The most important macronutrient in our diet is water.
Water is required for essentially every single working system in our bodies. This includes temperature regulation, joint health, immune health, etc. In fact, a lack of water can cause a number of adverse effects such as decreased kidney function, weight gain (our bodies can mistake hunger with dehydration….*trick - try drinking a glass of water before you eat!*), headaches, migraines, decreased cognition and overall function, decreased sleep quality, and so on.
So why is it so difficult for Americans to stay hydrated? Researchers predict that because we are so conditioned to drink fluids that are loaded with added sugars, we consequently have a distaste for plain water. Although there is water in these sugar-filled drinks, drinking the required amount of daily fluids via sodas/juices/etc. causes a number of negative health effects that go beyond the negative effects of dehydration.
According to the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, a vast majority of our daily intake of fluids (approximately 11 cups for women, 16 cups for men *also dependent of body weight/composition*) should come from water, followed by coffee/tea, low-fat/soy/almond milk, and finally, very small amounts of soda/juices/alcohol. Healthy fluid intake can also come from foods, such as soup broth and a number of fruits and vegetables (cucumbers, watermelon, spinach, lettuce, celery, etc.). For those who do not like plain water, some tricks include adding natural flavor such as lemon, lime, or berries.
Since we are constantly moving water out of our bodies via sweat, breathing, and waste, it is critical that we combat this with the right kind of fluid intake. With exercise factored in, studies show that someone can become dehydrated after just 30 minutes. Some signs of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, thirst, and less frequent urination. A simple trick to knowing if you are dehydrated is tracking the color of your urine. If it looks like lemonade, you are most likely well hydrated; if it looks like apple juice, it is time to drink the proper fluids (ideally water).
We are lucky enough to be in a position where water is readily available to us, so it is important that we take advantage of this gift and nurture our bodies with the most important nutrient of all.
Stephanie Spoto, CSCS