By VANESSA HAMPTON
I am “that” person. I carry around a gallon jug of water with me…everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean it. Not that long ago, my husband and I went on a double date with friends and they laughed at me when they realized I had my trusty jug in the car even then. But, I don’t mind. It keeps me in check about how much water I am drinking and this is the foundation of keeping me strong, healthy, and functioning at my best.
I didn’t use to do this, but a few years ago, I was at my doctor’s office being treated for a sickness and she was telling me that I needed to get rest and drink plenty of fluids. She added, “But, I’m sure you already do that” (in light of me being a fitness professional). I started to think about this and the fact that I always had water with me in my cooler that I carry but how much was I really drinking? I am with clients and in classes much of my day and it occurred to me that I wasn’t near as diligent about my water intake as I should be.
It was then that I decided the best way for me to make sure I was getting enough of the H20 I needed, was to carry a jug and make sure I got through it each day. What I have found is that it is much easier to be diligent about my water intake if it is right in front of me all the time. Yes, I spend more time running to the restroom (I hear this concern a lot) but this has gotten better over time as my body (and my mind) has adjusted and, besides, the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience.
So, here’s why water is so important. Our bodies are made up of 60-70% water (depending on who you ask) and everything from our organs, to our brain, to our skin and eyes use it to function. Everything! If we don’t maintain appropriate levels of water, our bodies will use it for the most vital functions first, leaving everything else depleted. We tend to think of dehydration signs and symptoms as being severe but many of us walk around partially dehydrated all the time. Signs of mild or moderate dehydration can include dry mouth, not peeing very much, muscle cramps and joint pain, as well as dry skin, dry eyes, and poor digestion or difficult bowel movements. Notice any of these?
Once I began monitoring my water intake more closely, one of the blaring differences for me was that my hands were no longer getting so dry that they hurt in the winter. I wash my hands and use sanitizer a lot because I spend so much time in gyms. This is great to minimize bacteria but it also badly dries out skin. I always tried to treat it topically with the most powerful lotions but, after joining forces with my water jug, I was thrilled to realize that I wasn’t having near the problem with dry hands. My skin was staying moist from the inside out because my body had enough water for it!
Many people assume that they can drink a glass of water if they are thirsty and, boom! Sudden hydration. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. The only way to be truly hydrated is to be consistent with your fluid intake throughout your day. You can get some water through fruits and vegetables that you eat, as well as other fluids, but it’s important to drink pure water as well, in order to make sure you are getting enough. You don’t have to carry around a gallon jug (unless you just want to be cool 😊), but keeping track of how much water you are consuming will help you in your hydration quest.
There are a lot of suggestions out there about how much water you should be drinking. Some are generalized suggestions of so many glasses per day. These are not my favorite because each person’s body and activity level is different. This means that I am not going to lose the same amount of water during my day (through sweat, evaporation, breathing and bathroom breaks) as you do, so I may need a different amount than you. There are also calculations for how many ounces of water per pound of body weight you should drink. Again, not a fan of this method either because I can weigh the exact same as you, but our body compositions and circumstances are different and we will not need or lose the same amount of water. (As a side note, when you consume alcohol, you lose even more water. A hangover occurs mostly because the body is dehydrated the next day, so drink as much water as you do alcohol when you consume it!)
The easiest and best way to tell if you are hydrated is by the color of your pee. Yep, check the toilet. If it’s more on the light or clear side, you are good to go. If it is not, you need more water. Keep in mind that some medications and supplements can alter the color of urine so check the labels and talk to your doctor if you are concerned about this.
Drinking water is the most simplistic thing we can do for our health and the benefits are endless. It’s much easier to stick to better eating and exercise when your digestion is working properly and your muscles are energized from being hydrated. Besides feeling better and being able to make better decisions about your health, when you look at that beautiful face in the mirror and see a healthy hydrated smile, water will be your new best friend. So, are you getting enough water?
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.