I know, you've heard this before. However, we all need a reminder to not just KNOW something, but to DO it. So here's your water pep talk:
Water is what over 2/3rds of our body consists of. I could be thought of a sack of water with some extra stuff in it! Water affects some things not readily apparent, like headaches and tendencies to overeat. Sometimes we think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty, but the body gets the signals mixed up. Paradoxically, water is a natural diuretic; if you don't drink enough you will retain excess fluid and become edemic. Water, like most everything, has a dark side. You have to take in enough so you don't retain too much.
According to Free Drinking Water website,
"The human brain is made up of 95% water, blood is 82% and lungs 90%. A mere 2% drop in our body's water supply can trigger signs of dehydration: fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on smaller print, such as a computer screen. (Are you having trouble reading this? Drink up!) Mild dehydration is also one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue. An estimated seventy-five percent of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration."(Read more facts about the importance of water to the body by clicking on their website link above.)
The human voice is very dependent upon water. Dehydrated vocal cords (folds) are not as flexible and able to thin as hydrated ones. These folds are so small and their operation so exact (or not), a little dehydration can result in a large dent in your vocal ability in any given performance. And the very use of the vocal cords causes them to lose moisture to the air.
As an extreme example of the vocal cord-water connection, I had a very bad case of laryngitis and a very important gig. I literally could not talk but had to lead a background vocal group in two days of sessions. I discovered that if I drank huge glasses of water with a little pineapple juice added, I could sing, even in my head voice. I ended up drinking about 18 mega glasses of water a day, and really didn't pee more than usual. The moisture was being used and evaporated from my vocal cords into the air.
So how much is enough?
I recommend following advice I was given by medical professionals: Take your body weight and half it. That's the number of ounces you should drink a day. So if a person weighs 120 lb, they would drink 60 oz of water, which comes out to 7.5 8-oz glasses a day. If you are particularly active or out in the heat, use common sense and drink a little more.
Do other drinks count?
My nutritionist advised me that if you drink 75% water and no more than 25% unsweetened natural juice, it counts as water. If it makes you drink more water, I say add that orange, pineapple, apple, tomato or other 100% juice.
Herbal teas count. Coffee and caffeine in general are less healthy, but there is a lot of controversy about their addition to necessary water intake. The dehydration effect seems to be a diuretic effect. Possibly you pee out more than you take in? Caffeine has other detrimental effects, though, from jittery nerves (affecting pitch and vocal control), stomach problems (affecting breath support and control), and sometimes affecting other health problems present. It's best to at least limit caffeine. Be wise and notice how caffeine affects you before drinking it when you need to sing.
Freshly juiced vegetable juice counts. It also ensures mineral additions to your water, and balances overly-acid ph levels in our bodies. I try to juice every morning.
Sugary drinks, artificially sweetened or flavored chemical-laden drinks and alcoholic drinks most definitely do NOT count. These are poisons to be diluted by... you guessed it... drinking more water.
Especially great additions to water:
ceyenne pepper and lemon juice
ceyenne, lemon and honey
throat coat tea
Bottled, tap or what?
I highly recommend getting a good water filter for your tap... I use and love Aquasana filters...and filling your own glass or stainless steel jugs. Plastic leaches into our bodies easily, and of course pollutes the environment. Only drink from plastic if there is no alternative available, such as in the airport where you are not allowed to carry your own.
What temperature should water be?
Most experts I've talked to say it's best at room temperature. They also concur that in the end, if it's hot or iced, the most important thing is that you get it down the guzzle! Sometimes iced water causes throats to tighten a bit in some people, but again, notice how it affects YOU.
How can you make yourself drink enough?
I like to decide how much I'm going to drink and measure it out. That helps me when I get sidetracked to actually get enough in. Some people set a timer to periodically go off and remind them. This post will hopefully give you the will to go to the trouble to find out what will work for you.
So go fill up a glass and actually drink it. That "action" step is the all-important one:)