Well, it’s been a minute since I wrote about the last step in my Healthy Living Baby Steps series! I started this series to help simplify healthy living for you. The fourth healthy living baby step is to drink water. Keep reading for some reasons why it’s so important to drink enough water, tips for getting in enough water daily, and whether or not other drinks count as water.
There’s so many conflicting ideas in the health and wellness world these days. What’s better – a low-fat diet or low-carb diet? Does it matter if you eat after dark? Is fruit bad to eat? So many of these ideas are nit-picky and not what really matters. If you’re just getting started with your health journey – whether you’re trying to lose weight, heal a disease, or have more energy – there are some steps that are important to take FIRST.
I shared how important it is to first create the right mindset, get quality sleep, and manage your stress. If you don’t address those things, the rest of the steps and any other steps you take in your health journey are probably not going to have as much benefit. You might eat super clean, healthy food for every meal. But if you’re stress is ridiculously high, you’re still going to experience health problems and difficulty losing weight (if that’s your goal).
So, once you’ve read those posts and have worked on those steps, move on to this step. Step #4 in your health journey should be to drink plenty of water. And not JUST drink water, but cut out sugary, high-calorie drinks.
Why Drink Water
Drinking water and staying hydrated is so important! Did you know about 60% of an adult’s body and 75% of a child’s body is made of water?!?! It’s vital to virtually every function of the human body.
Here are SOME things that water does in our body:
- Thermoregulation – helps to maintain a normal body temperature
- Keeps the skin hydrated and more elastic
- Contributes to better mood
- Increases energy
- Improves alertness
- Helps prevent kidney stones
- Keeps you regular and reduces constipation
- Helps with short-term memory
- Helps with fine motor skills
- Improves visual attention
- Reduces headaches
- Helps with fat and weight loss
- Helps remove toxins from the body
- Carries nutrients to different parts of the body
- Lubricates your joints and tissues
- Improves physical activity
- Boosts your metabolism
Wow! We could probably go on and. There’s probably way more that we just don’t know about and studies have not been done to prove yet. Bottom line is – water is pretty important!
When you don’t drink enough water you could experience these symptoms, among others:
- Kidney stones
- Urinary tract infection
- Dry skin
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Headaches and migraines
- Dry mouth
- Loss of strength
Severe dehydration, which happens when you lose more water (and electrolytes) than you take in, can also cause:
- Heat stroke
- Kidney failure
- Hypovolemic shock – when low water causes low blood volume, which then causes a drop in blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in your body
Can We Stay Hydrated From Other Drinks – or Foods?
So, we know staying hydrated is super important. But can we stay hydrated from other drinks, besides just water?
Yes, and no!
Consuming WATER is important for all the functions I mentioned above. But we can get water in other sources too.
- Fruits and vegetables – Cucumber is 96% and watermelon is 90% water! Some other great food sources of water are tomatoes, celery, spinach, mushrooms, oranges, blueberries and apples.
- Soups – Soups that are water based can help keep you hydrated and contribute towards your water intake for the day.
- Herbal tea – Non-caffeinated herbal tea is another great option to keep you hydrated. It’s just water infused with herbs, so it has added benefits. I drink 1-2 cups of herbal tea a day. I love drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed to help me relax.
- Sparkling water – It’s water – just with carbonation added to it. As long as it doesn’t cause digestion problems and bloating for you, go for it! However, if it has added sugars and artificial flavors, I’d avoid it.
- Bone broth – It is made of water infused with collagen and other nutrients; so it is a great way to get your hydration on!
What about sports drinks, energy drinks soda, juice, milk, coffee, alcohol, and tea? They have water in them? Do they count?
Caffeinated drinks like energy drinks, coffee, and tea are diuretics, meaning they cause you to urinate more frequently. This depletes water. It’s probably not enough to cause you to become dehydrated. However, it shouldn’t count towards your water intake for the day.
Alcohol for sure does not count. It is also a diuretic – even more so than caffeine. Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration, and, not only does it NOT help with our body’s functions, but it hinders them. Alcohol is a toxin and can cause cellular damage and can lead to problems like:
- Liver damage
- Immune system decline
- Weakened bones
- Hormonal imbalance
- Heart problems
- Stomach ulcers
If you drink alcohol on occasion, try to drink 2 cups of water for every alcoholic drink you consume to keep you hydrated, to help wash out the toxins, and to prevent hangovers.
Soda and Juice
Soda and juice have lots of calories and added sugars. So, yes, they may help keep you hydrated. But I wouldn’t consider them a part of a healthy lifestyle by any means. The point of drinking water is not JUST to stay hydrated. It’s also to replace the high-calorie drinks we consume with non-caloric water and to lower our sugar intake. Sugar can cause so many problems, especially when it is in a drink without any fiber with it to help regulate our blood sugar.
Also, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather get my calories from food that fills me up and sustains me til my next meal, rather than drinks. If you’re goal is weight loss, you’ll should see a lot of results by switching to drinking water instead of soda or juice. I’ve never been a super big soda drinker, but I remember when I cut out the soda I was drinking, I saw weight loss and less bloating right away. If you’re a big soda drinker, it can be hard to switch to just drinking water. Sugar is addicting! Start small and switch one drink a day.
Diet soda doesn’t do you any favors either. Even though they may be sugar- and calorie-free, diet sodas, especially those containing aspartame, can still lead to weight gain, diabetes (your body still associates sweetness with sugar, so it causes insulin spikes), heart disease, stroke, depression, kidney disease, autism, and cancer. Studies have shown that diet soda actually affects your hormones and causes you to crave more food. You end up eating more calories that you would otherwise, leading to weight gain.
Milk also has calories that water doesn’t have. But besides that, it can also cause lots of problems. If you have any type of autoimmune disease, eliminating dairy would be best for you. Many people with autoimmune diseases, like eczema, develop sensitivities to dairy. I have eczema (read the link above to see how I healed it naturally), and dairy is one of my triggers. Thankfully, it doesn’t cause as much of a problem now, but I still get small flare ups of eczema and acne when I consume a lot of dairy.
Besides the intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies many people have to dairy, dairy can also cause hormonal imbalance. Conventional cows are given hormones to help them grow and produce more milk. These hormones are found in the milk that we drink, and can, therefore, mess our hormones up. If you do drink milk, choose organic milk that doesn’t have the added hormones.
Also, dairy from cows that are fed grain can cause inflammation. If you drink milk, the best option is raw, unpasteurized, full-fat milk from grass-fed cows. This is the least-processed, most natural form of milk. But, it is illegal in many states. So if you can’t buy it in your state, choose organic milk, or better yet, milk from grass-fed cows.
All that to say, yes, those other drinks may contribute to hydration, but most have negative effects that outweigh the benefits. For the best health benefits, try to stick to just drinking plain old water.
How Much Water Is Enough
We used to always hear, “Drink 8 glasses of water a day!” This idea is outdated though. Everyone’s water needs are different based on their individual composition and circumstances.
Here’s a good place to start: Drink half your body weight in ounces a day. So, for example, if you weight 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water a day.
However, your need can change based on a number of things. If you are exercising or are in a hot environment and are sweating, your need for water will increase. If you are drinking alcohol or a lot of caffeine, you need to bump your water intake up. Also, if you’re sick and are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, definitely drink more water (with electrolytes!). If you’re pregnant or nursing, you also need extra water (I remember how thirsty I always was when I was breastfeeding!).
And, it’s probably obvious, but if you’re thirsty, DRINK MORE WATER! So shoot for half your body weight in ounces, but add to that when needed.
How To Drink Enough Water
Try to drink a glass of water (8 oz.) first thing when waking up, BEFORE you even have coffee. When we sleep, we’re in a fasted state. Our body needs to rehydrate when we wake up. So give it the hydration in needs to do all the many functions it needs to do with water.
1. I like to fill up a big bottle (usually my 30 oz Yeti) with water. I know I need to drink at least two bottles full a day. So, I try to drink one before lunch and another before supper. Whatever bottle you’re using, figure out how many ounces it is and how many times you need to fill it up during the day to reach your water needs. Then plan it out. If you need to drink three of your bottles worth of water a day – divide your waking hours by three. For example if you’re up from 6 am to 10 pm, drink one bottle by 11 am, one by 4 pm, and the last one by 10 pm.
2. Choose a water bottle you love. I don’t know why, but this makes me more prone to carry it around and drink my water throughout the day. This is another water bottle I use and love! It’s made of a sturdy glass with a silicone BPA/BPS-free sleeve. So it’s no non-toxic, sustainable, and less-likely to break. I also love that it has a straw. Again, I’m likely to drink more water when I’m using a straw for some reason.
3. Another way to help you get enough water is by infusing it with fruit to bump up the flavor. I love making a big pitcher of infused water and then pouring that into my bottle throughout the day. My favorite is adding berries and some fresh mint leaves to my water.
4. If you are switching from drinking lots of soda, and you miss the fizz, you could try making your own sparkling water. I have this Soda Stream and I love adding some lemon juice to my water or using my fruit-infused water and adding some carbonation to it. I mainly stick to drinking plain water, but it’s nice to switch it up sometimes.
So, to be as healthy as you can be, switch what you’re drinking and drink water primarily. Try to get at least half your body weight in ounces a day.
What’s your favorite way to get in plenty of water a day? I’d love to know in the comments!
Dr. Axe – Milk
Dr. Axe – Aspartame