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Why is Water So Important, and How Much Should You Be Drinking?

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More than anything else, your body is made of water. Water is one of the basic resources for your life. Just to function, every cell in your body needs water. Your blood is mostly water, as are your brain and muscles. You can survive more than a month without food, but go without any water for a week, and you’d likely be done for.

You lose water all day long just going through normal daily activities. Sipping on water and eating food is a fairly adequate way to replace this “maintenance” fluid.

When you add exercise and other activities, not to mention some heat, sipping just a little water is definitely not enough. What does “enough” mean? That depends on how you want to feel.

Being thirsty can leave you feeling hungry, craving sugar, and having a hard time sleeping. Even small amounts of dehydration can affect the way you feel and perform. Dehydration affects your blood pressure, muscle fatigue, and general energy level.

The general rule of thumb is eight glasses of water a day. You do get fluid from other sources — even drinking some coffee or soda will do more good than harm in terms water consumption. That’s why the requirements in the Whole Life Challenge are lower than the standard eight-a-day recommendation. The water you’re asked to consciously drink daily for the Challenge should be easy to consume during meals and through daily sipping. Even a 180-pound person is drinking fewer than 4 tall glasses a day.

We’re not trying to make you hydrated for a walk across the Gobi. This daily habit is not meant to fill you to the brim. It is just meant to get you thinking about water enough to keep you topped off. Some of you may need or want more. That’s up to you and should be based on your climate and your daily activities.

And yes, there is such a thing as too much water. It is called hyponatremia but is very rare and only happens when you drink way beyond how thirsty you are. Healthy kidneys can flush out about a quart an hour, and if you drink more than that, you risk diluting your blood concentration of sodium as water backs up.

To give you an example, in 2007 woman died when she drank about six quarts of water in three hours in a “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest. That’s about twice what a healthy person should be able to expect to get rid of.

Frankly, a great way to know whether you have hit the limit of what your body needs is if you need to wee a lot.

If you haven’t figured out what works for you yet, here are some basic strategies to getting enough water:

  • Drink a glass at each meal.
  • Sip on a small bottle slowly through the day. If you’re drinking a glass with each meal, you shouldn’t need to lug around a huge bottle every day.
  • Definitely drink after workouts — your body will remind you to do that.
  • If all else fails, lug around a huge bottle! You can always fill your glasses at meals right from the bottle to help you measure and make sure you’ve hit your requirement.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.