Water: The Clear DifferenceLast updated: Dec 19, 2014
After my professor dismisses class, my friends and I throw on our bulky coats, greet the bracing Michigan winter air, and scurry to the dining hall for refuge and sustenance. After filling our trays with food, we face the soda fountain to decide on one of many options — Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Sierra Mist, Fanta, Tropicana lemonade, freshly brewed iced tea, and other sugar-based and caffeinated beverages. Then it hits me. There's another option I typically overlook ... water!
Since 2001, Americans have increased their annual per capita consumption of bottled water by more than 12 gallons.1 Some researchers suggest the trend coincides with a recent focus on active lifestyles. Other people believe bottled water has become a popular accessory. Whatever the reason for its recent prominence, water has the attention of consumers, retailers, and advertisers. But does water offer something other drinks do not? My experience suggests it does.
Although I have rarely chosen water with my meals, I spent several weeks replacing all my drinks with water to find out whether it could win my favor. Here's what I learned...
Benefits of drinking water include:
Water hydrates better than drinks containing caffeine,2 which promotes urine production and the elimination of water from the body. As a result, caffeinated drinks can lead dehydration whereas water will not. Many carbonated and sugar-based beverages, including energy drinks, contain caffeine. If you want to stay hydrated, stick with drinking water
Improved sleep, a calmer constitution, and better concentration
According to the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, people who consume caffeine are almost twice as likely to experience sleep problems compared with people who do not consume the substance.3 Replacing caffeinated drinks with water made me calmer overall. I no longer felt wired during the day, I fell asleep quickly, and I slept more soundly and for longer uninterrupted periods. Getting a good night's sleep made it easier to be alert in the morning and throughout the day, especially during my classes. My school work improved overall, including taking notes, studying, writing papers, and taking exams
Improved physical capability
According to registered dietitian Paula Burke, being hydrated helps increase physical as well as mental performance.4 I found her claim true. For example, during basketball practice, I noticed that I had more energy, could play longer, and compete more aggressively if I was well hydrated. I also experienced fewer injuries, including cramps and muscle aches
A boosted immune system
Staying hydrated with water can help protect against winter illnesses such as colds and the flu.5 As a college student with continuous deadlines, staying healthy is important for keeping up with classes and assignments
Drinking water throughout the day can help stave off hunger.6 Although losing weight isn't a focus given my age and slender body type, it kept me from wanting to snack unnecessarily. For this reason, it's a good habit for people who are limiting calories to lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight. For me, not snacking was a great way to save money!
A better complexion
Data show that staying hydrated can help improve the look and feel of skin.7
Replacing sugary drinks with water meant fewer breakouts for me — a total win for my self confidence
Quicker day-after recovery
Because being well hydrated can help improve circulation and other body processes, including kidney and bowel function,8 it can help preempt or lessen the severity of hangovers and fatigue associated with drinking alcohol. After a night out partying, my new habit of drinking a big glass of water before bed and when I wake means recovering faster and getting back into action with my school work
In addition to improving my ability to concentrate and perform mentally and physically, changing my beverage routine helped me feel better overall. If you want to be more alert and agile, look and feel better, and protect yourself against winter illnesses, try replacing your sugar- and caffeine-based drinks with water! Although you might miss your usual drinks for a few days, you are likely to quickly become accustomed to drinking and enjoying water.
*About the Author
Our intern, Tyler Kohn, is a communications student at the University of Michigan. Tyler would like to pursue studies and a career in marketing and communications. He is from Randolph, New Jersey.