Written By: Rebecca Goodrich MS, RDN, LDN
Water: Life’s Essential Nutrient
There is a total of 6 key nutrients that the body needs to sustain optimal health. These nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water. For today’s topic, we will be focusing on water, the importance of keeping good hydration, and tips for meeting your fluid needs. Did you know that up to 75% of our weight (and I mean human when I say “our”) comes from water? Fascinating, right?
Water plays a significant role when it comes to our health. Not only does this nutrient keeps us hydrated (which we will further dive into), but it also functions as a lubricator for our joints/muscles, regulates temperature, manages our weight, optimizes cognition, and acts as a transporter to help facilitate certain mechanisms that take place in our body (1). It is essential that we maintain water balance in order for our organs to properly function. Some of our organs such as the kidneys, lungs, skin, and digestive system all contribute to water balance. Whether it be physical activity, being sedentary, or even the climate, it is crucial that we maintain good hydration status.
Input Versus Output
To understand the importance of water balance, let’s go ahead and breakdown the difference between input versus output. When we talk about water output, we know that our organs (as mentioned previously) contribute to excretion. Colder climates versus warmer climates will also contribute to having either an increase or decrease in urine output. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the typical amount of urine output is roughly 1000-2000 mL/day. These numbers however can fluctuate depending on the activity. Insensible losses, respiratory, feces, and urine all play a role in fluid output. Water input, on the other hand, comes from your food, beverages, and mechanisms that occur in the body producing a by-product (1).
We’ve all heard how important drinking water is, yet have you ever wondered why? Hydration is defined as having a neutral and a sufficient amount of fluid in the body. Dehydration nor over-hydration is present. There are multiple ways that a person’s hydration status can be assessed from urine specific gravity test (USG) to monitoring urine color. Providing specific water recommendations to each individual, per day, can be challenging.
For these reasons, guidelines to prevent dehydration were made for most healthy people by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). NASEM recommends women to consume 2.7 liters of fluid per day and for men to consume 3.7 liters of fluid per day. It is still important to note that these are guidelines and that your specific fluid needs may fluctuate depending on physical activity, medical conditions, and environmental factors. Keep in mind that fluid intake does not only pertain to water. Fruits, vegetables, and certain beverages can all contribute to meeting your fluid recommendation.
To find out your daily water intake, utilize tools such as Meta Nutrition
How to Increase Your Fluid Intake
It can be challenging for some of us to meet our fluid recommendations. Sometimes we rely on our thirst mechanism to signal dehydration and some of us tend to ignore the signs because we don’t want to use the bathroom. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to remember that keeping yourself in a dehydrated state can be taxing on your body, especially your kidneys. For some of us, drinking plain water can be boring. Maybe you’re the type of person that needs something more exciting to their beverage.
I get it! Something that I personally like to do is add sliced cucumbers to my water to make it more refreshing. You can also try adding lemon or chilled herbal tea to your water. Experimenting with herbs such as mint can also provide a refreshing and unique taste to your beverage. Other ways to increase your fluid intake can include making smoothies or incorporating fruits that have a higher water activity. Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, berries, oranges, mangos, and cucumbers can all help with increasing your fluid intake.
As mentioned previously, water is considered to be one of the six essential nutrients that we need for life. Every cell in our body needs water in order to function properly. Keep in mind that your fluid recommendations can be met through food and other healthy beverages besides water. If carrying a water bottle with you helps you meet your daily goal, then go for it! If setting an alarm to remind yourself to take a few sips, try it! While it can be common for some of us to not get in our daily fluid recommendation, it is important that we try to make it a priority.
1. Riebl, S., and Davy, B. M. (2013) The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. November/December; 17(6): 21-28. https://doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e3182a9570f