Why Do We Need Water?

Everybody knows that they need to drink water, especially while exercising or competing, but few understand the science behind exactly why.

Water makes up most of the human body, including 80 percent of our blood, 90 percent of our lungs and 70 percent of our brain. All told, about 60 percent of our bodies are made out of water. But what is the active role of water in our bodies? Why are doctors, trainers and fitness magazines always telling us to drink more water? How much do we really need?

What it Does

Water is necessary to our every bodily system. In addition to being a major building block of organs and tissues, it keeps things running smoothly.

The liver and kidneys, which both produce large amounts of waste during their filtration work, rely on water to carry that waste away.

Water lubricates your joints, as well as moisturizes your inner ear, eyes, nose and throat.

Because of its major role in the composition of blood, water is responsible for the transportation of nutrients to your cells and muscles. Blood also carries waste away from these areas.

Your internal temperature is also regulated by water. Even when you aren’t aware of it, your body is producing small amounts of sweat through the glands on your skin to control your temperature. This sweat is comprised mostly of water.

Where Does it All Go?

Even when you aren’t working out, or moving much at all, your body loses a surprising amount of water. The average person exhales one cup’s worth of water vapors every day, plus another six cups lost to urine and bowel movements.

Then, of course, there is the water you sweat out. The average person excretes about four cups of water per hour during high-intensity exercise, according to researchers at the University of New Mexico. This number could change, however, based on fitness level, health conditions, age and surrounding weather.

How Much is Enough?

If you lose, on average, seven cups of water per day before you even start to sweat, you need to replenish at least that much. Remember the old adage to drink at least eight cups of water a day? It’s solid advice.

Depending on your diet, this could even give you slightly more water than you need. Most people receive about 20 percent of their daily hydration needs from their food, according to the Mayo Clinic. But a little bit of extra water won’t do any harm.

If you’re exercising, you will need to compensate for the water lost from sweat. For a typical workout, lasting about 30 minutes, about two cups of extra water should be enough. During longer, more intense workouts, you’ll need to adjust your water intake and possibly use sports drinks to replenish electrolytes.

It is possible, however, to drink too much water. Athletes are particularly at risk since they tend to drink large amounts of water or sports drinks to ward off dehydration. The excess fluid in your body can create dangerously low sodium levels. This condition, called hyponatremia, can cause seizures, confusion or even coma.

Again, there are certain health conditions that will require you to drink more water. If you frequently feel thirsty, despite drinking what should be an adequate amount of water, consult your doctor.

Do you have tips on staying hydrated? Please share them in the comments.






10 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Exercising in the Heat

Like many athletes, I spend each winter counting down the days until spring. I am not a fan of running or biking in the cold, so the warm weather is always a nice welcome. But before too long, summer comes — and I’m complaining about the heat!

Exercising in the summer is more than just uncomfortable. It can be downright dangerous if you don’t take measures to protect yourself.

This doesn’t mean you have to confine your workouts to the indoors from June through August in order to exercise safely. Instead, simply follow these tips to stay comfortable - and safe - during a hot summer workout:

1.   Get your sweat on in the early morning or late evening. Don’t exercise at midday, because that’s when temperatures are at their highest and the sun’s hot rays are at their peak. You’ll stay much cooler during your workout if you either set your alarm a bit earlier or wait until after dinner to be active.

2.   Drink before you’re thirsty. Staying well-hydrated is the secret to avoiding dangerous heat-related conditions. Drink up before you’re thirsty, because our thirst sensation generally doesn’t appear until we’re already a bit dehydrated. Ideally you should drink a glass or two of water before you head out to exercise, drink more after every fifteen minutes or so of activity, and keep hydrating once you get home. When you exercise intensely, or for an extended period of time, drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and other electrolytes you lose through sweat.

3.   Shield yourself from the sun. Sunburn inhibits your body’s ability to cool itself. Lather up with SPF 15 sunscreen or higher thirty minutes before you plan to head outdoors. Wearing a hat and sunglasses will also protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

4.   Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Moisture-wicking apparel will help you stay cool and dry, and lighter colored clothes help reflect heat better than darker clothes.

5.   Seek shade. If you’re a road runner, the summer is a perfect time to try trail running. The shade from the trees will keep you cooler than the open, baking road.

6.   Take plenty of breaks. Rest early and often, and take breaks whenever you need them. In hot weather, it’s always better to err on the side of caution than to push yourself too far.

7.   Gradually get used to the heat. It typically takes 10 to 14 days for your body to get used to exercising in a new climate. Start by working out for short time, at a relatively low intensity. Hold off on doing long, hard workouts until you’re better acclimated to the hot weather.

8.   Check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be a real scorcher, do not exercise outside. It’s not safe - or smart - to push yourself through an outdoor workout when a heat advisory is in place.

9.   Know when to stop. If you have muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, dizziness, and/or confusion stop your workout right away. These are signs of heat-related illnesses which can be life-threatening if not caught in time.

10. Have a Plan B. If the heat is too much for you on certain days, stick with indoor workouts. Exercise in an air-conditioned environment such as a gym or yoga studio. Or, consider purchasing a piece of fitness equipment so you can be active in the comfort of your own home. Check out this LIVESTRONG elliptical for sale.

What’s your favorite time of year to exercise? What are your tips for beating the heat?