An ANSWER given in the Denver Post back in 2001 by Linda Buch says (reprinted with permission):
"It is easy to get into the habit of bypassing water. Soft drinks, coffee, fruit juice, sport drinks, alcoholic beverages and milk are not only popular but also are promoted by companies with large advertising budgets. In general, soft drinks and fruit juice have too much sugar; caffeine and alcohol are diuretics; mild has a high concentration of solids in comparison to plain water; sport drinks run in a distinct second place when compared to water but, if it will get you to drink fluids (whereas up until now you haven’t been), go for it. (At least, the salt and slight sugar content will get you to keep drinking!)
As for making basic water more palatable, try adding lemons and/or limes; toss in some fresh mint leaves; mix in a bit of orange juice.
Water makes up about 60% percent of your body weight and is 70 percent of your blood volume. It is to your body what oil is to your car. Water is part of the molecular structure of protein and glucose; it is also an active participant in, and medium for, most of the chemical reactions in your body that work to keep you alive. This is why we can live for about a month without food, but only for seven days without water.
How do you tell if you are dehydrated? “Thirst” would seem to be the logical answer. Thirst actually indicates that we are already dehydrated. Fortunately, it is usually an early sign. Other signs include fatigue, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, heat intolerance and dark urine with a strong odor. This last one is usually the best indicator. If your urine is almost clear, you are properly hydrated. Yellow urine indicates the need for more water.
Physical activity demands that we keep a close eye on our fluid intake. Here are some guidelines:
Before exercise: Drink one to two cups (8 to 16 ounces) of water two hours before exercise to make sure you are well hydrated. Drink another 4 to 8 ounces immediately prior to exercise.
During exercise: Drink 4 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise.
After exercise: Replace any fluid you have lost. Start by weighing yourself and then drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight you have lost.
The mere mention of ‘weight loss’ in the previous paragraph allows me to segue into a really important and poorly understood fact that will probably get more people to drink water than even the threat of death by dehydration. Water is an important part of the weight loss process. Studies have shown that an increase in water intake can actually reduce fat deposits. Here’s why.
The kidneys need lots of water to function properly. Without water, the liver takes over. If the liver has to do its job of metabolizing stored fat and also do the kidney’s job, it metabolizes less fat. Retaining water? Drink water. Then, and only then, will the stored water be released. Bye-bye bloat! During weight loss, the body has a lot more waste to get rid of –like all of that metabolized fat, for example. Water will help flush it away. Constipated? Drink water for normal bowel function to return.
In summary, if you are fatigued, constipated, retaining water or stuck on a weight-loss plateau, take a look at your water intake. It has zero calories and will keep your body’s engine running smoothly."