Why you need Water

June 18, 1999

WaterBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Packed inside a simple glass of water is the stimulus for some of the body's most complex and vital functions.

After it moves past the stomach and intestines, water flows into the plasma and bloodstream, where it acts as a medium for all sorts of biochemical reactions, says Tim Taylor, wellness director at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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Some people say they feel energized after drinking water, but since it has no calories, it does not actually provide energy, Taylor says. It does, however, stimulate the body's metabolism, which can provide a sense of invigoration, he says.

Taylor recommends drinking eight to 10 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but people who exercise should aim for 10 to 14.


Active individuals should weigh themselves before and after they exercise, Taylor says. For every pound lost, they should drink two glasses of water, he says.

Drink a glass of water one hour before engaging in physical activity and another half to full glass a few minutes before you start, says Dr. H. Wallace Brubaker, a family practitioner at Cumberland Valley Family Physicians in Chambersburg, Pa. Drink every 15 to 20 minutes during your athletic pursuits and continue to hydrate yourself after you're done, he says.

Those with cardiac conditions such as congestive heart failure shouldn't drink as much because their symptoms are affected by the fluid and salt content in the body, Brubaker says.

Sports drinks can help maintain sodium, potassium and complex carbohydrate levels in athletes, Brubaker says. But because of their carbohydrate content, they don't empty well from the stomach, which can cause bloating.

Fluids in other forms

"A lot of people have a hard time taking in eight glasses of water a day," says Brubaker, also medical director for Cumberland Valley Medical Services in Chambersburg. He advises people to aim for between four and eight glasses, hoping for an average of six.

There are other ways to get fluids, but water is the most preferable.

"I think water is the best rehydration fluid that's available," Brubaker says.

Mixes to which water are added, such as lemonades and teas, as well as sugar-laden drinks like nondiet sodas and coffee with flavor enhancers can be counted toward daily fluid consumption, but they slow the absorption of water into the system, Taylor and Brubaker say.

"Every fluid does contribute to your total water intake," Taylor says.

Those who are generally in good health can safely consume one soda per day and shouldn't have more than two, Brubaker says. Diabetics should avoid the nondiet sodas, he says.

It's OK to drink two, 6-ounce cups of black coffee a day, but strive for less if you add cream or sugar.

Caffeinated drinks are diuretics, which increase urination. They will cause you to lose some fluids, but not as many as you put into your body, Taylor says.

Caffeinated drinks often contain sodium, which causes water retention, leaving you feeling bloated, Taylor says. Such beverages can cause an elevation in blood pressure and heart rate.

Increase your water intake by adding some to chilled soups in the warmer months, says Edee Hogan, a spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., for American Dietetic Association.

Fruits also have some water content. If you're a fan of fruit salad, add some fruit juice for extra fluid, Hogan says.

Hydration habit

Don't just drink when you're thirsty; make it a habit.

"It needs to be a constant thing throughout the day," Brubaker says.

When you finish one bottle of water, fill it again, Hogan says.

Always have water available at breakfast, lunch and dinner, she says. Drinking some before you eat will help curb your food intake, Hogan adds.

Those with chronic dehydration risk cancer of the urinary tract.

Some warning signs of dehydration include deep-colored urine and a dry mouth, Hogan says.

Other than the first urine released in the day, Hogan says, "It should look like the water in the (toilet) bowl."

More Info: Some ways to enhance your water-drinking experience:

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