How to stay hydrated (and why it’s important) - National Hydration Day - June 23rd
Feeling tired, dizzy or dried out? This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting sick; you might be dehydrated.
Why do we need to drink so much water?
We need to stay replenished because our bodies are actually made up of 70% water. And, according to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj - an expert in the field - different parts of the body are mainly made up of water:
- Muscles that move the body (75% water)
- Blood to transport nutrients (82% water)
- Lungs that provide oxygen (90% water)
- Brain to control our body (76% water)
Even our bones consist of 25% water. But our bodies aren’t just made of water - they depend on it to function. In fact, all of the microscopic biological processes in our systems harness water in some way. According to research from the USGS, water serves a number of essential functions to keep us going:
- It forms saliva which helps digestion
- It keeps mucosal membranes moist to protect the inside of our bodies
- It helps our cells grow, reproduce and survive
- It flushes body waste (mainly through urine)
- It lubricates our joints and helps prevent us from getting sore
- It’s needed by the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters
- It regulates body temperature (through sweating and respiration)
- It acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord
- Helps deliver oxygen all over the body
What happens if we don’t drink enough water?
We’ll struggle and become sluggish. However, the body is clever. And to get around the lack of water it will find shortcuts to continue. Unfortunately, this will always be at the detriment of something else; it can have knock-on effects.
Apart from the usual side effects of dehydration, e.g. headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness, dehydration can also affect our strength and stamina.
How much water should I drink a day?
The amount of water you should drink per day is equal to 0.033 x each kg of your body weight. This will give you your recommended intake in litres to function properly. However, as a basic rule, most people need a little over 2 litres of fluid a day (about 10 glasses). According to Bupa, the exact amount of fluid you need depends on a number of factors:
- Your age - our bodies store less water as we get older. This has an impact on how we balance water and salts.
- Exercise - it’s important to top up the fluids that are lost when we sweat.
- Climate - drink more fluids in hotter temperatures (even if you don’t feel like you’re sweating).
- Pregnancy - increase your fluid intake as you’re more likely to develop constipation.
- Diet - drink more if you are on a special - or low calorie - diet.
However, 8 - 10 glasses might seem like a lot to drink. Especially, when life becomes busy.
So how can we ensure that we’re getting enough?
Try and keep a full bottle of water with you at all times. Fill this up periodically when you take a break from whatever you’re doing. And rather than slowly sipping on water, drink it in decent volumes. The body will absorb this better. If you only sip a small amount, the energy used to process it will offset the energy gained by drinking it. Finally, try and drink water instead of juice, squash, tea or coffee. These all contain diuretics which actually make you lose water.
Can I drink too much water?
In theory - yes. But the dangers are minimal. Extreme overconsumption of water can lead to low levels of sodium through blood dilution. This is known as hyponatremia. Don’t worry, this is a rare condition and most healthy people are not a risk.
What are the benefits of drinking more water?
Mental concentration and physical energy are directly related to your water
Intake. And by rehydrating regularly, you should see a difference in your energy levels. In some people the effects might be immediate; for others, it might take days. It’s best to try your new routine for at least a week. Apart from generally feeling more hydrated, you should also notice other improvements:
- More mental and physical energy
- Your mood will improve
- Re-hydrated skin
What’s more, increasing your water intake can actually help you lose weight. Often the body struggles to differentiate between feeling hungry and thirsty. Consequently, a common reason for overeating is actually dehydration. If you feel yourself getting a bit peckish you may actually be thirsty. One tip is to have a glass of water and see how you feel 5 minutes later - you might be surprised.
The science behind water and carbohydrates
It takes 3 grams of water to process 1 gram of carbohydrate. If you eat carbs
and don’t drink enough water, it can be hard for your body to process them. Instead, it will store carbohydrates as fat. You also need water to break down fat and, consequently, to burn it off.
Are there any side effects of drinking more water?
To begin with, you’ll find that you go to the bathroom more frequently. This will
calm down once your body settles. However, if you find that you’re waking up in the night to go to the toilet, then try reducing the amount of water you drink after 6pm.
Drinking more water can give you a boost in so many aspects of your life: from increased mental clarity to more physical and mental energy, clearer skin, improved mood and even weight loss.
Now you know all the benefits of hydration you just need to head to the tap and get drinking!
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