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Friday’s Flavor: Keeping hydrated

Originally published October 8, 2010

The human body consists of up to 75 percent water – which comes out to about 10 to 12 gallons of water.

Most people do not take into account that so much of the human body is made up of and functions off of water. To break it down, about 83 percent of your blood, 73 percent of your muscles and 22 percent of your bones consist of water.

Every part of the body uses water to function, which is why it is so important to stay hydrated by replenishing your body’s water supply.

Staying well hydrated may seem like a simple task, but you actually may not be consuming enough fluid.

The average female should consume nine 8-ounce glasses of water or water-based beverages every day and men need 13 glasses, and athletes need more than the recommended amount.

The amount you should consume may also be higher based on your physical activity level, body muscle mass and exterior temperature.

According to the American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, the average adult loses about 2½ quarts or about 10 cups of water daily through breathing, urine, and perspiration.

To maintain your body’s fluid balance, you need to replace water lost each day.

After oxygen, water is your highest necessity for attaining optimum health. Your brain is the most devastated by dehydration.

In fact, according to NutriScience, the number one cause of memory loss at any age is dehydration.

Whenever you have a “senior moment,” that may be your brain telling you your water stores are low and should drink a glass of pure water.

According to NutriScience, Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and repeat Tour de France winner, puts the effect of dehydration in perspective: “Even being 1 percent dehydrated is absolutely devastating to performance.”

By the time you experience thirst, you are already 2 percent dehydrated. Some signs that may be visible are flushed skin, fatigue, increased body temperature, dizziness, or a headache.

When you have reached this point, your energy levels have already diminished by 20 to 30 percent.

The average, healthy person can use the color of their urine as a reliable indicator of hydration. When you are sufficiently hydrated, your urine is a pale yellow, almost lemonade color. The darker your urine is, the more it reflects that your body and your brain are working with limited amounts of fluids which can have a negative effect on your health.

The only exception to this general rule is supplementation.

Depending on the vitamin and mineral supplement, your urine may be darker or more colorful, but as you continue to drink pure water, the color of your urine will work its way back to pale yellow.

Some great ways to make sure you are drinking enough liquids each day are to take a water break instead of a coffee break, keep a cup of water handy at home, take a drink whenever you walk by a water fountain and keep a bottle of water in your backpack or purse.

However, just because you drink it, doesn’t mean it will hydrate you.

It is best to limit some beverages, such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, sodas and commercial sports drinks as some studies have shown these have negative effects on our hydration status.

These drinks may also add excess calories to your diet. Water, on the other hand, is the best hydrator and is calorie free.

An additional source for increasing hydration could be utilizing foods. Many foods that contain water can count towards your fluid intake.

For example, 95 percent of lettuce, 91 percent of broccoli, 87 percent of carrots and 84 percent of an apple is made up of water. Using foods helps to use all of your resources to maximize hydration.

Remember, 75 percent of your body including your blood, bones, muscles and brain all need water to function. Severe dehydration could result in a number of problems including heat injury, swelling of the brain, seizures, shock, kidney failure and even a coma or death.

Buy a water bottle, Brita filter or just use good old tap water. No matter what you drink, make sure you keep water handy and drink up.

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