It gets short shrift, but staying hydrated is just as important as the rest of your health and beauty regimen: About 60 percent of your body is water, and being even mildly parched—a likely possibility, considering that fluid loss occurs throughout the day—may lead to problems such as fatigue, headaches, and weight gain.
People who are active need to be extra diligent about sipping. The American College of Sports Medicine warns that failure to drink up before, during, and after prolonged exercise puts you at risk for heat exhaustion. Losing just 2 percent of your bodily weight from fluid, which can even happen during the cooler months, impacts speed and endurance.
Drink more, slim down
Regularly wetting your whistle may also help you reach your goal weight. Researchers from Virginia Tech found that people who downed two glasses of water 20 to 30 minutes before eating consumed 75 fewer calories during each meal and shed pounds more quickly than dieters who didn’t pre-hydrate. German researchers have also shown that water slightly boosts metabolism because it requires energy to process it. Other good reasons to hit the (water) bottle include banishing bloat, warding off constipation, beating fatigue, and clearing out toxins (including those found in alcohol).
So, are you getting enough?
It’s unlikely. Although the exact amount of water you need varies from person to person (dark urine is a sign you’re lacking), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggests that women aim for nine cups a day. (For guys, it’s 13 cups because of their higher muscle mass.) But 43 percent of adults get less than four!
The IOM guidelines don’t strictly refer to plain H2O; water-rich foods like soup and fruit count too, as do other beverages. But if you rely heavily on sugary drinks, your waistline is going to pay the price: A 20-ounce “single-serve” bottle of soda contains 240 calories (similar to a candy bar). And about 7 percent of the total calories in the typical American’s diet come from soft drinks alone, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The obvious solution is to stick with water, but about 20 percent of Americans reportedly don’t like the taste. If that sounds like you, check out the new SHAPE Water Boosters ($8; CVS, Rite Aid, and drugstore.com). Just a single squeeze (equal to a half-teaspoon) adds delicious flavor—but not calories—along with a concentrated punch of nutrients that offer some important bonus benefits. The portable packaging and great taste are designed to meet the needs of the health-conscious woman on the go. Look for them in the following four varieties: