What do you, trees and hamsters have in common? Give up? You all need water to live!
It might not seem like it, but water is the most needed nutrient of all. In fact, people can’t survive for more than a few days without it. Most of your body is water. If you weigh 90 pounds, only about 27 of those pounds are bones and squishy insides, and the rest is water!
What Water Does for You
Water has many important jobs. It is the main ingredient in all the fluids (like blood) that are inside your body. These fluids travel through your body, carrying nutrients into and waste out from all your cells and organs. Water is a big part of the fluid that lubricates your joints. It helps your intestines do their job better and prevents constipation by keeping things moist.
When you’re hot, water comes up through your skin as sweat and evaporates into the air. As the sweat evaporates, it takes your body heat with it. This cools down your skin, which cools down your blood. When your blood is cooler, your whole body cools down.
Replace Those Fluids!
On a regular day, your body loses two to three liters of water (about the same amount that’s in eight to 12 milk cartons from the cafeteria) just from sweating, urinating, having bowel movements, and all the other things your body uses water for that you can’t see. And on a day that you’re exercising and sweating hard, your body loses even more water. That’s why you have to replace the water!
All beverages (even those with caffeine) and many foods can help you replace fluids. Some foods like fruits and vegetables are better at replacing fluids than others because they are mostly water. If you like grapes, watermelon, oranges or cantaloupe, you’re in luck! These fruits taste great and are full of fluids. So are veggies like lettuce, cucumbers and celery. But you can’t rely on food alone to get all the fluids you need. That’s why you need to drink liquid beverages every day.
You sometimes hear that people should drink six to eight cups of water each day. If you are healthy, listen to your body and drink up if you are thirsty! If you are not thirsty, you may not need to drink extra fluids. If you drink milk and fruit juice or other beverages and eat lots of fruits and veggies, you’ll replace the fluids your body needs.
Drink Extra When You Exercise
If you’re exercising and sweating, drinking water and other fluids is doubly important. When you sweat a lot, your body loses even more water than normal. The more you exercise and the more you sweat, the more fluids you need to drink. When it’s hot or humid, it’s even more important that you drink enough. If you don’t, you can get sick from the heat. Here is how much you should drink before, during and after exercising:
- 1-2 hours before you exercise: 14-22 ounces (about 1 ¾ cup to 2 ¾ cups)
- While you exercise: 6 to 12 ounces every 15 minutes to 20 minutes (about ¾ cup to 1 ½ cups)
- After you exercise: 16 to 24 oz for every pound of weight loss through sweat (This means 2 to 3 cups for most kids; if it’s a hot day you may feel thirsty enough to drink even more.)
When you exercise, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink up. Did you ever get a very dry mouth and suddenly feel very thirsty? That’s because your body already needed fluids and was trying to tell you by taking water from your salivary glands (these glands make saliva, or spit, which is made from water). So your mouth felt all dried out, and you had a drink. But it’s much better for you to drink before you even get thirsty–you’ll feel better and have more energy.
Find fun things to do when it’s hot outside: