Gandhi might have gone on a lengthy food fast, but even that wrinkled little wise guy had to drink water to ensure he lasted long enough to make his point. Human beings can survive quite a while without food, but if we go without water for a few days, we’re toast. This is not really surprising when you consider that people are constructed of 60 to 70 percent water. But even though water is our major ingredient, we humans tend to screw up our fluid balance on a regular basis. Bad beverage choices, excessive exercising and general forgetfulness — it’s a wonder there are any of us left walking around.
To help you keep your own water table in the pink, here are a few do’s and don’ts about your No. 1 building block: water.
Don’t Get Thirsty
By that time, you’ve already become dehydrated. Your thirst mechanism kicks in when you’ve lost 2 to 3 percent of your body’s water, which is actually quite a lot. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least a half gallon of water a day, more if you’re exercising, live in a hot climate or are close to a restroom. Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere and sip it regularly to stay flush and full.
Do Drink Water to Lose Weight
Your body often confuses thirst for hunger, and your gut might send you lurching toward the vending machines for Ho Hos when all you really need is a little agua. Have a big glass of water when you’re feeling a hunger pang. Wait 15 minutes and see whether your tummy turns down the volume.
Don’t Be a Party Animal
You know that nasty hangover you got last weekend after one too many margaritas? That was your brain’s way of saying: Water me! Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body. Combine that with a sugary mixer, and you’ve got a recipe for dehydration. Though it might be hard to remember if you’re in fun mode, go one for one with your cocktails, having a big glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you enjoy. Your nugget will thank you in the morning.
Do Drink More Water Around Workouts
You lose a ton of water through sweating and breathing during exercise, so make sure you replace that adequately. Drink at least 8 to 16 ounces of water before you exercise, sip it frequently throughout the workout and finish up with a dessert of yet another 16 to 24 ounces of water. Bonus: Staying hydrated helps your muscles function better, delivering oxygen and nutrients to hardworking cells.
Don’t Guzzle Sports Drinks …
… unless you’re actually playing sports. And even then they should be ingested in moderation. Sports drinks do contain electrolytes, which need to be replaced after long bouts of exercise, like a full soccer game or hiking Mount Whitney. But they also contain a ton of sugar and calories you probably don’t need if you’re just taking a Zumba class. Those sugary carbs also impede the rate at which the drink leaves your tummy, which actually slows down their intended hydrating effect. Skip the Gatorade and go for good ol’ plain water, or if you want to get fancy, try some electrolyte-enhanced water: no calories, same benefit as the sports-drink biggies.
Do Drink Water to De-Bloat
Forget celebrity fasts; if you want to lose some water weight, just drink more water. Seems the opposite would be true, but drinking more water actually causes you to get rid of excess sodium, which results in less fluid retention.
Don’t Forget About the Water Content of Foods
Raw fruits and veggies contain tons of water. Eat plenty of these colorful guys to get healthy nutrients and boost your water intake at the same time.