Chapter 6: Hydration

Chapter 6: Hydration

Approximately 60 percent of your body weight is water. The water you eat and drink through food and liquids follows a very detailed route to end up in your cells, of which it is a vital component.

The body uses water in every single one of its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. First water passes through the stomach; it then enters the small intestine, where in the first section it is largely absorbed in the duodenum and jejunum. The remaining water then flows into the colon by which it crosses the intestinal mucous membrane into the bloodstream, then into the tissues of every organ, to arrive in the cells.

Your body loses water through the processes of breathing, sweating, and digestion and the only way to rehydrate is by drinking fluids and eating foods that have water in them. The quantity of water you need is contingent upon a mixture of things; such as physical activity levels, the climate you live in, and your overall health status. However, in a perfect world a healthy (mostly inactive) adult living in an average temperate climate should consume at the minimum 1.5 liters or 50 ounces of water per day. This number is usually increased for anyone who is even remotely active.

Water Aids in the Breakdown and Digestion of Food

Digestion begins with saliva, the foundation of which is water. Digestion also heavily relies on enzymes that are located in saliva (again water is the base) to aid in the breakdown of food and liquids. Minerals and nutrients will be more accessible to the body when a person has a healthy digestive system. If not, possible nutrient deficiencies can occur and the body can suffer.

Water is also needed to help you process soluble fiber as it is what helps fiber dissolve, not break down so that your bowel can access health benefits of creating well-formed, bowel movements.

The stomach also requires water to: produce hydrochloric acid (HCL), makes sure the body’s HCL is at the appropriate PH, and heal and rebuild up the mucosal stomach lining. When the body lacks a healthy mucosal lining, the HCL runs the risk of directly encountering the stomach tissue ending up with the possibility of an ulcer. The lack of water or becoming dehydrated can also affect the amount of stomach acid that is produced, many times creating a stomach that is not acidic enough. This can all be eliminated just by drinking enough water.

Nutrient Transport and Waste Removal

Water as a main component of blood plays a huge role in the transport of nutrients to the cells. Water acts as the main carrier and aiding in the removal of waste through the excretion of urine.

Consuming the proper amount of water allows the body to expel waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. The intestines, liver and kidneys use water to clear out waste. It also prevents constipation by creating softer stool and pushing food through your intestinal tract.

Chemical and Metabolic Reactions

By enabling hydrolysis (the chemical breakdown of a compound due to a reaction with water) reactions, water directly engages in the biochemical breakdown of the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates that we consume. The water in blood helps brings nutritional elements to cells (minerals, vitamins, protein components, lipids and carbohydrates). Water also plays a vital role in helping with the regulation of temperature. Try to think of all the reactions that occur during digestion and energy metabolism – understand that water is involved and essential for all of them as it makes up the composition of all of the cells.

Tissue and Joint Protection

Water is served as the ultimate lubricant and shock absorber as it does much more than just appease your thirst and normalize your body temperature; it also plays a huge role in keeping your body’s tissues moist.

Keeping your body hydrated through the proper water consumption will allow for smooth movement of the joints allowing their surfaces to interact with minimal friction. Water also helps maintain optimal levels of moisture in the spinal cord defending the body against shock while acting as the ultimate lubricant and cushion for your joints. Without water, movement of any joint becomes stiff, painful, and eventually impossible.

Body Temperature Regulation

Water enables the body to discharge heat when outside temperature is higher than body’s internal temperature. Water has a huge heat potential, meaning it can help cap top end changes in body temperature in a majority of warm or cold environments. As the body will always attempt to regulate its own temperature by offloading heat through sweat due to the fact of its core temperature being increased. Therefore, when we begin to sweat the evaporation of water from the surface of our skin cools the body very effectively. However, this also means that we are constantly losing water and salt through evaporation of which can produce a result of the watery part of your blood dropping as your blood becomes more viscous. This can then lead to a higher heart rate, lower power production and reduced performance.

Sources of Fluid Intake

Water

Water can provide the body with all that it needs when it comes to hydration. Pure H20 is an excellent beverage of choice when it comes to quenching your thirst and re-hydrating your body. When hydration is the main concern, high quality filtered water (that does not come from a plastic bottle) should always be the beverage that comes in first.

Carbonated Beverages and Seltzer Water

Seltzer products all have a base that consists of filtered tap water that goes through a procedure of adding carbon dioxide gas to the water called carbonation. Any carbonated beverage goes through this process of creating the fizziness and bubbles. Seltzer and or water can equally help you sustain an adequate hydration level during the day, but this does not hold true for athletes. Athletes require more liquids to replenish the water excreted through extra sweating, seltzer or carbonated beverages would not be the ideal source. The gas bubbles in carbonated beverage can swell in the stomach and give a false feeling of being full. Which mean that you are not getting quite as much fluid as you would if you drank something that does not have carbonation. Also, most people tend to drink seltzer and carbonated beverages more slowly than still water which leads to drinking less of it as a result.

Electrolyte and Sports Drinks

Sports drinks (such as Gatorade and Powerade) and energy drinks are a popular beverage these days and can differ greatly in their ingredient list. Ideally, a sports drink is designed to provide re-hydration during or after an athletic activity. Standard sports drinks normally contain anywhere from 6-8 % carbohydrate mixture and are a good source of electrolytes. Electrolytes are certain nutrients that have many important functions in the body. The most important being controlling your heartbeat and letting your muscles to contract of which permits all body movement. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphate and chloride are the main electrolytes in the body. Ideal concentrations of carbs and electrolytes are usually formulated to provide the easiest and best absorption in the body.

Sports drinks are utilized to provide water, energy and the appropriate amount of electrolytes during competition. A lower concentration of sodium found in most sports drinks may help with the avoidance of any abdominal cramping. While sports drinks can provide benefits if consumed during exercise the focus of any athlete’s hydration should be on high quality filtered water.

Energy drinks just like the original sports drink were originally marketed towards athletes as a means of rehydration and electrolyte replacement during activity. Companies that manufacture the energy drinks make the routine claim that their drinks improve performance. In recent years, energy drink companies have even begun too highly advertise their products to the general population resulting in a saturated energy drink market.

In 2006 alone, almost 500 different energy drink brands were brought to the market, with almost all citing claims of improved performance and enhanced recovery. The most popular energy drinks ingredients include carbohydrates (mostly in the form of sugar or fructose), caffeine, taurine and other random substances that most manufacturers claim will improve performance. It is because of the lack of quality ingredients and the caffeine content that energy drinks are not advised for pre-hydration or rehydration during or after any activity. If additional information is desired then the NFHS Position Statement on The Use of Energy Drinks by Young Athletes if a very good read.

High water content fruits

Watermelon and strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, peaches, pineapple, cranberries, oranges, raspberries, apricots, blueberries, plums, apples, pears, cherries and grapes all contain an average of 81% water or higher.

High water content vegetables

On top of the vegetables list are cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, radish, celery, tomatoes, green cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, red cabbage, peppers, spinach, broccoli, carrots, green peas and white potatoes all contain 79% water or higher with most being in 90’s.

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