Drink eight cups a day

When you think about nutrition what comes to mind? Most people think of vitamins, minerals and protein, calcium and iron, and not eating too much fat.

Although it doesn't necessarily contribute to the nutritional value of food, water is important in describing food composition and energy balance.

About 60 percent of your body is made of this vital elementt. Water transports nutrients throughout the body necessary for survival, helps regulate the body's temperature, forces fat to be used as fuel, prevents sagging skin after weight loss, maintains muscle tone, serves as natural appetite suppresser, helps to boost your metabolism and is necessary for digestion and elimination. The more water you drink the less fat deposits you have. Why? Because without enough water, your kidneys are unable to function properly, thus the liver picks up the slack. When this happens, the liver cannot properly metabolize stored fat as energy. The results are a decrease in fat metabolism, leading to more fat stored in the body. And did you know that over-the-counter appetite suppressants just make you drink more water, so you end up eating less? Swallow a pill, and you get a burning feeling in your stomach and throat, so you want to drink as much as you can to get rid of that burn. The result: More water and less food goes through the system. If you retain fluid, then start drinking water regularly.

If you are dehydrated, the body will hold on to every last drop of water, perceiving the low water level as a famine. This extra water is stored under the skin, showing up in the form of swollen feet, hands and ankles, as well as puffed eyes. Only after proper hydration the body will start releasing the stored water. Remember, the more salt you eat the more water you retain, so watch the salt shaker as well.

The need for water increases when you exercise. As you bring your heart rate up and increase metabolism, more water is lost through increased rates of perspiration and respiration. Dehydration causes a decrease in blood volume and reduces the body's ability to get rid of excess heat, leading to possible heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. If you are only two percent short of water in your system, your aerobic capacity is decreased, bringing physical and mental performance down by 20 percent. Research shows that dehydrated people perform worse on arithmetic tests than well-hydrated ones. Whether you are riding a bike on the ocean trail or taking a final test in accounting class, take a drink of water. The payoff will be worthwhile.

Since the weather is getting colder and the air dryer, all kinds of viruses and bacteria are following you around. Water will keep you healthy, constantly cleansing your system. So, how much should you drink?

Drink at least eight cups of water daily, spread throughout the day. Regular, non-carbonated water is the best. Never wait until you are thirsty, that is a sign of dehydration.

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Don't like water? Try 100 percent juices, milk and eating fruits and vegetables. While all these things will help, nothing is as good as pure water. After a while you will crave water, and prefer it over other drinks. Surround yourself with visual reminders to drink, such as a water bottle on your desk and in your car and a pitcher on your kitchen counter. Thirst is a poor reminder because it doesn't kick in until you're already mildly dehydrated.