Bottoms Up!

While the focus of this blog is on food, I want to take a minute to cover something else that nourishes us…something that, unlike iPhones and Angry Birds, we truly cannot live without: water. As the weather heats up and we start spending more time outside, more time cooling ourselves through sweating, more time engaging in activities that deplete us, we need to be ever more mindful of drinking enough water.

The old “8×8” rule (8 oz. glass of water, 8 times a day) doesn’t really apply to everyone, but like any mnemonic, it’s easy to remember and gets you heading in the right direction. The truth is, how much water you need is highly variable and dependent on several different factors like your age and gender, how active you are, your location and elevation, and the time of year. Frankly, anybody who plays derby is going to need a LOT of water. And while some of you may have heard about drinking “too much” water (a condition called hyponatremia, where excess water dilutes sodium levels in the body), there just aren’t that many people outside the realm of elite athletics who have to worry about this problem.

We simply do not drink enough actual water.

Simply stated, water does a lot for us. Our fragile little bodies are 60-80% water, and we need it for many reasons. It does things like regulate body temperature and flush toxins. It lubricates joints, which becomes ever more important as we age. It helps prevent constipation, and promote weight loss. It’s a natural appetite suppressant. It helps reduce dental problems by keeping your mouth cleaner, and improves your sleep and energy levels.

Jeez. And think how many millions of dollars the pharmaceutical companies make on selling us products that claim to do all of those things.

There are a few things you can do to up your water intake. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, and sip frequently. Find a high-quality, BPA-free bottle with a design you like, or put stickers on it. Make it a regular part of your required equipment in your daily life, like your wallet or your cell phone. There are several “water enhancers” on the market, if you just can’t take the taste of plain water; I like to use Mio Energy every once in awhile at work if I weary of quart after quart of water. You can add as much or as little as you want.

Another option is to dress it up; try slices of fruit in ice water for eye-pleasing and tasty combinations. Limes and lemons are good choices, but you can also try berries, or cucumbers with basil. I like to add a citrus slice or two to my ice water to make it a little more refreshing, especially on hot afternoons.

There is no single formula for everyone; really, thirst is an accurate but belated indicator. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. If your urine is pale or clear, that’s a good sign that you are on the right track. The best option is to drink frequently, sipping consistently throughout the day. For a rough guide, check out the chart below…but keep in mind this will vary depending on how active you are, or if you live at elevation.

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