Tell a friend
Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.
10 Reasons Why You Need to Drink Water
By Steve Edwards
You hear that you need to drink water constantly but rarely hear the reasons why. Sure, you know that you need to stay "hydrated" but you may not really even understand what this means. Let's delve into the meaning behind hydration and just why you need to drink so much plain "boring" water.
- Your body is made up primarily of water. When properly hydrated, about two-thirds of your body is water. Muscle tissue is even higher, at around 70 percent, while fat is less. Muscle powers your body and fat protects it. Put two and two together and you may surmise that water is vital to the things that make your body do stuff. When you don't have enough water, your performance declines in a state we call dehydration. Get too dehydrated and your body will no longer function, which isn't too surprising if it's low on a nutrient that makes up 65 percent of it.
- You don't need to drink 65 percent of your weight in water each day. This is because, one, if you've lost all the water in your body, you'd be dead; but also that water makes up most of all living things on our planet. Since we eat livingor recently alivethings we get some of that water. When we cook things, they lose their water. This means, the more whole raw foods you eat, the less water you need to drink. Fruits and veggies lead the group of water-rich foods and contain around 95 percent water. If you eat a lot of plants, you can drink less water.
- There is more to hydration than just your water levels. Water reacts with chemicals in your body in order to function. We lose water in the form of sweat and sweat is made up of water and body "salts," which are mainly sodium, chloride, and potassium but also magnesium, calcium, and so on. These are called electrolytes and, basically, are the reason that salt is such a vital component in your diet. Salt is a mixture of sodium and chloride but we use the term "salts" in reference to electrolytes in general. Too much salt is bad and too little is bad. Both can kill you. This is why, like water, the amount you consume should be directly related to the workload your body is put under. More exercise equals more sweat, meaning that you need more water and more salt.
- What about water weight? Some people are afraid to drink a lot of water because they're afraid of gaining "water weight." This is the opposite of what you should do. Water weight is a term for your body holding on to excess water because it's not getting enough. The best way to get rid of water weight is to drink more water. It works two ways. If you don't drink enough water or if you eat too much salt in your diet, your body hoards water. This water/salt relationship is referred to as your electrolyte balance. In general, there's an easy way to tell if you need more water or salt, in that most people's diets feature far too much saltespecially if you eat in restaurants. So when you aren't exercising, you almost never need more salt. When you are exercising, getting enough salt becomes an issue. Endurance athletes are ever aware of the need to have enough salt to avoid a condition called hyponatremia, a condition when you've had too much water and not enough salt that's basically just dehydration from a different angle. Those who don't do excessive exercise outdoors almost never have to worry about this condition.
- So what does water do for you? You'll often hear such claims as helping chemical reactions, regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, eyes, and your spinal cord. Sure, sure, it does all of this stuff. In fact, since you're made up of water a case can be made that it does almost everything. So why split hairs? Your body doesn't work, at all, without being fed a lot of water. You can live days, weeks, sometimes even months without food. But you can't live even a few days without water.
- Itchy skin. Dry skin. Constipation. Sneezing. Dry cough. Headaches. Nosebleeds. Acne. This list represents common ailments related to drinking too little water. Since water regulates your body functions it makes sense that minor glitches in bodily functions may relate to water. And this list is partial. Many symptoms blamed on allergies are probably due to living in a dehydrated state. When you are properly hydrated, your body can better defend itself.
- The above symptoms may be worse in the winter. It takes water just to breathe and you lose water through your mouth and lungs. During winter, when the air is dry, it takes more water. Add forced heat in the airlike home heating systems and firesand the situation is exacerbated. This means that you need to drink extra water in the winter when it's cold, even though you are probably less thirsty.
- Water and your immune system. During winter, lack of water will dry out the mucous membranes of your lungs, gut, and sinus passages and lessen your resistance to disease. These barriers protect your body against bacteria, viruses, and pollutants when fully hydrated and intact. Allowing them to dry out could be the leading cause of the common cold and allergic symptoms, not to mention things like constipation, sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and long-term diseases like hemorrhoids and colon cancer.
- Water and fat loss. In other articles I've talked about the importance of fat mobilization for energy and its relation to weight loss and effective exercise. Well, water is the main component of this action. A well-hydrated body has higher levels of oxygen in the bloodstream, translating into an increased ability to burn fat as fuel. The more efficiently you burn fat as fuel, the more effectively you exercise, leading to a better overall body composition.
- How much water? It's said you need about eight glasses of water a day. However, this will vary due to activity and environmental conditions. As a general rule, add a couple of glasses during the hot days of summer and the dry, cold nights of winter. During exercise, you may lose a quart an hour or more. While all liquids provide water, additions such as sugar, diuretics (caffeine, etc), and carbonation reduce the hydration effect. Combining all three, as in soda, can reduce the hydration efficiency of the liquid to almost nil.
I hope I've sold you on the importance of drinking water. For further guidelines on the types of water that are safe and effective, read "What's in Your Water?"
If you'd like to ask a question or comment on a newsletter article, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check Steve Edwards' Mailbag for his responses to reader comments.
And if you'd like to read more of Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.
Back to top.
Wine or Beer: Which Is Better for You?
By Jude Buglewicz
Now that beer is once again the alcohol of choice for Americans, with 41 percent claiming it as their preferred drink, according to a recent Gallup Poll, it's worth asking, are we making a mistake? After all, beer was a close second last year to wine, and wine has gotten a lot of good press lately. Should we be chugging less and sipping more? Which one is really better for youwine or beer?
It's well known that moderate levels of alcohol have heart-healthy benefitsany kind of alcohol. The key word, though, is moderate, whether it's beer, wine, or the hard stuff. Recommended levels of alcohol raise "good" (HDL) cholesterol and help decrease blood clots, which cause heart attacks and strokes. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men have less than two drinks a day and women no more than one drinkand we don't mean a Paris Hilton-sized "one margarita." According to the AHA, "one drink" means 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor, or 1 ounce of 100-proof liquor. (For more on alcohol and your health, read Steve Edwards' "The 5 Best and the 5 Worst Cocktails.")
And by the way, if you're a teetotaler, it's probably not wise to take up drinking in hopes of benefiting from alcohol, especially if you suffer from liver disease, gastritis, or high blood pressure. As the AHA cautions, it's safer to keep avoiding alcohol than risk becoming dependent on it. (Try reducing stress or relaxing with yoga insteadgood for drinkers, too!) But if you drink and you can stick to the recommended levels, here are some things you might want to consider the next time you're deciding between that bottle of vino or a six-pack of brewskies.
Currently in second place with 33 percent of alcohol-imbibing Americans claiming it as their favorite drink, wine was known in ancient times as the nectar of the gods. Over the past 10 years, its popularity has steadily increased, peaking last year at 39 percent, and knocking the longtime champ, beer, out of the top spot. Some credit the movie Sideways for that boost in popularity, while others (beer drinkers, naturally) say it was a fluke or a statistical error. No matter. If you're a wine lover, you have much to be proud of, like these impressive findings, for starters:
- Wine drinkers live longer. A 2000 Danish study found that "Wine drinkers had significantly lower mortality from both coronary heart disease and cancer than did non-wine drinkers." In fact, wine drinkers reduced their risk of death by one third compared to nondrinkers. People who drank beer and other alcohol had a 10 percent decrease in mortality compared to nondrinkers, so this group showed beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption, too, though not as much as the wine drinkers.
- Wine drinkers have lower cancer rates. This may be because of something called resveratrol, a substance found in the skin of grapes (and to a lesser degree in peanuts and blueberries). It's been touted as the answer to the so-called French Paradoxor why the wine-drinking French have low rates of heart disease though their diet is high in saturated fat and cholesterol (from those rich cheeses and sauces and pork). Resveratrol has been shown to help slow the formation and growth of cancer, though researchers say more studies are needed to confirm this. It's only found in red wine, though, not white, since white wine is fermented without the skin.
- Wine drinkers eat better. A more recent study (2006)again from Denmarkfound that wine drinkers make healthier food choices than beer drinkers. For six months, researchers tracked the sales of wine and beer drinkers in 98 supermarkets. Wine shoppers tended to choose healthy items such as fruits, vegetables, olives, and low-fat cheeses, as opposed to the fattening chips, cold cuts, soda pop, and sausages that beer buyers selected. These findings are significant, since most of the information on alcohol consumption to date has come from surveys, in which people tend to overstate how healthy their diets are and understate how much they drink. This study is believed to be more accurate, as it shows the actual dietary choices of drinkers.
Another interesting finding is that wine buyers spent more than beer buyers, though people who bought both wine and beer spent most of all. Researchers also noted that wine drinkers tend to be better educated and wealthier than beer drinkers, which also results in better health.
So if we can extend our life span and decrease our risk of getting cancer by drinking wine, why do more Americans drink beer?
It's cheaper and more accessible than wine. Also, the beer industry does a great job of marketing its product. All you have to do is tune into a sports telecast, especially a football game, to see the ubiquitous beer commercials. That may explain why twice as many men as women drink domestic beer. Three companies dominate the U.S. beer market, selling 81 percent of all domestic beer: Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. American-made beer, by the way, includes chemicals to prolong its shelf life (otherwise, it lasts about six months), high-fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients that make it less healthy than many imports. But how does beer compare to wine regarding health benefits?
- Beer is more nutritious than wine. Unfiltered beer contains nearly all the B vitamins, several minerals, and as many antioxidants as wine (though different ones, since wine comes from grapes and beer is made with grains, mainly barley and hops). And though beer has only a small percentage of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins, it contains significant amounts of trace metals and minerals. Both wine and beer are made with yeast, but the yeast is filtered out of wine. Not so with the many varieties of unfiltered beer on the marketthe vitamins in the yeast are preserved. (Look for "genuine draft beers," also known as "ice" beers. They have to be kept refrigerated to preserve their flavor. Unfiltered beer also includes many "craft" beers, which are nearly all malt as opposed to best-selling American beers that are made with 30 to 40 percent rice or corn, and sugar.)
- Beer reduces heart disease. Besides the fact already mentioned that moderate levels of any alcohol reduces heart diseaseincluding beer and winea 2001 Czech Republic study found that vitamin B6 in beer reduces the buildup of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood, which has been linked to heart disease.
- Beer drinkers have low-cal alternatives. Light beer is the best-selling of all the beer segments, with four of the top five leading brews consumed in the U.S.: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Natural Light. Light beer didn't even exist 30 years ago, so its triumph in the beer market is a testament to the beer industry's willingness to cater to health- and weight-conscious consumers. And though purists and beer connoisseurs may scoff at its "watered down" taste, light beer is a good choice if you're watching your waistline.
The evidence points to red wine. It's true, as some beer fans complain, that wine gets all the good press. Beer, on the other hand, is linked to binge drinking and unhealthy habits. (Drinking alcohol in excess reverses its good benefits and could even lead to addiction or liver disease.) It's also true that wine drinkers tend to have healthier lifestyles. In the U.S. in 1999, beer accounted for four-fifths (81 percent) of all the alcohol consumed in hazardous amounts (five or more drinks per day), compared to wine (4 percent). These stats may have something to do with all those beer commercials that associate drinking beer with being sexy, fun, and socially acceptable. For every "responsibility" and "awareness" ad that the beer industry aired in 2002, there were 226 alcohol product ads. No wonder beer is this nation's most popular drink and the alcoholic beverage of choice for underage drinkers.
I have to admitI prefer beer, Guinness Stout in particular. And though red wine does appear to have the edge insofar as it has the most health benefits, since either wine or beer is fine in moderation, we beer drinkers can hang on to our frosty mugs and leave the elegant stemware to the wine drinkers. (Beer drinkers do have to be extra conscious of the snacks we choose, though, and take a few tips from the wine crowd, replacing fattening chips and dips and greasy pizzas with healthier fare, like whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese or veggie platters with low-fat dips.) Whichever you choose, remember this:
- With red wine, you'll get the benefits of resveratrol (not with white wine and not with beer).
- Red wine also has eight times as many flavonoids (cancer-fighting antioxidants) as white wine.
- Most red wines have slightly more calories than white wines, though sweet dessert wines have the most calories of all.
- Dark beer has three times as many flavonoids as ales; however, it also usually has more calories, so check the labels!
If it's calories you want to know about, here's a breakdown for recommended levels of beer, wine, and spirits:
|Beer (12 oz.)
|Dark (Beck's, Guinness Extra Stout)
|Dark (Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada)
|White wine (4 oz.)
|Red wine (4 oz.)
|Red zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon
|Bordeaux, burgundy, Beaujolais, merlot, claret
|Sweet dessert wine (4 oz.)
|Champagne (4 oz.)
|Distilled spirits (1.5 oz. shot)
|80-proof liquor (most vodkas, rums, tequilas, gins, blended whiskeys, etc.)
Ditte Johansen, et al. "Food Buying Habits of People Who Buy Wine or Beer: Cross Sectional Study." BMJ. 20 Jan. 2006; 332: 519-522.
Greenfield, Thomas K., Rogers, John D. "Beer Drinking Accounts for Most of the Hazardous Alcohol Consumption Reported in the United States." Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 1999; 60: 6.
Gronbaek, Morten MD, et al. "Type of Alcohol Consumed and Mortality from All Causes, Coronary Heart Disease, and Cancer." Annals of Internal Medicine. 19 Sep. 2000; 133;6: 411-419.
Mayer, O. Jr, Simon, J., and Rosolova, H. "A Population Study of the Influence of Beer Consumption on Folate and Homocysteine Concentrations." European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. July 2001; 55: 605-609.
Greenfield, Thomas K., Rogers, John D. "Beer Drinking Accounts for Most of the Hazardous Alcohol Consumption Reported in the United States." Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 1999; 60:
Beer statistics from www.beveragemarketing.com, www.cspinet.org, www.beertown.org
Back to top.