When I was a kid, I hated drinking water. As far as I could tell, it had no nutritional value. After all, it tasted like nothing and was clear. How good could it be? About the only benefit I was aware of was that you had to have eight glasses a day to look like a supermodel.
Well, those girls might have been on to something. Yes, being well-hydrated does wonders for your complexion. Now it turns out that it might also do wonders for your body fat percentage.
Why do we get thirsty? Science has been asking and actively investigating this for centuries now – a search of scientific journals will bring up articles from the 1800s, and you can bet the ancient Greeks were wondering too.
The amount of water you have in your body (called Total Body Water or TBW) can range anywhere from 30-80%, but averages around one half of your total scale weight. Based on an average of 50% TBW, a 55kg or 120 pound woman would include 27 litres of fluid as part of per body composition! Even at the low end of 30% TBW, it’s still 16 litres. That’s a lot of fluid. To keep levels up, scientists believe that our “water drive” or thirst is triggered by a combination of reflex, endocrine/hormonal, and neural responses that occur automatically in the body.
In the swim
Of course, we don’t have any pure water in our systems; when we drink, the fluid is absorbed through digestion into our extracellular fluid. In turn, our cells will absorb more water, leading to a slightly enlarged size. It’s this enlarged cell that will… make you a supermodel! Ok, I can’t guarantee that. But it will give your metabolism a boost: studies have shown a significant decrease in protein breakdown as well as improved carbohydrate and fat metabolism occurring with improved cellular hydration. Additionally, increased water intake causes changes in certain hormones involved in the body’s fluid balance. It’s thought that these changes could also be responsible for unlocking fat metabolising mechanisms body-wide. Greater fat availability plus improved cellular metabolism equals more cellular fat burning activity. Smile for the camera! (Or pout).
Make me a supermodel
How much water did you drink today? If you can’t tell me straight away, then it’s not enough (and might not be even if you can). Here are some tips to making sure your water intake is what it should be.
- Know what you need. Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician based in Chicago, recommends 40ml per kilo of bodyweight as a minimum (in US measurements, that equates to one quart per 50 pounds). This number can vary based on your environment, activity levels, and sweat rates among other things – athletes and highly active people need more.
Calculate your minimum requirements now. No time like the present, right?
Metric: 40 ml x kg bodyweight = minimum daily water requirement
US: 1 quart x 50 pounds bodyweight = minimum daily water requirement
- Get a GOOD waterbottle. Just keeping one on hand will make sure you keep drinking.
- Keep your waterbottle in plain view. If it’s in your line of vision, you’ll actually drink from it. If it’s in your bag, you wont.
- Hot or cold. Cold water is more palatable (for most people). If you like the taste, it’s much easier to keep drinking. A slice of lemon will also help with this, with the added bonus of being anti-bacterial. Of course, if you prefer your water warmer, that’s ok too. Try different temperatures until you find what you like.
- Start the day right. First thing in the morning, drink a BIG glass of water – up to 400ml – as this will help prime your stomach for fluid intake for the rest of the day.
- Drink with your meals. Drinking water during or right after a meal will help improve hydration status, as more water will be absorbed during the digestive processes.