the most important nutrient
If I were to ask what the most important nutrient for overall health and well-being is; what would you guess? Protein, because that’s what literally builds each and every one of our cells? Or maybe carbs because they give us the energy to function? The answer may surprise you. The most important nutrient for not only survival but also for quality of life is actually water.
I know I never considered water to be a nutrient in my pre-nutrition-coaching life. However, water truly is THE most important nutrient for your body. At least 60% of your body is made of water and every living cell needs it to keep functioning. A person can only survive a number of days without consuming water. If you think about it, your cells are moving around your body in fluid. If you didn’t have enough water, the cells would be limp and really quite pitiful. These shriveled up cells would essentially be crawling across a “barren desert,” throughout your body, trying to get to their destination. That just makes me tired thinking about it. We want to keep those living cells fully loaded and transporting smoothly. Give your cells the structure and means to accomplish every one of their vital tasks.
For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, water is especially important. The more you work out the more you’ll sweat, which obviously means a loss of water. You need to replace that fluid in order to keep your performance at its peak. Water regulates your body temperature and helps flush toxins and waste out of your system. It also acts as a lubricant for your joints. If you’re running low on water on the regular, it could put you at risk for inflammation and damage within your joints.
Signs that you may not be getting enough water include symptoms like headaches, constipation, low energy, foul mood, dizziness, dry skin, dark-colored urine, and obviously an increase in thirst.
So, now we know WHY we need water. But HOW do you get enough each day? I ask all my clients to aim for 100 ounces each day. It’s a nice round number and easy to remember. I don't have a problem getting all my water in because it’s my drink of choice. But if you have a hard time drinking all your water (like A LOT of people) here are some tips.
1. Keep a water bottle in your fridge. Fresh cold water is more enticing than water from the tap. Also, your water bottle will be the first thing staring you in the face when you open the fridge looking for a snack.
2. Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day. You're more likely to take a few gulps if it's convenient.
3. If you’re eating six meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks – you can drink a tall glass of water with each meal. A tall glass of water is 16 ounces. If you drink that at each meal and snack, that adds up to 96 ounces by the end of the day! That seems pretty doable, right?
4. Get a new water bottle. The novelty will remind you to drink and hopefully become a habit.
5. Keep a water bottle by your bed at night. You'll be surprised how often you wake up and sip on it.
I also want to mention that what goes in, must come out, right? People oftentimes get worried that if they drink that much water, they'll be living in the bathroom all day. And yes, I’ll be honest, the more water you drink, the more you'll need to go...AT FIRST! But after a few days, your body will adjust and start to metabolize the increase of fluids. I promise you'll even out. You may spend more time in the loo than you did before, but that’s just part of living your best-hydrated life. So, deal with it.
Just with anything in life, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Water is important, THE most important nutrient, remember? But you can drink too much of it. Your body likes a balance with all things. In order to stay properly hydrated your body wants a balance of water and sodium. If you drink an excessive amount of water, you can flush too much sodium out of your bloodstream. It’s called hyponatremia and it can cause some seriously awful health complications and even death. This has been observed with long-distance runners, who have a combination of prolonged sweating and excessive fluid intake. It is rare but worth being aware of hyponatremia. It may be a good idea to consume sports drinks during a long workout or run to help balance your water to sodium levels.
Long-distance races aside, focus on increasing your water intake on the daily. You’ll be amazed at your improved brain clarity and energy level. You’ll even be able to rush to the bathroom with record speed. Happy drinking!
To follow along on Aly's pursuits and learn more about nutrition, follow her on Instagram: @food.rebel