Monday, January 24, 2011

Water: The First Nutrient

Water: The First Nutrient
Many scientists credit water as being the reason for life on earth. All creatures on earth - including humans - rely on water more than any other substance to stay healthy. We can go longer without food than water, and virtually all of our other nutrient requirements are impacted by the amount of water we drink. The reason is simple: our bodies are about 60% water by weight, and most nutrients move around through our body in water. Our bloodstream is composed primarily of water, and so are all of our tissues and organ systems. Water is also the key to elimination of toxins from our body (in the form of urine and perspiration). There isn't a single bodily function - from seeing and hearing and thinking to running and singing and laughing - that does not depend on water.
Exactly how helpful is water to our health? Researchers at Loma Linda University looked at water consumption in a group of more than 20,000 men and women in their Adventist Health Study. In this study, they determined that adults drinking 5 or more glass of water each day were about 50% less likely to die from a heart attack. They made some other comparisons involving water and health, and in their announcement of the results, these researchers ranked increased water drinking equal very close to smoking cessation in terms of heart health! Other research has shown that water drinking helps maintain proper blood pressure, improves mental performance, increases athletic performance, and helps regulate digestion.
It's helpful to think about the health benefits of water in three basic categories. First is the fluid aspect of water. Water is a lubricant. It keeps things flowing and moving. While it lubricates, water also protects our body parts from damage by surrounding them in a shock-absorbing fluid. This aspect of water is especially important in our joints, and also in our skin. The second aspect of water is its role as a "solvent." Most nutrients dissolve in water. In our bodies, some of the most important dissolved nutrients are called "electrolytes." The electrolyte minerals like potassium and sodium stay dissolved in water, and the ability of water to dissolve electrolytes is a key reason why our bodies can conduct electricity. The third aspect of water involves its role as a thermostat. When we are too hot, water lets us shed heat through sweating. Water also helps us retain heat when we need to stay warm.
So how much water should you be drinking daily? Hydration needs are just as individualized as calories needs. It depends on weight, activity and temperature.  I will go in more depth on hydration needs during heavy training and in the heat when that time comes for now let’s focus on basic needs. The average person should consume half their body weight in ounces. Example: If you weigh 150lbs you should consume 75 ounces of water daily or 9-10 cups.  (Weight (lbs.) / 2 x 1 oz.)
Daily Hydration Strategies:
·         Start your day with hydration in mind to cleanse your system and rehydrate.
·         Although water is not the only hydration option do NOT rely on caffeinated beverages for hydration needs. A moderate intake of caffeine is fine but focus on decaffeinated coffee, tea, and herbal tea.
·         100% Fruit juice, dairy milk or soy milk are also fluid choices but come with calories and sugar. Stick to only 1-2 servings of these beverages daily.  
·         Be cautious of flavored or mineral infused waters, they can contain tons of sugars and unnecessary calories.
·         Carry water with you at all times.
·         Add lemon, lime or a small amount of juice for flavor.
·         Am I hydrated? Use your urine as a guide. Clear or pale urine is a sign of optimal hydration.
·         Consume 24 ounces of water 2 hours before exercising and another 8 to 16 ounces 30 minutes before exercising to ensure adequate hydration.
Filtered, Bottled or Tap?
With all the different products on the market even something simple as consuming water can become complicated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 90% of drinking water is safe. Tap water does contain substance other than H2O and is fluoridated in most of the country. Tap water can contain minerals such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, lead, mercury and pesticides. Calcium can be beneficial but lead, mercury and pesticides can be harmful in abundance.
If you feel that your water is not of the best quality you can purchase a home filtration system. Many filters attach right to the tap and can filter out lead and other contaminants. The pitchers with built in filters are also dependable products.  If you are willing to spend some extra cash reverse osmosis filters is gold standard and can filter out lead, mercury, minerals, some pesticides, and microorganisms. These are installed where the water meets the main water pipe and covers all the water used in the house. An independent organization called NSF International sets standards for and certifies water filtration systems. Its web site,, lists filters and the contaminants that each is certified to reduce in your water. It also reviews bottled water companies.
Americans consumed more than 7.5 billion gallons of bottle water in 2005 alone and the number continues to rise annually. Some have the misconception that bottled water is safer but that may not always be the case.  About a fourth of all bottled water comes from municipal water supplies (tap water!).  Unlike tap water bottled water is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and problems are not caught until someone gets sick as a result.
As you continue on your journey to a healthier lifestyle and the training miles and humidity increases so will your need for more water.  I appalled Marathon Makeover for “going green” and moving away from paper cups at water stops on Saturdays. This means you will need purchase a water bottle to carry with you on your runs. There are many different hydration options from hand held, around the waste or on the back to ensure you never go thirsty on a run. This is also a great way to start developing your “hydration strategy” for race day. When you are accustom to carrying your own water bottle you are not at the mercy of the water stops. You stop less during the race and always have water when you need it.
When you are not on the run I highly recommend investing in a stainless steel or BPA free water bottle to carry with you at all times. Consume tap water or filtered tap water.  Do what is best for your health and Mother Earth and avoid bottled water whenever possible.

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