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Knowing Nutrition



Why Is Water Important?


Water not only quenches our thirst, but it also supports life. Approximately sixty percent of our body weight comes from water and water is vital to survival.  Water regulates nerve impulses, muscle contractions, nutrient transport and excretion of waste products. Pure water alone is not enough to sustain life; it is the dissolved substances within our body fluid that keep us alive. The four main solutes: sodium, potassium, chloride and phosphorus are commonly known as electrolytes.   The electrolytes balance the fluids inside our cells with the fluid outside of the cells.  Every cell contains fluid.  This is called intracellular fluid.  When cells take in too much fluid, they burst apart.  When cells lose fluid, they shrink and die. Fluid that flows outside of cell walls is called extracellular fluid. Some extracellular fluids are spinal fluid, mucus and synovial, or joint, fluid. Blood plasma is an extracellular fluid.  Not all tissues in our body contain the same amount of fluid.  Lean tissues, like muscle, contain 70 % fluid while fat tissue only holds between 10 – 20 percent of our fluid.


How Much Water Do You Need?


There is no scientific evidence to support the age-old advice that people should drink 8 glasses of water a day.  Opinions on how much water we should drink vary, but the fact is that each and every body requires a different amount of water.  An athlete needs more water than someone who is sedentary.  A man who typically has more lean tissue than a woman needs more fluid to support his lean tissue.  Babies need relatively more water than the elderly.


The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), which are the dietary standards for healthy people, recommend that males, aged 19-50 drink 13 cups of beverages, including water, every day.  Women in the same age group should drink 9 cups of beverages each day.  Renowned Los Angeles performance fitness expert, Phil Goglia, PhD, recommends that we drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight.  Many others in the fitness world agree on this formula for the average adult. 


Ultimately, The color of your urine will help you determine whether or not you are drinking enough fluids.  As long as you are not taking riboflavin (vitamin B2, found in most multi-vitamins), which fluoresces and turns your urine bright yellow, then your urine should be a pale yellow or clear. Urine that is a deep, dark yellow indicates that you are probably not drinking enough water. If your urine is scant or if you haven't urinated in many hours, that too is an indication that you're not drinking enough.  If your urine is clear after drinking alcohol, don’t be fooled into thinking that you are hydrated.  Alcohol inhibits an antidiuretic hormone, which causes your body to lose water but show clear urine.



What If You Don’t Drink Enough Water?


Insufficient fluid intake can lead to many serious consequences, dehydration being the most common.  When we lose more fluid than we take in, whether an athlete working out on a hot day or someone ill with vomiting or diarrhea, we are at risk for impaired physical and mental function and even death.


Is It Possible to Dink Too Much Water?


Drinking large amounts of water to combat dehydration may lead to a condition called hyponatremia.  Hyponatremia is a condition where blood sodium levels are dangerously low due to over consuming water.  This condition is fairly common in long distance runners who drink large amounts of water over a long period of time, hoping to avoid dehydration.  Left untreated, hyponatremia can lead to seizures, coma and even death.


What Is The Best Water Strategy?


Drinking adequate water throughout the day is the best way to stay hydrated and healthy.


Next Knowing Nutrition: The Electrolytes and Fluid Balance

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