We require more water than any other thing we ingest. We may survive for a few weeks without food, but we would only last a few days without water.

Drinking water is important year-round but you need to be especially meticulous about drinking water when the weather is hot. Two-thirds of your body is composed of water, which makes it the body’s most vital nutrient.

To maintain balance the average person needs about 10 cups of water each day. Of this amount, probably 60 percent will be obtained from drinking water or beverages, 30 percent from moist foods and the remaining 10 percent will be a byproduct of the metabolism of various nutrients.

Are eight cups enough? The fact is, how much water you need to drink each day depends on a few factors, including your age, gender, activity level, humidity and even the weather. The Institute of Medicine, which sets Dietary Reference Intakes for all nutrients, says that in general, women need around 11 cups of water a day, while men need 15.6 cups a day.

Lean body mass contains about 70 percent to 75 percent water, with body fat containing about 10 percent to 40 percent water. Men and athletes with more muscle mass have bodies that contain more water than bodies with proportionately lower muscle and higher fat, such as non-athletic women, people who are overweight and people who are older. If you’re carrying more body fat than you need you’ll need more water.

Water normally enters the body through the mouth but it can be lost in a number of ways. These include obvious losses as in urine, feces and sweat as well as less obvious losses, which occur by diffusion of water through the skin (perspiration throughout the day as part of metabolism) and by evaporation of water from the lungs during breathing.

There are a lot of different types of water. Some waters are expensive, some don’t taste good and some cost too much.

Mineral water — Has no legal definition, as all water except distilled and purified water contain some minerals.

Spring water — Water that naturally flows out of the ground.

Natural spring water — Spring water collected without pumping or processing.

Hard water — Contains the minerals calcium and magnesium.

Soft water — Calcium and magnesium have been removed and replaced by sodium.

Drinking water — Non-carbonated water with no guarantee that it comes from a particular source or has been given a special treatment.

Purified water — Minerals removed.

Distilled water — The condensed steam of boiled water, a process that removed all minerals.

Deionized water — Minerals removed by a deionizer.

Your daily fluid intake can come from drinking water or other beverages such as juice, milk or soft drinks. Fruits and vegetables can also be counted because they are 80 percent water. You can’t count your intake of coffee, tea or alcohol because they can act as a diuretic, which means you will lose water.

If a person gets in about 10 cups of water each day, then an equal amount must be eliminated to maintain water balance. Of this volume approximately 60 percent will be lost in urine, 6 percent in feces, and 6 percent in sweat. Another 28 percent will be lost by diffusion through the skin (which takes place all day long) and evaporation from the lungs. These percentages vary when factors such as temperature, relative humidity and physical activity come into play.

Water provides a valuable source of minerals like calcium and magnesium. It carries nutrients to your organs and tissue by way of the blood stream. Water also aids in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients into the body. It carries away bodily waste and cools the body through perspiration. Water also moistens mucous membranes and lubricates the joints.

Drinking water can also help reduce your risk of developing kidney stones by diluting urine. Diluting urine through increased water intake will reduce the uric acid build up in your blood. Too much uric acid in the blood can lead to kidney stones. This is one of the reasons low calorie diets have you drink lots of water. Low calorie diets cause the body to breakdown muscle for protein, which results in excess uric acid in the blood.

Drinking water can help prevent other common medical emergencies, which occur during this time of year such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Adequate water intake can help keep the body temperature regulated but you need to beware when the atmosphere is extremely hot. People with respiratory problems, small children, the elderly, overweight individuals, the physically challenged and alcoholics need to take special care not to be exposed for long periods to extreme humidity, heat and sun. Not drinking enough water is also a common cause of water retention. Your body knows it needs water and will store it if you don’t supply it with enough.

You’ve got to drink water or you’ll have some serious problems. We lose about a half-gallon of body fluid during the day. That’s about 2 percent of your body weight. If you workout you’ll loose even more and this could be dangerous. With a 3 percent fluid loss you’d have a hard time maintaining your body temperature. With a 4 percent fluid loss your muscles stop working properly. A 5 percent fluid loss is life threatening. At 150 pounds a 5 percent fluid loss is only 7.5 pounds. Many people try to sweat away excess weight. Water loss or sweating is not an indication you’re losing weight. It just means you’re losing necessary body fluids.

Even seasoned athletes should replenish their body following strenuous exercise. They will need more protein to strengthen muscle, carbohydrates to refuel, electrolytes to replenish what’s lost in sweat, and fluids to help rehydrate their body. Chocolate milk is a perfect, natural replacement that fills those requirements.

If you work outdoors your body usually has a chance to get acclimated to hot weather but you still need to drink plenty of water throughout the day and take it easy on those days when temperatures are extreme. As the heat index rises above 70 degrees, there is a high risk for heat-related illness.

If you have a fitness question or concern, write to “Tips to be Fit,” PO Box 53443, Philadelphia, Pa., 19105, or tipstobefit@gmail.com. Missing articles, go to www.phillytrib.com and search “Tips to be Fit.”

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