Before I get too deep in the science of why you should drink *enough* water, I want you to take a pause, wherever you are, whatever you are doing while you are skimming this article (let’s be real, here) and offer up a silent thank you for your body. Your body, no matter how you feel in it, is BRILLIANT. Your body, the exact one you are living in, woke you up today. It alerts you when you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, restless, lonely. And then you eat. You drink. You sleep. You go for a walk or a run. You hug your dog, your husband, your kids. Yes, your body is so, so smart.
Where we get into trouble is when we don’t listen to it.
I have a very personal relationship with the need to hydrate, born from a very scary time when I watched the person I love most in the world go through the worst pain of his life. In August of 2017, we were getting ready to go to church when Justin told me something was wrong and he needed me to take him to the hospital. He’s not a complainer, so when he said those words, I knew we’d better get there quickly. We soon found out that he had a large kidney stone. And that kidney stone ended up needing to be surgically removed. He now carries his 36-ounce water bottle pretty much everywhere he goes and refills it multiple times per day. He believes the work he did to clean the gutters in the hot sun on Saturday, without replenishing the fluids his body lost, is what led to that stone on Sunday.
So, other than helping the body stave off kidney stones, why should we drink water? Below, a short and sweet list of why water should become a more integral part of your day.
- Helps maintain homeostasis. Remember when I mentioned how smart your body is? On a road trip recently, Camden asked, “Mom, why do we have to go to the bathroom?” I am getting a lot of these types of questions lately. I love that he is thinking about how his body works! I explained that our bodies can’t use all of the food and drink we put into it. It uses some of it, then excretes the rest in the form of urine and waste. Of course, that was quite the colorful conversation and this is just scratching the surface of the digestive system. But, that is all my 8-year-old needs to know. And all you need to know is that drinking helps your body maintain equilibrium. Your body is composed of about 60% water. Your bodily fluids aid in digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. When your fluid gets low, your brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism, and you go get a drink (hopefully). This puts everything back in working order.
- Controls calories. This one is a no-brainer. Choosing water over high-calorie drinks is an easy way to drink more water and to avoid the consumption of empty calories. I remember doing a walking restaurant tour with friends once. At each stop, we were given a small meal and a beverage to sample the restaurant’s menu. I was training for a race so I requested water instead of the drink at each stop. By the end of the night, my friends reported feeling stuffed. I, on the other hand, felt pleasantly full, but not stuffed by any meals. Although I have no concrete science to prove the reason was my choice to drink water, this anecdote pretty much makes it clear that any beverage other than water can add considerable calories to your meal.
- Helps energize your muscles. I’m sure everyone reading this has had an experience with the feeling of “bonking,” or running out of steam. This is the feeling you get, usually while exercising when you feel you cannot take one more step. Muscle fatigue can be the result of cells not having the right balance of fluids and electrolytes. When your water intake doesn’t equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid loss is more of an issue in warmer climates, during intense exercise, and in older adults. And it is best not to wait until you feel thirsty to drink. You should drink plenty of water before, during, and after a workout. You might also consider BCAAS, which naturally energizes and can help in the recovery and repair of your muscles. I love Momsanity’s BCAAs (my favorite flavor is Orange Crush)–I drink them after every training run. And yes, you can count these toward your total consumption. 🙂 But only as one serving!
- Keeps your skin looking healthy. Atlanta dermatologist Kenneth Ellner, MD admits hydrating isn’t a perfect fix for erasing wrinkles, but he does say, “Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration.” Using a good moisturizer will also lock in moisture. I use Beautycounter’s Supreme Cream as an overnight moisturizer and have had great results.
- Allows your kidneys to function properly. My husband can attest to this one. Once a person has had kidney stones, they are more likely to develop them again, but with adjustments to his diet and lots of water, Justin has been kidney stone-free for the last four years. This is one where I recommend listening to your body to determine whether you need to drink more. Even my youngest knows when his urine is yellow, he needs to drink more water. Remember, your body is brilliant, and it will tell you when something is not right. Use the color of your urine as an indicator as to whether or not you are drinking enough water.
On sparkling water…
Three simple reasons I do not advocate counting sparkling water as part of your daily water consumption:
- Sparkling water prevents you from drinking still water. Studies have shown that a person will drink less water after exercising if they are offered sparkling water instead of regular water.
- The bubbles in sparkling water can make you feel gassy or bloated. Your body may feel full even though in actuality it is not, preventing you from eating healthy meals several times a day (how I recommend my clients consume their calorie count)
- Still water is absorbed by the body more quickly than sparkling or carbonated water. That’s a great reason to drink still water over sparkling before, during, and/or after a workout.
Now you know WHY you should drink water, so let’s talk about HOW to drink more water.
If you have followed me for any length of time, you know I LOVE James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. So, in the words of the great Mr. Clear, here are three ways to drink more water…
Clear’s 1st Law: Make it obvious. You can’t change a behavior until you are aware of it. Notice your patterns around drinking. Do you start your day with a cup of coffee instead of a glass of water? Do you do a good job drinking water all day until the 5:00 hour and then only drink soda or other beverages until bedtime? Clear’s strategy of habit stacking can work well if you find yourself reaching for other drinks. His habit stacking formula can be used like this: After [current habit], I will [new habit]. In this case, After I drink a cup of coffee, I will drink a glass of water.
Clear’s 2nd Law: Make it attractive. Use a pretty water bottle, a decorative straw, or add a slice of lemon. Whatever it takes to make that water enticing, DO IT.
Clear’s 3rd Law: Make it Easy. Fill your bottle and stick it in the fridge the night before. In the morning, you’re already one step in the right direction. Sip your water while you wait for your coffee to brew. Drinking water before your cup of coffee is a great way to jumpstart your water consumption for the day.
Is your head spinning yet? It’s ok! It’s only 21 days! Armed with what you know now about water and the benefits of drinking water for your overall health, this is going to be a piece of cake! Below, you will find the printout for record-keeping. Simply color in or put a checkmark each time you consume an 8-ounce glass of water. At the end of the 21 days (on June 30), take a picture of your worksheet and send it to me. You can send it via text, FB messenger, or IG direct message. I look forward to hearing from you!