July 19, 2010

Drink Water - Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids is a key to good health, especially if you're participating in strenuous physical activities. But how much hydration is enough, and is water the best source of hydration?

"Most of us don't drink enough," says Cheryl Bates-Dancho, Regional Clinical Nutrition Manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. "We often wait until we feel thirsty, but by the time we feel thirsty, we're already dehydrated."

The benefits of hydration

Drinking early and often quenches our thirst, aids digestion and helps to carry nutrients to all parts of our body and to flush out waste products. It helps to keep us alert and prevent that dull, headachy feeling that can slow us down in the middle of the day. By filling our tummy, it helps to curb our appetite and discourage snacking-an inexpensive, low calorie way to suppress appetite.

When it's hot or when the body is overheated, our bodies perspire to reduce heat and cool down. Regular fluid intake ensures our body maintains an adequate supply of fluids, thus preventing dehydration and heat exhaustion.

How much hydration is enough?

The amount of fluid that each of us requires will vary, depending on factors such as our age, gender, weight, how hot it is outside and our level of physical activity.

"A good rule of thumb is 8 to 10 glasses of water or other fluids per day," says Bates-Dancho. "Most of us drink too little, so we recommend carrying a full water bottle throughout the day. This allows us to drink water or other fluids in small, steady quantities. The extra fluids that we consume helps ensure that we get the hydration we need and improves our overall health."

Is water the best drink?

Most of the time, we don't require anything more than plain, cool water. It's cheap, abundant, low-calorie and tastes good too. However, many different fluids can contribute to your daily intake, including milk and pure fruit and vegetable juices.

When we're engaged in strenuous activity, there are benefits to drinking sports drinks that have a concentration of carbohydrates (sugar) less than 10%. The carbohydrates provide fuel for our bodies and the sodium and potassium in the sport drinks help to stave off cramps and nausea.

Soft drinks are a poor choice because they are loaded with sugar. As example, the large containers of pop available at convenience stores contain as much as 58 teaspoons of sugar in a 64-ounce serving.

Whatever your choice of fluids, make sure that you're getting the liquids you need to stay properly hydrated. You'll enjoy better health as a result.

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