Water is the most important thing we need to stay alive! Your body body needs water, but it’s important to drink the right amount; not enough and you’ll dehydrate – too much and you’ll literally drown in your own fluids!
A common question is ‘how do I know I’m drinking the right amount of water each day?’ Some people say that you need to drink at least 2 litres of water every day, but that isn’t necessarily true. The answer is, everyone is different and so the amount of water you need can depend on body mass, how much exercise you take, how hard you’re working, and believe it or not, how hard you think!
Losing as little as 2% of your body’s water content can significantly impair physical performance. If we don’t stay hydrated, physical performance can suffer. This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat. Dehydration can have a noticeable effect if you lose as little as 2% of your body’s water content.
However, it is not uncommon for athletes to lose up to 6-10% of their water weight via perspiration. This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, increased fatigue and make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally. Believe it or not, muscle is made up of about 80% water! So, if you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, then staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.
Your brain is strongly influenced by hydration status. Hydration exerts a major effect on energy levels and brain function! Dehydration can affect brain structure and function. It’s also involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Prolonged dehydration can lead to difficulty thinking and reasoning.
Even mild dehydration (1-3% of body weight) can impair many aspects of memory and brain function. In a study of young women, fluid loss of 1.36% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration, and increased the frequency of headaches. In a study of young men, fluid loss of just 1.59% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
So the common measure of how much water you should drink each day depends on your individual needs. The rule is: if you’re thirsty, drink some water, but if you’re not thirsty, don’t drink it just for the sake of it.
Another way of telling if you are drinking enough water is to look at your pee. If it’s pale or almost clear, then you’re probably drinking enough. If however, its very yellow, that’s often a sign that you might be dehydrated. If you pee is very dark, you might need to see a doctor!
The most important thing is to keep hydrated.
The benefits of water:
Water delivers oxygen to the body
Blood is more than 90% water, and blood carries oxygen to different parts of the body.
Water boosts skin health and beauty
With dehydration, the skin can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
Water regulates body temperature
Water stored in the middle layers of the skin comes to the surface as sweat when the body heats up. As it evaporates, it cools the body – this is particularly important if you play sport! If there’s not enough water in the body, you are less able to tolerate heat strain.
Water boosts performance during exercise
Dehydration during exercise may hinder performance. It’s also possible that dehydration reduces performance in activities lasting longer than 30 minutes.
Water can help with weight loss if it’s consumed instead of sweetened juices and sodas. Drinking water before meals can help prevent overeating by creating a sense of fullness and boosting metabolic rate. In two studies, drinking half a litre of water was shown to increase metabolism by 24-30% for up to one and a half hours. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. In one study, dieters who drank ½ litre of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks. It’s better to drink water cold, because then the body will use additional energy to heat the water to body temperature, thereby burning more calories.
Drinking water reduces the chances of getting a hangover
Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration, although dehydration and can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headaches and dry mouth. If you’ve been drinking alcohol, Try to have have at least one glass of water before going to bed.
Drinking water may help to prevent and even treat headaches
Drinking water can sometimes help relieve headache symptoms, especially in people who are dehydrated. Dehydration can trigger headaches and migraines in some individuals. Several studies have shown that water can relieve or reduce the intensity and duration of headaches in those who are dehydrated.
Water is part of saliva and mucus
Saliva helps us digest our food and keeps the mouth, nose, and eyes moist. Drinking water also keeps the mouth clean and can also reduce tooth decay.
Water lubricates the joints
Cartilage, found in joints and the disks of the spine, are about 80%water. Long-term dehydration can reduce the joints’ shock-absorbing ability, which can lead to joint pain.
Water helps your digestive system and flushes body waste
The bowel needs water to work properly. Water is needed in the removal of urine and faeces. Dehydration can lead to digestive problems such as constipation and an overly acidic stomach. This increases the risk of heartburn and stomach ulcers. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally do not drink enough water. Carbonated water can give promising results for constipation relief, although the reason is not fully understood.
Water helps maintain blood pressure
A lack of water can cause blood to become thicker, increasing blood pressure.
Water helps clear the airways
When dehydrated, airways are restricted by the body in an effort to minimise water loss. This can make asthma and allergies worse.
Water dissolves minerals and nutrients making it possible for them to reach different parts of the body.
Water prevents kidney damage
The kidneys regulate fluid in the body. Insufficient water can lead to problems such as kidney stones. Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stones.
Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys, which dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they are less likely to crystallise and form clumps. Water might also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but more studies are needed to confirm this.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2020. All rights reserved.