There are three top questions I always ask a new client when we meet. One is, "How is your water consumption?" The answer I hear from many: "I could drink more," or "I hate water," or "Does coffee count?" Hearing this every day is still a shock to me – which is why I want to talk about you and your relationship with water. I have high hopes that the second you're done reading this, you'll be on your feet pouring some water into your body. Let's get you motivated, inspired and excited to pound some good ol' quality H2O.
I wasn't always known by my current nickname, "Moni the Water Police." Although I was an athlete in college, I sure didn't drink water like an athlete. My staples were pizza, beer and the "what is water" kind of diet. (No one is perfect!) Once I learned how much better I felt and performed when I was well-hydrated and refueled properly, the rest was history. And, true story: I rarely got sick once I made this simple change.
Look at it this way: Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes out toxins and keeps your environment moist (think skin, muscles, organs and bones). Most importantly, water carries nutrients to your cells, helps you look and feel your best, and provides you with energy.
Experts all say something a little different about how much to drink. We'll get to that in a minute. It's important to realize that we're all different and have specific needs. Each of us will differ on the amount of water our bodies actually need. It can depend on many factors, such as our overall health, where we live and our activity level. For example, are you a professional cyclist or a non-athlete?
One thing I can promise you is that most people don't drink nearly enough water, even though they think they do – and because of that, they become dehydrated. Dehydration means that you don't have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can make you tired, drain your energy and make you feel achy. Don't wait until you feel thirsty in order to drink water; that means you're already dehydrated. Often, this may mean you eat (because you think you're hungry), when you're really just thirsty. Sound familiar?
Here are the facts:
• On average, 60 percent of your body weight is made up of water.
• Some of the benefits water provides include: increased energy levels, decreased appetite and improved metabolic function. Water also helps eliminate toxins and wastes, and alleviates fluid retention.
• The more hydrated you are, the more energy you'll have, the better your body will function and the better your skin will look. Hello, glow!
• Even better, replace soda with water and you could lose many pounds in just a year.
[Read: What to Eat Before Running.]
Tips on drinking more water:
• Initially, I recommend drinking at least half a gallon a day, but it's smart to try for more. It's hard at first, but you'll find that it gets easier the more you drink up. To get going, here's my favorite formula: Take your body weight, divide it in half and drink that number in ounces. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, half your weight is 75. So, you should aim to get 75 ounces of water a day. This is my best advice. Why? Because we're not all the same size, shape and weight. It wouldn't make sense for a 220-pound man and 130-pound woman to both drink 60 ounces of water a day. You could also follow the "8 by 8" rule (drinking at least eight 8-ounce cups a day), but there's a good chance it won't meet your individual requirement.
• Remember, many foods already have a water content, which contributes to your daily quota. However, I recommend focusing on drinking your fluids. This is more reliable, easier, calorie-free and inexpensive.
• Make it a goal to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Also, try to drink a glass of water before and during every meal. This will help prevent overeating and will jump start your metabolism. When you want to inhale that bag of crispy, salty potato chips, pound water instead. You'll likely realize you were simply thirsty. I busted you again!
• Infuse your water with flavor – it doesn't have to be boring. Think lemon, cucumber, fruit, fresh herbs and other flavors to have great tasting water on hand.
• Add bubbles! Adding a sparkling water with zero calories kicks the water experience up a notch and makes it more fun.
• Keep water bottles in your car, at your desk, in your gym bag and all over your house. Schedule H20 time into your daily calendar – with all the apps out there today there are no excuses, right?
• For the kids: Buy tiny water bottles (4 or 6 ounces) so you don't waste the full bottles. Set up a reward system when they drink one. Same as with adults: Let them have fun picking out a fruit to flavor the water with or add in some bubbles (carbonation).
• Sorry to get personal, but last but not least, what color is your urine? If it's colorless or very light, that's a great indication that you're hydrated. If it's dark in color (close to an amber shade), you know you need more water.
For you active folks:
When you're exercising, make sure you understand the following:
• Two hours prior to exercise, drink 17 to 20 ounces.
• Every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, drink 7 to 10 ounces.
• Following exercise (whether you're thirsty or not), drink 16 to 24 ounces for every pound of body weight loss.
[Read: What to Eat After Running.]
A note to women who are expecting or breastfeeding: You need additional fluids to stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends pregnant women drink 2.3 liters (about 10 cups) of fluids daily and women who breastfeed consume 3.1 liters (about 13 cups) of fluids a day.
Are you thirsty yet? I hope these easy tips help and that you learned something new. My best advice is to learn from your good days. If you have a healthy day that feels easy, make notes about exactly what you did and why it worked.
I would love to hear from you. Are you getting enough water? Is this something you struggle with? What tips have worked best for you?
Hungry for more? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns and feedback.
Monica Nelson, or "Moni" to her friends and clients, is a personal trainer, healthy foods chef, accomplished athlete, model and well-respected health and fitness expert. She works with celebrities and has been featured in publications such as SHAPE and Fitness. She's been a competitive snowboarder and is a true fitness fanatic. Moni's motto in life is "EAT WELL.STAY FIT. FEEL GREAT." Another one of her greatest passions and talents is cooking and baking. She runs a healthy recipe blog where she has created more than 350 healthy and decadent meals to enjoy. You can connect with Moni on Facebook and follow @monimealfitness on Twitter and Instagram. Grab a recipe or two at www.monimeals.com then head over for a workout and get her latest tips at www.monicanelsonfitness.com. Moni lives in Los Angeles with her wonderful husband Mark, who is also a trainer, and their incredible English bulldog Eddie.