Every few months I have to straighten up and fly right when it comes to the habits of maintaining my health and continuing with my weight loss. So I refocus on The Basics. They are: drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, outlining my food for the next day, and exercising regularly (if not vigorously). When I let these things slide, I invariably feel crappier and my goals suffer.
I thought I’d blog about them over the next two weeks so I can refocus my brain on each in turn.
Water is life. I never knew how getting in enough water could change how I feel day-to-day, even hour-to-hour. Sure, I’m running to the bathroom every hour and a half, but it is a small price to pay for the benefits. Water is Basic Number One.
Why drink water all day?
- I feel less bloated, less sluggish, and generally my cravings are reduced when I get enough.
- It supports the regeneration of my cells, organs and directly keeps my spine and brain health supported. It supports the nervous system overall.
- It supports weight loss by encouraging elimination, the process by which the body gets rid of waste
- Staying hydrated during the day supports overnight hydration, which is necessary for the body to eliminate fat. Most of this work is done overnight in the body.
- It supports weight loss by making my stomach feel fuller at the beginning or end of a meal, so I control portions better.
- I need extra help in the “temperature cooling” area of health. I have pretty under-active sweat glands (I can walk 3 miles in 100 degree heat and only get moisture on my upper lip and in between my breasts!) and am one of those people who gets really red when she exercises because her body isn’t sweating to cool it down. Then I retain a ton of water because my system needs it for cooling. Drinking lots of water daily, especially in the summertime, helps keep my system cool and keeps me from retaining a lot of water.
- Water helps the endocrine system manage my hormone levels better. Helpful when I’m trying to keep insulin in check, as well as dealing with the various other endocrine issues that come with middle-age.
Yeah, that’s a lot. Water is life.
What “counts” as water.
These are my guidelines, based on a goodly number of recommendations from registered dietitians.
- Water. Obviously. Also any form of sparkling water, mineral water, seltzer, or low-sodium club soda.
- Iced Tea (unsweetened). Some folks are paranoid about the dehydrating effects of caffeine from the tea. But a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea is about two servings of strongly brewed tea diluted with around 10 more servings of water. The caffeine is not an issue for me.
- Black Coffee. I barely drink two 6 oz cups of black coffee a day. Sometimes not even that. It also tends to be watered down with ice because I like cold coffee. So, again, caffeine is not an issue.
What doesn’t count?
- Drinking a ton of coffee. When my caffeine intake gets TOO high and concentrated, I’m not helping my kidneys much.
- Drinking sodas, diet or otherwise. The sugary syrups and other artificial elements added to soda should be considered an occasional fun-drink, not an essential part of my daily health.
- Alcohol or cocktails. I drink socially and have the occasional scotch at home. But again, these are occasional and in no way considered PART of my health plan. I don’t count them.
- Tonic Water. It has sugar in it, so no.
How much is enough?
It depends on my physical needs and what conditions I’m operating under.
- Urine-Check: Generally, drink enough water throughout the day to make your urine a solid stream of pee and a very-pale yellow color. Solid yellow? You can step up the water a bit. Very little urine or darker yellow or brownish, REALLY step up the intake.
- Some people like guidelines, so I drink around 48 – 64 oz a day when I’m mostly indoors. If I’m working out, walking outdoors, or spending more time outdoors, or in a warm/hot environment, I try to get past 80 oz.
- Note: If you are a very active person – works out a lot, works or plays outdoors, spends a lot of time running around on a stage, drives around a lot – definitely try to drink more than less. The more you move around, the more water your body is using to support that effort.
- When in doubt, just go back to the Urine-Check.
A few hacks
- Sit at a desk all day?: Download Big Stretch Timer onto your desktop computer. Have it say “Stand up and drink some water” then set it for every hour or so. It’ll give you a pop up on screen when it is time. Don’t put it off. Just do it.
- Can’t run to the bathroom every 90 minutes?: If you’re in a job that doesn’t allow you to run to a potty break that often, slow down the water intake during work/event hours. Keep it to your lunch break, and keep that amount modest. Instead, when you wake up, make drinking two tall glasses of water the first thing you do. That’s usually 24 oz right there. Then pee just before you head to your shift. Do the same when your shift or workday is over. You’ve hit 48 oz. Drink more during your evening meal and you’re probably okay for an average day. It doesn’t matter WHEN you drink your water, just fit it in.
- Spending a lot of time in the car running around? Pack a small cooler with 4 or 5 bottles of water, seltzer or whatever. Doesn’t matter if they are commercial bottles or re-usable bottles from home. Throw in some ice or some ice packs and drink one whenever you get back into the car on your way to the next place. There’s usually a restroom where you’re headed (or a Starbucks you can use in the vicinity!).
- Need to create the habit? If you just can’t remember to drink water, download an app that helps you gamify the process. Apps for your phone like Daily Water Drink Reminder, Drink Water Reminder, My Water Balance, or Daily Water Tracker can set timers to remind you to get in your water and have graphics that show how close you are to completing your goal each day. Give yourself a tiny reward for meeting goal each day. Or you can just set a special timer using your own Clock on your phone to remind you. Whatever works.
Water helps hangovers – a note on water and alcohol intake.
I don’t drink alcohol as much as I used to, but I still drink socially and on weekends fairly often. Keeping the water flowing along with the alcohol has helped my life a lot. Alcohol is very dehydrating and all of the sugary mixes it comes with don’t help the health bottom line (or the hangover). But that doesn’t mean I have to do without it. I’m a very happy drunk and water helps me stay happy the next day.
Remember that whole “supports elimination” thing from above? Same with alcohol. Water supports the processing of the alcohol in our systems, so our hangovers are considerably less miserable and our next day recovery is faster. Also, water intake has no effect on the buzz – the alcohol we drink will still have its socially lubricating effects, but without so much worry about overdoing it.
Water habits for drinkers:
- Pre-game with water. Drink a large glass before heading out for the night when you anticipate libations. It’ll get your hydration underway ahead of the alcohol.
- Alternate 1 serving of alcohol with 1 water throughout. This keeps you hydrated, reduces your hangover, AND slows your drinking pace down a little. (Do I honestly need to drink that many drinks in an hour? C’mon. A steady, relaxed buzz is generally preferable to me these days than being slammed.)
- If you’re of a mind, order drinks on the rocks or mixed with a low-sugar mixer. My standard is a vodka/soda. This dilutes the alcohol a bit, supports hydration, and moderates the hit of alcohol in the system. The exception to this is always an excellent scotch, which should be sipped slowly anyway.
- When I drink wine or cocktails, I try to stick to dryer choices with lower sugar content. The sugar/alcohol combo is pretty deadly the next day.
- Do what I can to drink a glass of water and down some ibuprofen when I get home. Sometimes I’ll drink it before I leave the bar or party and keep ibuprofen in my bag. (We also keep a baggie of ibuprofen and Tums in our glove compartment for such occasions.)
And so, that’s all the reasons why Drink Your Water is Basic Number One. When creating or reinforcing habits, it is the first one I focus on when I just can’t focus on anything else. Just getting good at Water is going to help so many things inside my body, so I’m keeping it up.
And peeing a lot.