6 Reasons Why You Should Drink More Water

Dietician Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health, on all the reasons you should be drinking more water.

POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart

Water is the most essential nutrient for life. So, why are we always forgetting about it? New studies reveal that what you drink is as important for your health as what you eat, even though most people don't pay much attention to the calories they're slurping down. And this may turn out to be a costly move — consuming too many calories from beverages may increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Check out these startling statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): beverages with added sweeteners — think soda, gourmet coffee drinks, and many alcoholic beverages — now account for half of all the added sugar in a typical diet. The average adult drinks 20 percent of her calories — significantly more than the recommended limit of up to 10-15 percent of total calories. That amounts to about 200-250 calories daily for most women.

But, fortunately there's some good news: turns out, we're skipping sugary sodas more than ever these days, while sales of bottled water have more than doubled (since 2000). In fact, water is on pace to become the top-selling beverage. That's encouraging, but we're still gulping down plenty of other sweetened drinks, including iced coffee and tea, energy drinks, and flavored waters. Here are six great reasons to make H20 your bevy of choice.

You'll Slash Your Sugar Intake

About half of all the sugars in our diet come from sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, energy drinks, sweet tea, and coffee drinks, according to the most recent national nutrition data from the NHANES. Replacing just one 12-ounce (140-calorie) soda with water each day is one of the healthiest swaps you can make — and it would cut more than 65 cups of sugar from your diet in a year. Now that's sweet!

You'll Sip Yourself Slim

Several well-designed studies indicate that a "water diet" is effective for weight loss. People who drink more water (and fewer calorie-containing beverages) have lower-calorie diets. Opting for water in place of a 150-calorie beverage each day would help you shave 1,000 calories per week, which adds up to a loss of about a pound per month. It's not just about replacing a calorie-containing beverage with a calorie-free sip. Drinking more water may also help you eat less. One study found that dieters who drank 16 ounces of water before their meals lost about five pounds more over 12 weeks than dieters who didn't sip before eating. Make sure you drink water for at least half of all your daily beverages (five or more servings) to limit liquid calories.

It Will Up Your Game

Water is the ultimate performance-enhancer. In fact, the ingredient in sports drinks that has the biggest effect on your workout is water — H2O helps regulate your core temperature and maintain blood volume. Without adequate water, your muscles will fatigue, your heart rate will increase, and your performance will suffer. To get the most out of your workouts, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. (If you're exercising for more than 90 minutes continuously, the carbohydrates and electrolytes in sports drinks are recommended.)

Your Overall Diet Will Improve

Experts don't know why healthier beverage choices translate to healthier food choices, but research does show that the connection exists. A recent study of more than 18,000 US adults found that drinking more water not only reduced calories, but it was also associated with a lower intake of total fat, saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol.

You Skin Will Appear Healthier

Your skin is your largest organ, and it's made up of 72 percent water. So it's probably no surprise to hear that hydration is essential to keeping it healthy. While drinking more water won't erase wrinkles, being well hydrated may improve your skin's appearance. Even slight dehydration can make your skin appear dry and dull, and it will make wrinkles more prominent.

You'll Cut Your Risk for Diabetes and Heart Disease

Reams of research show conclusively that sugar-sweetened beverages boost your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In one study, women who drank more than one sugar-sweetened beverage had an 83 percent increase in the risk for type 2 diabetes compared to women who drank the fewest sweetened beverages. Other studies reveal a link between sugary drinks and hypertension, high triglycerides, and inflammation associated with heart disease. Cheers to better health!