and take ’em swimming!

And Remember… We Have Access To Health Water Bottles Free for Anyone That Needs One!

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