Water: Science, Medicine, Art (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday I talked about why our bodies need so much water (if you missed it, read here). Today, I will explain the "art" of drinking water: how much, what type, and when?


Daily water intake in ounces = your weight / 2

• Add 2-4 glasses per day if you live in a dry climate (that’s us, Coloradans)

• Add more before, during and after a workout (amount varies based on activity level)

• Add 2-4 glasses per day if you are feeling onset of cold or flu symptoms

• For every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you drink add 1-2 glasses

What about other beverages?

Many people believe that drinking a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee counts as one of their glasses of water. That’s a myth! Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate the body in that it takes more than the amount of water in the beverage to pass it through the body. Therefore the body must dip into water reserves, which are usually saved for the brain. Dehydration in the brain can lead to serious consequences. On the days I have a latte or cup of green tea, I just make sure to drink an extra glass of water to stay hydrated.

Milk should be viewed as a food and should not be included in daily water intake. Juices can be very sugary and should be consumed in moderation. They also should not be included in daily water intake.

Minerals help with water regulation inside the body. Sodium helps balance water outside of cells, which is important for brain function. This is why people must replace salt in addition to water during and after exercise. Potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc regulate water levels inside of cells. Without these minerals, your water may not be working effectively inside your body.

Types of Water to Consider

Tap Water: Contact your water supplier for a water quality report and compare to info on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or American Water Works Assn (AWWA) websites.

Bottled Water: Some brands are better than others. Try to avoid plastic containers whenever possible, due to the BPA chemicals that may disrupt hormones and be bad for your health. Although there are still studies going on about the actual affects of BPA on your health, high urinary levels of BPA have been associated with people with chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease. So what type of container should you use? Right now many are saying stainless steel is best. Klean Kanteen is a brand you’ll find at many stores such as REI and Whole Foods. Klean Kanteen even makes a “sippy-cup” version for kids, with a special spill-free spout (check it out here).

Filtered Water: A water filter can remove things such as chemicals, pesticides, hormones, nitrates, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride, bacteria and viruses. Research water filters online, at a health food store, or through your nutritionist or doctor. I just bought an Aquasana home water filter for our kitchen. It was recommended by my teacher at school because it is reasonably priced and still filters out chlorine, lead, THMs (disinfection byproducts formed when chlorine, which is used to treat drinking water, reacts with certain materials in the water), PCBs and VOCs (organic chemicals), MTBE (chemicals from leaky underground storage tanks and pipelines), crypto and cysts (parasites), bad taste and odor.

As for when...

Try to drink a glass or two right when you wake up each morning. You lose water in your sleep due to being covered with blankets and also through deep breathing. During a meal, and for about an hour afterwards, try to keep water to a minimum. Water dilutes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which can make digestion difficult (check out my HCL post here). And, of course, it's very important to hydrate before, during and after a workout.

I know this is a lot of information. Bottom line: Drink plenty of water each day, and make sure your family does too. If you can get a water filter, even a Brita over your faucet, you will improve the water quality significantly.

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