It’s shaping up to be another summer of record-breaking high temperatures. And the news media is beginning to sound like a broken record, too – over and over again we’re reminded to keep ourselves well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. But it’s an important message – not just during a heat wave, but also throughout the year because water serves so many critical functions in the body.
If you’re one of those people who keeps track of your fluid intake, and you monitor how much you drink every day, then you probably have a pretty good idea. But there are some other indicators that your fluid intake may not be quite up to par.
This seems so obvious – if you’re thirsty, you’re probably not getting enough fluids. True enough, but keep in mind that sometimes your thirst mechanism doesn’t kick in until you’re already running fairly ‘dry’ – which is one reason why athletes, especially, are encouraged to drink on a schedule. Also, as people age, the thirst response isn’t quite as strong, which is why establishing a healthy ‘drinking habit’ as a young adult is so important.
When your body is well hydrated, you can tell by looking at the color of your urine. If it’s relatively clear – enough that you could read the newspaper through it – then you’re good. Without enough water, your urine becomes concentrated, and dark in color. Your urine should look more like lemonade, and less like apple juice.
Proper bowel function relies on adequate fluids, so if you’re constipated, it’s possible that you aren’t drinking enough water. Most people consider fiber the most important factor in ensuring a well-functioning digestive tract. But in order for certain fibers (the water-soluble ones) to properly do their job, they need to soak up water, which causes the fibers to swell up – adding bulk and aiding elimination.
When your mouth gets dry, there’s less saliva to wash away the naturally occurring bacteria that live there. As the bacteria feed on little bits of food and skin cells in your mouth, they start to multiply, leaving your breath a little stale – think “morning mouth”. Water helps because it keeps the saliva flowing and can help reduce bacterial buildup.
Water is critical in helping your body produce the energy your muscles need to fuel your workouts. When you’re not well hydrated, you may feel your energy flagging. That’s why getting enough fluids before and during exercise is so important.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.
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