WATER has been called the essence of life and no one can agree with it more than people living in hot climates like us in India. If plants are deprived of water they will droop and wither, animals will also die of thirst if they are not given recourse to water and all life would end. Water promotes new life and growth, along with nourishing existing life. Our human body needs water more than we can understand to stay healthy and work well. The increased heat makes this need greater and if we are into any form of exercising it is very important to remember to keep our bodies well hydrated.
About 70 per cent of the human body is water which is divided over the various body parts. The gastric juices and saliva have the largest amount of 95.5 per cent each while blood has 90.7 per cent, our brain has 80.5 per cent while the muscle tissues have 75 per cent water, to name just a few.
Water performs many important functions to keep our body working well. It supports all the nutritive processes from digestion to absorption, utilisation till excretion. Water is an essential part of all body fluids.
|Without sufficient water there would be no
saliva and swallowing anything would be a problem and you
would not be able to talk. The various mucous membranes
of the body are kept soft, lubricated with water. Without
water, muscles would lose their suppleness and our inner
organs would suffer as well as they are all in a fluid
that is mostly made up of water. Water is the primary
agent in regulating our body temperatures. This is one of
the main reasons why water is so important for our
health. Keeping our body temperatures regulated and
constant is essential as a change of even a few degrees
could result in death. The body is constantly releasing
water from the kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin.All these
help the body maintain its temperature.
How much water should you drink? There is no hard and fast rule about how much water is enough for each of us. In regular temperatures the human body expels about one gallon of water a day. This water that is lost must be replenished by drinking water then if you are in a hotter country the loss of water will increase due to excess perspiration as it will if you are a regular exercise person and you sweat in the gym or while exercising. All health experts agree that it is best to drink when you are thirsty. As the need for water varies from person to person and climate to climate this is the best way to judge. Many books will give you the ideal amount of water as eight glasses a day. There is no way to judge that eight glasses are sufficient for one and all. Some people need more water while others seem fine with a little less. Depending on your diet, many people get two-thirds of their bodies' water needs from food.
A lot of it is also job and lifestyle related. If your job requires movement and running around outdoors, then you will certainly need more water than a person who has a sedentary desk job sitting in air-conditioned comfort. Exercising in the heat needs a lot of care as you can suffer from heat related problems and injuries. First and foremost remember that if you are exercising, be it summer or winter, drink whenever you are thirsty. It is best to drink before your workout, and after as well and if you are thirsty go ahead and drink in the middle as well. The old school of thought believed that you should not drink water 15 minutes before and after a workout as it could lead to stomach cramps. This is not true; in fact stomach cramps are caused by the lack of water rather than the other way around.
Working out and not drinking enough water can lead to health related problems. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are some of the conditions that can be caused due to an overexposure to heat as well as a lack of proper hydration for the body.
Heat cramps are the least severe of all the ailments and are often the bodys first signal to tell you that there is a problem coming up. These are muscle spasms that are painful and are usually located in the stomach and legs.
For heat cramps ,lightly massage the area and drink as much fluid as possible. Any salt-based drinks should be avoided as these can make the problem worse. It is fine to resume your activity once the cramps subside but you should be careful about drinking enough water for the future as well.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe form of heat cramps. This affects people who work in extreme heat in heavy clothing more than others though people who ignore the heat cramps signals can also reach such a situation. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include clammy, flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness and extreme exhaustion.
For people who are suffering from heat exhaustion get them to rest in a cool place and apply wet compresses on them. Do not let the person drink too much water too quickly; keep them hydrated with about 4 ounces of water every 15 minutes. It is best that you should not resume activity the same day but rest.
Keeping your body hydrated will ensure that you look and feel good as well as have a safe and enjoyable workout.
This column was published on June 4, 2000