You may not have considered water as an important factor in your daily diet, but the Canada Food Guide does. It specifically recommends to health-conscious Canadians: "Drink water regularly. It's a calorie-free way to quench your thirst. Drink more water in hot weather or when you are very active."
"Our bodies need water," says Victoria-based private practice dietitian and health coach Danielle Van Schaick. "Water enables us to metabolize our food, and, in fact, it's required for every chemical reaction in our body."
How water works with weight loss
Drinking water may actually burn a few extra calories, says Van Schaick.
Those burned calories are minimal, but Van Schaick suggests another important connection between water ingestion and weight loss. "Often our hunger signals are confused with our thirst signals," she says. "This is something I talk to my clients about all the time. Sometimes when we feel hungry it's actually that we're thirsty -- we might eat instead of drinking a glass of water, which is what our body really wants."
The average Canadian diet leans heavily toward the intake of convenience foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, which have water in them naturally. By eating fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed convenience foods you may be upping your water intake without any appreciable effort.
Thirsty? You may already be dehydrated
"When your thirst mechanism kicks in, your body is saying that you are already dehydrated," says Van Schaick. "Ideally, with exercise, you want to be drinking a cup of water before you exercise, a cup of water while you exercise and a cup following exercise -- that will ensure that you don't get to the stage where you are feeling thirsty."
In a hot environment, as stressed in the new Canada's Food Guide, you'll need to take in more water.
Page 1 of 2 - Read page two to find out about drinking too much water
Why is 8 glasses the magic number for water intake?
"If you're not looking to lose weight and are just maintaining your weight with a specific calorie intake, one millilitre of water per calorie of your diet is needed to metabolize the food you eat," says Van Schaick. "The eight glasses per day is based on the average diet of 2,000 calories and, at one millilitre per calorie, it works out to eight glasses."
If you want to lose weight, Van Schaick recommends, you may need to increase your water intake. "If you are trying to restrict your diet to lose weight, take in one ounce of water for every two pounds of weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking 100 ounces (or 12.5 cups) of water daily."
Clues that you might be dehydrated
Symptoms of dehydration include: dry, sticky mouth, dry eyes, dark yellow urine output and nausea after exercising.
Remember that thirst and hunger can send off similar signals, so try a glass of water to see if that satisfies your craving.
Amping up the flavour of your water
Some people don't like drinking water because they think it's tasteless. Here are some ways to improve the taste of water:
• Put a handful of frozen berries in your water bottle. As the day wears on, the frozen berries will keep the water cold and gradually impart the flavour of the fruit.
• Add lemon, lime or orange slices (or all three!) and mint to your water.
• Make natural herbal iced teas to use instead of water -- you control the sugar content.
• Fruits have up to 90 per cent water content, so just eating fruit will up your fluid intake.
Can you drink too much water?
"It's very rare that we take in too much water, but there is a condition called water intoxication," says Van Schaick. "If you drink too much water, you dilute the electrolytes in your body and that can affect your heart. We've heard of athletes having heart attacks because they've taken in too much water, but it's very rare. Twelve cups of water per day will not overhydrate your body."
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