The Importance of Drinking Enough Water
Most people have heard that you should drink at least eight – 8 ounce glasses of water per day, but many still do not know why it is so important. Proper hydration is essential for every function your body performs. If you are even slightly dehydrated your body will function less efficiently. You can live for 30 days or more without food, but you would die in 3 days without water!
If you do not consistently drink enough water, your body will try to hang on to every drop it can in self-preservation. It will take water from systems in your body that need it to function efficiently, just to store it. Many people who do not drink enough water are actually carrying an extra 5-10 pounds of stored water, which may add an extra 1 – 1.5 inches to your waist! Their body is preparing for a drought that never has to come.
Your body cannot burn fat unless it has enough water. In fact, it cannot even digest food properly without enough water. Less efficient digestion can lead to increased fat storage, low energy levels, and less calorie burning through activity. The constant state of dehydration (lack of water) that many people are in leads to weak thirst signals that can be mistaken for hunger, leading you to crave food you do not need. Proper hydration has been shown to reduce joint discomfort by re-hydrating cartilage and other joint structures.
You can exercise all you want, eat the best foods in the world, but if you are even slightly dehydrated your body is going to fight you every step of the way.
Most times, 8 glasses of water per day is not nearly enough. If you drink caffeine, exercise regularly, or have a few pounds to lose, you probably need significantly more water to meet your body’s demands. If you want to lose fat and improve your overall health, the first step you should take is to make sure you are getting enough water.
You need to eat every three or four hours when you are awake.
Not eating often enough will cause your body to go into “starvation mode.” Three or four hours after a meal, your body needs more fuel. If you do not eat, it will try to preserve itself by storing fuel (as fat) for future use and breaking down lean muscle mass to convert to fuel. This break down slows your metabolism (calorie burning) and stresses your kidneys and liver.
Proving to your body that there is a constant source of fuel available will convince it that fat stores are not necessary. Then and only then will your body convert stored fat to fuel. You need to eat every three or four hours! When you do this consistently, your blood glucose (sugar) levels will not dip and you will not feel the energy sag that many people get throughout the day. Your body needs blood glucose to burn fat, so by maintaining a higher glucose level all day long, you will convert more fat to fuel.
Eating the Correct Amount
Of course, eating too much causes your body to store more fat. But so does eating too little!
Does this scenario sound familiar? You decide you need to lose a few pounds, so you go on a “diet,” restricting your calories drastically so you can get the results you want. This is sometimes combined with starting a vigorous exercise routine as well. You feel hungry all the time, you are grumpy and tired, and you crave fatty, sweet foods.
Sound familiar so far? Here’s an idea of what’s actually happening in your body when this is done. Your body is starved of the fuels it needs to function efficiently and it has to make up for this lack of fuel somehow. Will it tap into its fat stores and start to use up this reserve of fuel? NO! Fearing a famine, your body will do just the opposite. It will store every bit of fat it can to build a stockpile of fuel against this threat of famine. At the same time, it will break down your lean muscle mass and convert it to fuel, slowing your metabolic rate so you will not need as many calories! Sure, you lose some weight, but it is mostly lean muscle weight, not fat weight. You hardly lose any inches, and you are less healthy than you were before you started. Vigorous exercise only means your body will require even more fuel, compounding the problem even further. This is why “eating less and exercising more” just does not work.
Eventually one of two things happens. Either you give in to the cravings and give up on the “diet”, or you lose the “weight” you want and go back to your old eating habits. In either case, your body now requires fewer calories than it did before because it has broken down some lean muscle mass which is what burns the majority of calories you consume. Soon you gain all of the weight back, plus usually a bit more. Now you are heavier than you were to start with, you have more body fat and less lean muscle mass, and you have put your body (specifically your kidneys and liver) under tremendous stress. All this in the name of health, yet you are less healthy!
Again, the secret to losing fat is not to starve your body, but to prove to it that there is fuel available and therefore it does not need to stockpile fat. Do this and you will be amazed at how your body will want to shed that extra fat. It really works! On top of losing the fat and inches, you will be healthier, have higher energy levels, cope with stress better, and never have to worry about gaining the fat back!
Proper food selection will lead to a healthier body, but it must be done in combination with the other steps listed above. If you are eating healthy foods but not eating enough calories for what your body requires, then you will not see the results you want and not be improving your overall health. Conversely, if you are eating too much it will not matter how healthy the foods you eat are, you will still store the extra calories as fat.
Once you have established the habits of good nutrition, it becomes much easier to select the best foods for your body and “fine tune” your eating habits. There are no specific restrictions on the food that you may eat while on this system, it will work with whatever foods you choose as long as you are aware of the amount of fuel you are giving your body.
Of course, you cannot live on chocolate bars and chips alone! But if you want that occasional treat, by all means, go ahead! Do not deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy or you may find it much more difficult to stick to those proper nutritional habits.
Eating and Exercise
It is extremely important to ensure that you fuel your body both before and after exercise.
Many people feel that it is best not to eat prior to exercising because their body will then burn more stored fat. That is simply not true. Think of your body as a wood burning stove. Fat is like the log in the fire. It burns for long periods of time and is a very good source of energy. How do you get that log burning though? What happens if you take a match and try to light the log on fire? It will not burn. To get the log burning you need kindling. Carbohydrates (broken down to glucose) are the kindling. If you have not eaten within an hour or two of exercising then you will not have the glucose in your system that you need to start “burning” the fat. Not only will you not lose the fat you want to, but without being able to efficiently use fat for fuel during your workout, you will not have the energy you need to exercise at intensities high enough to produce significant results.
Without the presence of glucose your body cannot convert fat to fuel. So what happens if you exercise without having any fuel in your body? Fat cannot be burned because there is very little glucose present, so your body converts protein to glucose. Where does it get the protein from? You got it, your lean mass! Sure, you still burn some fat, but at the expense of the lean mass that you are trying to build or conserve by exercising in the first place.
For these same reasons it is important to eat after exercise as well. You need to provide your body with the fuel to allow stored fat to be “burned”.