12 Months of Wellness: January

This is the first in a series by Brawlstar skater Sass Magic, continuing each month of 2016 here in the A2D2 blog.

Many of us set lofty New Year's resolutions that are forgotten by March. This year, I'm hoping to change that by taking on a different health challenge every month in a series I'm calling "12 Months of Wellness." The health challenges can be cumulative, so that you continue doing the challenge from month one into month two, and months one and two into month three, or you can just focus on each different challenge as it comes along. Either way, I welcome you to join me for a healthier year!

For the first month of this 12 month series, we will be focusing on drinking enough water. This is one of the least expensive, healthiest changes a person can make, besides stop smoking (seriously, if you haven't given up cigarettes yet, ignore this 12 month challenge and focus on that). Increasing your intake of water can lead to mental clarity, weight loss, healthier looking skin, and better sports performance. Although most people know that drinking enough water is vital for optimal health, up to 75% of Americans are still dehydrated. If you think you might be one of those people, this challenge is for you!

Why is Drinking Water So Important?
The human body is composed, on average, of 60-65% water. It is found in higher concentrations in muscular tissue (75%), the brain (85%), and the lungs (90%). Water is used in every single system of your body. It is used as a cushion for joints, a lubricant, and a protective barrier for the brain and spinal cord. Water helps us regulate our temperature by sweating, and it helps with digestion and waste removal. Without consuming water, you would only be able to live for about a week. Dehydration can cause headaches, irritability, food cravings, dizziness, fatigue, and many other detrimental side effects.

How Much Water Should We Drink?
The Institute of Medicine says that women who are adequately hydrated drink an average of 91 ounces of water a day while men drink an average of 125 ounces. The amount needed differs from person to person based on many factors such as weight, height, activity level, body composition and climate. A good starting point is to take how much you weigh in pounds, divide it in half and drink that number in ounces. If you are very physically active, such as going to multiple derby practices and going to the gym several times a week, you may need to add on 8-16 ounces. If you live in a hot or dry climate, you may also need to add some water. 

It may take your body some time to adjust to an increase in water. It's better to add in water gradually, versus trying to drink a gallon tomorrow after barely drinking anything at all. It is possible to drink too much water, so avoid chugging it all in one sitting. Try to drink it throughout the day. You can use the color and frequency of urination as a measure for how your hydration is going. Urine should be the color of straw, pale yellow. If it's a dark yellow or amber color, you probably need more water, and if it is completely clear, you might be drinking too much. It should be a steady flow, not a dribble, and if you're drinking plenty of water, it's not abnormal to go up to ten times a day. 

Tips to Get More Water Throughout Your Day
Coffee, tea, juice, milk and soda all contain water. Although caffeinated and sugary beverages aren't as hydrating as plain water, they can contribute to your needed water intake. If you are only drinking coffee and soda, you might have to drink more to counteract the caffeine and sugar contained in those drinks. 

If plain tap water doesn't appeal to you, try adding sliced fruits, veggies or herbs to give it a pleasant taste. Sliced lemons, limes, oranges, apples, cucumbers or mint are popular choices to jazz up water. 

Some people will add drops of a "water enhancer" such as Mio or Stur, but if you choose to do that, be sure to read the labels carefully. Some of those water enhancers contain lots of sugar or caffeine and if you're using more than a couple drops, it can add up. 

If you are having trouble reaching your water goals, try drinking some first thing in the morning to get the ball rolling. I like to keep water on my bedside table so that I can start my water intake as soon as I wake up. 

Pick a water bottle to carry around with you during the day, and figure out how many ounces of water are in it. Some water bottles have the ounces printed on the side. If yours doesn't, you can use a measuring cup to fill it. There are 8 ounces in a standard U.S. cup. Once you know how many ounces your water bottle holds, you will be able to keep track of how many ounces you have already had for the day and how many you have left to go.

Now that you're armed with some hydration information, fill up your canteens with me for the next 31 days! Drink up, and stay tuned for next month's challenge.

Sass Magic is not a doctor, but she is passionate about healthy living and how it relates to roller derby.

Posted on January 6, 2016 .