All About Water and Hydration for Health, Physical Activity, and Weight Loss

May 15, 2024
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Background on Benefits of Water

Your body is 60% water! Your body needs water for many things, including the following.

  • Proper immune function
  • Cushioning joints and organs
  • Blood volume
  • Metabolism
  • Cognitive function

Water can reduce the risk of certain conditions, such as the following.

  • Certain cancers
  • Heart health
  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney stones
  • Blood sugar, diabetes risk
  • Urinary tract infections

You lose water all the time.

  • Sweat
  • Waste
  • Respiration
  • Skin

How Much Water Do You Need?

The DRI is 64-96 ounces per day. 

  • Men need more than women
  • You may need more if you’re active, if the weather’s warm, and when you’re ill

Water for Weight Loss

Science says have “more” - this can happen in many ways! Here are some examples of how to have “more” fluid.

  1. Add 1-2 cups before each meal.
  2. Add a certain amount of water throughout the day.
  3. Substitute water for sugar-sweetened beverages.

What’s Good to Drink?

Water is great! 

  • It’s calorie-free and hydrating.
  • Try tap, bottled, cold, and ice water. Sparkling water and seltzer water are also good.

You can make your own enhanced water. Here are some possible additions.

  • Slice or wedge of orange, lemon, or lime
  • Basil or peppermint leaves
  • Cucumber slice
  • Strawberry or peach slices
  • Ginger slices
  • Cinnamon stick, cloves, vanilla bean or vanilla extract

Here are some other low-calorie beverages.

  • Black coffee (watch caffeine limits)
  • Unsweetened hot or iced tea (green, black, herbal)
  • Low-sodium broth

You might enjoy the occasional caloric beverage. Here are some examples. 

  • Fruit juice has 120 calories per cup. It is high in sugar and carbohydrates, but some types have vitamin C and folate. 
  • Milk and soy milk have 90 calories per cup. They have protein and calcium.
  • Vegetable and tomato juice have 40 calories per cup. It has vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, and other nutrients. Choose low-sodium when possible. 
  • Almond milk has 30 calories per cup. It has calcium and other nutrients.

When Do You Need Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks can replace electrolytes and provide hydration.

Most people don’t need them. You’re likely to need sports drinks if you exercise intensely and are sweating for more than 60-90 minutes at a time, such as running, playing soccer, or cycling hard.

Here are some benefits of sports drinks.

  • They can promote hydration
  • They can taste good
  • Electrolytes like B vitamins and sodium

Here are some potential drawbacks of sports drinks.

  • Non-diet sports drinks have calories and sugar.
  • Acid and sugar can be harmful to tooth enamel.
  • They’re costly.

Tips for Getting More Fluids

  • Log/track water
  • Use a timer or app for reminders
  • Tie drinking water to other actions, like eating meals and snacks or going to the bathroom
  • Set out goal amount at beginning of day and finish it by the end of the day
  • Drink good-tasting fluids

Create Your Hydration Plan!

Step 1: What’s your goal?

  • Will you achieve a certain daily total for fluid consumption? Will you add a certain amount of fluid to what you already drink in a day?
  • Make it realistic to set yourself up for success
  • You may need to track for a few days to get a baseline so you can set a goal

Step 2: What does it look like?

  • Put it into amounts you can visualize
  • For example, how many water bottles or pitchers will you drink?

Step 3: When will you accomplish it?

  • At certain times of day?
  • Before or during certain events, like before meals or during snacks?

Step 4: Set reminders

  • Phone alarms at designated “hydration” times
  • Put sticky notes on your laptop or fridge
  • Have water on your desk or close at hand
  • Attach it to habits you already have, like using the restroom, walking through the kitchen, or checking email or texts

Step 5: How will you track your progress and celebrate your victories?

Health Coach Q & A

Doesn’t more water intake require additional salt in our diet? Don’t we lose salt with more water intake?

Your kidneys are very good at filtering. They are good at keeping what’s needed, and excreting what’s not. If you’re taking in a lot of water and not so many minerals, your kidneys will generally know to retain minerals and excrete excess water. 

If you’re not yet at the “Adequate Intake” level for water consumption, it can be a goal to increase your water consumption to get there. If you’re already there, adding water is unlikely to be harmful unless you drink an excessive amount (please see the answer about hyponatremia, below). 

Most people get adequate sodium in their diets. 

It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor about any concerns you may have about health, water consumption, and sodium intake. 

There is a "myth" about drinking too much water is bad because you're kind of "sweeping away" all including good minerals, etc. maybe it's just marketing strategies from other drinks?

That’s a great question. While it is possible to drink too much plain water if you drink a lot quickly, it’s unlikely. Please see the answer to the below question for more details.

It is a very astute observation that this “myth” may be supported by the beverage industry to support sales of non-water beverages. 

Are there any dangers in drinking too much water? Like stipping your body of some minerals?

There isn’t much risk of drinking too much water for healthy individuals.

It’s not likely to strip your body of minerals. Please see the answer above for more information.

There is a condition called hyponatremia that can happen if you take in too much water too fast. It’s most likely in endurance athletes who are competing and are taking in water without electrolytes despite sweating heavily. It can also happen in individuals who are participating in games that involve dares or competitions to drink a lot of water very quickly.

Each individual is different, but as a general guideline, hyponatremia is more likely if you’re consuming more than 1.5-2 liters (24-32 ounces) of water per hour for more than 2 hours, and not replacing any electrolytes. 

Can you say a little about the quality of water we intake? In particular, tap water and the concern with PFAS or "Forever" chemicals?

In general, tap water is supposed to be “safe.” A possible benefit of tap water, besides it being low-cost and usually easily available, is that it’s often fluoridated. That’s good for bones and teeth, especially for growing children. You can check with your local provider for more details.

Different municipalities have different standards for water quality. You may be able to find those standards from your water provider. You may also be able to find results of regular testing against those standards. For example, reports on tap water report in Los Angeles are available to residents of Los Angeles, and residents can see the quantitites of minerals and contaminants in the water compared to standards. 

PFAS have been in the news recently, and there have been reports of PFAS in drinking water. Suppliers will need to provide information on testing. It’s expected that less than 10% of public drinking water will have PFAS at significant levels.

A filter that goes on your faucet, or a filter that is in a water pitcher, can help reduce the levels of certain items in water. If you’re specifically concerned about PFAS, purchase a filter that’s certified to remove them. You can check the filter packaging or informational insert to see.

I’ve been told to drink “at least half my bodyweight” in water. If you are overweight, are you at risk for drinking too much water?

That’s an interesting question! We are assuming you mean half an ounce of water for each pound of body weight. If that’s the case, there shouldn’t be any particular health concerns, assuming you’re healthy, you spread your water intake out throughout the day, and your healthcare provider approves of your plan. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say you weigh 250 pounds. Half of that is 125. If you put that into ounces, that’s about a gallon of water. That’s not excessive if you’re someone who’s really trying to stay hydrated, especially for health reasons and to promote fullness, like hydrating does. 

Is there a water intake limitation?

It varies by individual, but as an estimate, your kidneys can process about 1 liter of water per hour, or about 8 ounces every 15 minutes. That’s about a gallon every 4 hours. Most people are unlikely to drink that much water inadvertently.

It’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you are drinking the appropriate amount for your own conditions and needs. 

I drink a lot of water.  Will this cause bloat?

It’s great that you drink a lot of wtaer! “Bloat” is a general term, and it refers to discomfort, especially in your abdominal or gastrointestinal area. Most people who stay properly hydrated find that they’re more comfortable, not less comfortable, compared to when they’re not drinking enough.

Which is better, room temperature or iced water?

This is a very interesting question that people like to ask! In most cases, this simple depends on personal preferences. Some people find that they only like cold or ice water; other people find that they prefer water room temperature.

If you’re exercising intensely, such as racing a half-marathon or marathon, room temperature water may be better because it’s absorbed more quickly and easily than very cold water.

If you’re trying to boost metabolism, iced water can help a bit. Drinking a cup of iced water can help you burn a few - a very few - extra calories as your body works to warm it up.

What about if you work in an outdoor environment for 8 hours a day?

Anything that increases your water losses will increase your water consumption requirements. If your environment is hot, humid, windy, or dry, your water needs can increase. If you’re active, your needs increase. 

You may need to be aware of some challenges and try to address them.

  • Is water available? Look for a drinking fountain or bring your own full water bottles to last all day.
  • Do you have reminders to drink water? Set a timer on your phone so you remember to drink, since it can be harder to remember than if you were sitting at a desk all day.

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