Water: It's Not Boring
By Jini Cicero, CSCS
I graduated from high school in 19XX. The actual year isn’t important (I keep telling myself.) That year, our yearbook was titled “It’s the Water.” I remember thinking to myself at the time, “what water?” Our school wasn’t located near a beach, lake, river or other waterway so why was water so important that it had to be our yearbook’s theme? I never found out why it was chosen for The Quixotion that year. It might have just been a random title for the Agoura High School yearbook but I actually wondered about that for years.
Time went on and I couldn’t read anything health related, any fitness book, magazine, or news story without hearing about the importance of water. Most articles touched on keys points such as how important staying hydrated is to your health, or the fact that our muscles are 75% water, or that a person can live theoretically, weeks without food but only days without water. Eventually, I came to believe there was nothing more I needed to know about water thank you very much.
Then I entered the fitness industry and learned a bit more; no, a lot more about the importance of drinking water. I jumped on the trainer bandwagon preaching to clients the importance of drinking a minimum of eight 8 ounce glasses of purified spring water every day. I’d step off my soapbox to the groans of my clients protesting, "I hate water; it’s so…boring." Or, "can’t I at least have diet soda?"
"At least?" I wondered? At-least-can-I-destroy-my-bones-with-phosphoric-acid-and-leave-my-body-craving-the-sugar-it didn’t-get-when-it-tasted-"sweet"-in-that-diet-soda?" No, you can’t. Sodas (of any kind), juices, fruit, coffee, tea, anything wet, or anything with calories, is not water. Water stands alone.
In the same way you’ll never smoke cigarettes once you learn what it does to your body, you will want to drink water all the time, when you learn what it does for your body-inside and out. For example, when people become more serious about getting in shape; beyond the general health benefits of exercise, it is usually because they want to achieve one or both of the following goals: lose fat and/or gain muscle. Drinking water plays a big role in achieving both-not to mention maintaining general health and proper immune-system function, water’s anti-aging potential and more. If you think water is important to your muscles because they are 75% water, know that our brains are 80% water and each of the five components of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, and body composition require neurological reactions which rely on a brain that is properly hydrated, not to mention the water these five elements require for proper performance.
How does water actually get into the brain and other tissues? Water molecules enter our cells through one of three processes: diffusion (think of what happens when a single drop of food coloring is released into a bowl of still water), movement of water molecules through special channels that bring it into the cell, and through osmosis. You might remember the term osmosis from high school biology. It refers to the passage of water from an area of high concentration to one with a lower concentration.
These processes are based ideally, on pure water, as opposed to water that has had anything added to it. In their book Water: Hydrate for Health, authors William Holloway and William Sickert state “…adding any substance to water-coffee, tea, sugar, flavorings, colors, proteins-decreases the concentration of the water molecules and lessens the pressure required for osmosis to occur which, in turn, reduces absorption. That’s why it’s important to drink pure water.” According to Holloway and Sickert, the fewer the additives, the more pure the water and the higher the “osmotic pressure;” setting the stage for the best possible hydration.
Staying hydrated is nothing less than a law of healthy living as dehydration forces your body to work overtime in order to survive. Consider this:
• In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
• A 3% loss in the volume of water in the body causes fatigue and even organ dysfunction. A 10% loss can be life threatening.
• Even mild dehydration will slow down metabolism as much as 3%.
• One glass of water shuts down midnight hunger pangs in almost 100% of dieters studied.
• Lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue.
• A 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math and difficulty focusing.
Water is necessary for every biochemical reaction that occurs within every cell in the human body. Here are just a few of the things that water can do for you:
• Water is critical to the health and youthful appearance of our skin.
• It helps control appetite, assists with processes that metabolize fat and helps lessen fluid retention by relieving the body’s need to hold onto water.
• Flushes out toxins that are stored in fat tissue and released into the bloodstream when fat is metabolized.
• Improves energy metabolism.
• Lubricates joints (research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.)
• Serves as a way to bring vitamins, minerals and other nutrients into cells and assists with digestion, absorption, transportation and use of those nutrients.
• Ensures the elimination of toxins and wastes.
• Contributes to proper body temperature and energy production.
With benefits like these, why aren’t we all drinking more water? Because…water is boring (say some.)
Enter the marketers. Always prepared to “find a need and fill it,” marketers advise manufacturers to produce “tastier” water. Rocker and “extreme” marketing genius Gene Simmons of KISS fame once told me, “The most brilliant marketing concept ever created was to put water in a bottle and sell it.” (He probably sells bottled KISS water.)
Today, supermarket shelves are packed with water-like alternatives from pH balanced water, water with added electrolytes, sugary sports drinks and their alter-ego artificially-sweetened sugary sports drinks. These drinks (“formerly” considered water) contain fructose, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, sucralose, sugar and/or salt and will deliver about 30‐50 calories per 8 ounces serving (with typically 2 servings per container). If they aren’t loaded with sugars, then they have added artificial sweeteners, some of which have been found to be dangerous.
What about tap water? If you’re thinking “that stuff can kill you!” you’re not alone. Strangely enough, purified tap water can be the highest quality water you can drink-expensive yes, but worth it. There are basic water purification systems that screw into your kitchen faucet, and comprehensive systems that attach to your home’s water main, bringing cleaner, purer water to drink and bathe in than you could ever buy in the supermarket-and without the plastic bottles to add to the landfills. Consider using a stainless steel water bottle as many plastics, when warmed by the sun, are toxic.
Still think you need some type of flavoring? Try these healthy additions:
• Lemon or lime and mint
• Lemon and rosemary or powdered cayenne
• Spearmint, fennel or marjoram (crush slightly to release natural flavors)
• Orange and ginger
• Cucumber and mint
• Lemon, lime, grapefruit & orange
• White Tea (diluted 3x)
• Tangerine and vanilla (unsweetened extract)
• Cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger (use cinnamon sticks, ginger slices and freshly ground nutmeg, boil for 1 minute and dilute by 4x.)
How much water do you really need? Think of your body weight in ounces, divide that number in half, and that is roughly the amount of water you should be drinking each day (although experts disagree on just how much water should be consumed on a daily basis.) For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll need to drink 75 ounces of purified water each day. That basic amount does not include additional water consumed during exercise, particularly outside in the heat.
If water is so boring that you won’t drink it (beyond the water present in other liquids-that are basically keeping many people alive) how are you going to lubricate your joints? Expel toxins? Reproduce? Water is the fluid of life and as the saying goes, don’t just survive; thrive!
William Holloway and William Sickert, Water: Hydrate for Health (Healthy Living Guide)
Jini Cicero, CSCS is a fitness expert and integrative performance coach in Sherman Oaks, CA.