Water! We know it’s important – but how much do we need to stay hydrated? You’ve probably heard a few recommendations before; 8 glasses, 2-3 litres, half your body weight in ounces…basically, we need a lot. So, how do we get there? And why is it important?
Water makes up approximately 60% of your total body weight and is key to many vital body functions, such as regulating our temperature in these hot summer months, keep our joints lubricated and mobile, and breaking down our food for energy production!
Just as we manage our weight by balancing calories in vs calories out, we must also pay attention to the balance of fluids in vs fluids out, to keep our body functioning properly. We lose fluids throughout the day from body waste (feces/urine), sweat, and breathing; these losses are sped up during exercise, as we sweat more and our breathing rate increases. The fluids that we take in to balance these losses come from our foods and beverages.
We take in about one litre of water each day from the foods that we eat – raw fruits and vegetables will yield the highest water content, while “wet” carbs (cooked whole grains and legumes) will still provide a fair amount of hydration. Foods high in fat (nuts, seeds, oils, and butter) have a very low water content. Thus, if we were following a diet high in fats and low in vegetables, we would not be getting nearly the same amount of hydration from our foods as when we eat a healthy, balanced diet.
We also store water differently depending on how much of our food we are storing in the body – diets high in sodium and carbs will cause us to retain additional water (3-4 grams of water per gram of stored carbs), which is why at the beginning of restrictive diets (where starchy carbs and high sodium foods are the first thing to go) it can sometimes seem like we lose a lot of weight quickly; most of it being less retained water.
When it comes to beverages, we aim to take in as much water as possible, but all beverages count towards our fluid intake. Water will have the most “rate of return” on volume consumed vs volume of fluid able to be absorbed and used by the body – but your kidneys are able to filter sugary beverages to still extract and use water contained in them.
Alcohol, on the other hand, will have a negative impact on your body’s ability to regulate hydration. Although alcohol itself does not suck the water out of you, it inhibits the release of hormones that send thirst signals and regulate how much body water is retained, so we end up losing more fluids through urine and not realizing through thirst signals that we need more water intake.
The information above relates solely to the fact that all beverages help to hydrate us – when it comes to beverage choice and empty calories (and the weight gain that comes along with too many of them), that’s another story. Some examples of sneaky added calories that don’t keep us full: One cup of O.J. contains 100 calories. One can of Coke contains 140 calories; the same as a small Tim Hortons’ Double Double. Add another 110 calories and you have yourself a tall Starbucks Vanilla Latte (250 cal.). Double that (500 cal.) and you are in the ballpark of the caloric content of many homemade smoothies containing things like protein powder, frozen fruit, and yogurt. These smoothies are nutrient rich but are also high in calories, and don’t always keep us feeling full until lunch time. A 5oz glass of wine contains 125 calories while a typical can of beer has around 150 calories.
While calories don’t paint the entire picture of healthy eating and weight loss, liquid calories can easily creep up on us.
So what can I do to keep hydrated and minimize empty calories?
- Paying attention to the liquid calories you consume each day. Being mindful of what you eat and drink is the starting point for changing any dietary behavior.
- Remove caloric beverages from your fridge, kitchen and office. Make them less convenient to grab!
- If you use a smoothie as a meal replacement, try eating a solid food meal instead. You hunger will be more satisfied.
- Try reducing the amount of cream and sugar you add to your coffee and tea, or reduce the size of your beverages. Or, you can begin by reducing the total number of calorie containing drinks by 1-2/day.
- Try sparkling water rather than soda.
- Finally, make sure to hit your daily water intake. If you are less thirsty over all, you will be less likely to turn to high calorie dinks to slake your thrust. Set yourself up for success.
Moderation is key. Find the best balance that works for you to meet your goals, while keeping yourself adequately hydrated throughout the day!