At any given time your body is made up of approximately 60% Water at the cellular level [a.k.a. “Body Water”], so it should come as no surprise that Water is important for us. What you may not know is that fatty tissue actually contains less water than lean tissue, so much so that someone classified as morbidly obese [by current BMI standards*] could have as little as 20% Body Water – putting their body in a constant state of dehydration.
To help understand the severity of that statement and the role it plays in sabotaging your health goals – allow me to explain:
First and foremost, the manifestation of thirst and hunger often mimic one another [i.e. feeling weak, dizzy, cranky], making it considerably easy to eat when we should be hydrating and, consequently, consuming far more calories than needed. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that upwards of 35% of the time we give our body food when it really craves hydration.
That’s over one-third of the time – an entire additional meal on a standard meal plan.
Being chronically dehydrated, obese and morbidly obese folks are more susceptible to this misguided craving and, consequently, more susceptible to consuming an excess of calories and maintaining their obese status.
Keep in mind too…not every liquid beverage on the shelf is an Equal Opportunity Hydrator…
Soda – The added sugar not only adds calories with no nutrients, but dehydrates your body because sugar requires Body Water to metabolize it. The percentage of carbonated water in the soda is not enough to offset the deficit. Even if your thirst feels momentarily quenched, it is an illusion [a Hydration Houdini if you will…], you end up more dehydrated than before you drank the soda.
Diet Soda – Ok, so you are probably thinking… no “real” sugar here so no problem? Unfortunately… this is not so. The artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks are considered “calorie-free” because they are made from properties the body doesn’t recognize as something it can use. Therefore it evacuates it is through the two primary ways of – well, evacuating: #1 and #2 […if you aren’t sure what those two are go ask your nearest 4th grader and make sure you don’t have Cooties. He will know.] This is consistent with the fact that these artificial sweetener properties have been known to cause bodily distress – gas, bloating, frequent urination, diarrhea – the latter two contributing to dehydration as well. Again, even if you feel a momentary thirst quench, don’t be fooled.
Sports/Energy Drinks – Moving right along, again, just the name has us believing it is good for us [!!!], has good things [!!!], there to rejuvenate us from the dregs of dehydration [!!!]…but alas, the opposite is true. Most every Sports and Energy drink on the market has some ratio of real to artificial sweetener in it. That’s how it gets its flavor. Refer to the previous two examples for reasons why these products do not equate to hydration. In addition to the sugar, these drinks are also typically fortified with some ratio of B- vitamin and caffeine infusion. From a nutrition standpoint, there is nothing inherently wrong with B vitamins or Caffeine, but by nature they are diuretics meaning an agent that increases the flow of urine…meaning you go #1 more…meaning you dehydrate faster and require more water to replenish than is available in these drinks.
As a general rule of thumb – By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Aim for a half gallon [64 oz] of quality h2o each day. And if you are doing sustained activity that results in sweating, in addition to water, I recommend drinking chilled, unsweetened coconut water with a pinch of sea salt to replenish electrolytes and sodium/potassium pump channels on the cellular level.
*BMI score greater than 30 is considered obese and greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese. BMI score is essentially a ratio of height to weight used to make generalized categories of health “normalcy”. It does not take into account the weight contributed from lean muscle mass and therefore should not be considered a strong measurement tool for overall health and fitness.