Baby Steps – Hydration!

We are all somewhere on our health journey. Some people have been taking care of their bodies for years, some are just getting started, and some are unsure of how to get started. I have found that making 1-2 small, sustainable changes at a time works best for me and, really,  for most people. 

The change I am currently focused on is adding more (plain) water to my day. Yep, I was one of those people who loved to add a splash of juice to their water to make it a little bit more palatable. 

Not any more. These days, I am drinking more water and have stopped adding that splash of juice. What I didn’t realize before was that the small amount of juice was having an impact on my overall health because I was essentially feeding my body sugar all day long. Just a steady stream of sugar entering my bloodstream and triggering the release of insulin ALL DAY LONG!

Insulin is a hormone that signals the cells in our muscles, fat and liver to use the glucose (sugar) as energy and to open up and allow the glucose and fatty acids into the cells to be stored as fuel for later (fat). Additionally, insulin sends signals to our cells to stop breaking down stored energy and to NOT use body fat for fuel. So, yeah, drinking juice, even watered-down juice, all day was not a good choice. Now it’s just plain old water. 

Once I realized that drinking juice was not great, I started looking into the benefits of drinking more water throughout the day. Just like a lot of things, the more I learned about the benefits of drinking more water, the easier the decision has been to make it a priority. 

To start, I am now drinking 1-2 large glasses of water as soon as I get up in the morning. First of all, I am always thirsty when I wake up so it’s an easy choice. Second, the benefits are pretty astounding. Evidently, when we sleep, our bodies are working hard to repair damaged cells and form new cells. This leads to a lot of cellular waste that needs to get flushed out of our bodies and drinking water as soon as we get up in the morning is a great way to jump-start that process. 

Additionally, drinking water before we eat anything ensures that the water is quickly absorbed into our system and works to clear out our colon, hydrate our skin and energize our muscles and brain — because, remember, our cells need oxygen and water is the thing that carries oxygen to our cells (yep, I remember something from my high school biology class!).

Throughout the day, I try to drink at least 90 ounces of water. I came up with this number by following the guidelines I have been reading about — drink half your body weight in ounces and add 20-50 ounces if you work out during the day. That seems like a lot of water, but the negative effects of dehydration are enough to keep me drinking!

Our bodies are 60% water. This water helps with the transmission of hormones and neurotransmitters throughout our bodies. Without these circulating around, there would be little communication between the cells, tissues and organs. In the brain, water helps to keep the hypothalamus running smoothly. The hypothalamus is basically the balancer in our brains — it regulates things like hunger, body temperature, thirst, emotions, and sleep (among others). Clearly, if this is dysregulated in any way, things can get out of whack quickly. 

When we get dehydrated — which means losing just 2% of our body’s water — we feel the impact even though we may not recognize the symptoms as connected with dehydration, and even though we may not even feel thirsty. Honestly, I often identify thirst as hunger. I think I am hungry when I am actually thirsty!  

One of the first things that happen when the water in our body gets low is our brain starts to get a little foggy. We might begin to feel anxious, lose concentration, feel more mentally fatigued, and even notice a decrease in working memory. 

For those of us who work out, we know the impact dehydration (even a little) has on our physical performance. We get winded more easily, have a hard time staying motivated, and eventually will have difficulty with temperature regulation. 

Not drinking enough water leads to headaches and constipation — both of which I have experienced and would like to avoid in the future!

Just like everything else, it’s all a learning process. There is a lot of trial and error going on in my world, but I am noticing that I feel better overall. So, I am going to keep on learning and keep on taking small steps towards wellness. 

By the way, I have found a ton of wonderful information in the book Eat Smarter by Shawn Stevenson and on the podcasts The Model Health Show and Huberman Lab. Check them out if you haven’t already!

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