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Water: Lubricant for athletes

By H.K. Jones

Your body can't be a well-oiled machine, if it's not a well-hydrated machine. In fact, every cell, tissue, and organ needs water to function, and nearly every life-sustaining process requires it. The question is: how much is enough?

You've probably heard for years that you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. However, in 2004 the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board issued new recommendations that remove the eight a day standard saying that healthy adults should rely on thirst to determine their fluid needs. The report did not specify water requirements but made general fluid intake suggestions of 15-plus cups a day for men.

But these new guidelines are for total fluid intake, including fluid from all food and beverages. Since approximately 80 percent of our water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages. The other 20 percent comes from food, this translates into approximately 12-1/2 cups for men, as the recommended amount for beverages, including water.

Although other beverages can help you reach this target, clean, refreshing and calorie-free water, is the ideal choice. Here are some things to consider the next time you're looking for something wet to quench your thirst.

Regardless of the enticing images on the label that show mountains, snow, or streams, if bottled water is packaged as "purified" or "drinking water," chances are the water is not from a mountain spring or bubbling brook, but rather bottled at a plant using processed municipal water.

Top selling waters like Aquafina from Pepsi and Dasani from Coca Cola, for example, are both purified processed municipal waters. Purified water, for all practical purposes, is tap water that has gone through a wide range of treatment processes to remove impurities and make the water taste better.

Unlike purified water, some bottled water actually comes from natural sources where Mother Nature alone is responsible for the mineral content and distinctive taste. Spring waters, like Evian and Poland Spring for example, come from underground formations that flow naturally to the surface of the earth. They must be collected either at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation finding the spring.

This water also comes from a natural source, but Artesian waters, like Fiji, need a little help getting to the surface "Artesian" or "well" water comes from a well that taps a confined underground aquifer and may be pumped to the surface. FLAVORED WATER
While they can add some zing for your taste buds, they can have either no or modest amounts of sweeteners. Read your label carefully to avoid soda-like sugar water. Vitamin-enriched waters come complete with a smattering of nutrients. But sippers beware. Research reports that for people who receive adequate amounts of vitamins from their diet and multis, additional vitamins have no beneficial effect, and in fact, are just flushed out of the body.

Labels affixed to the bottles claim drinking oxygen-enhanced water will do everything from boosting energy levels to improving athletic performance. Unfortunately, it's just a lot of fizz. All water that has been exposed to the air is oxygenated to a small extent, and in fact only the amount of oxygen contained in a single breath can be forced into water under pressure. Most of the added oxygen escapes from the bottle as soon as you twist the cap off, and in any case, it's the respiratory system, and not the digestive system, which utilizes oxygen for use by the muscles.

A lot can happen to water on the way to the tap. The Environmental Protection Agency requires water utilities to keep the levels of 80 potential contaminants below legal limits. By law, municipal water supplies must provide its customers with a chemical analysis of their water composition. If you haven't received yours, contact your local water supply.