The Importance of Hydration—Drink More Water!
Are you drinking enough water every day? It’s one of the most beneficial habits to pick up for your body and overall health.
A proper daily intake of water does many things to make you feel and look better both inside and out. But how much water should you drink from day to day? And what does proper hydration do for the body? Is it essential for good health?
Let’s cover some of the best practices for this fundamental component of life, starting with the benefits of staying hydrated and maintaining good fluid intake.
Why is Water So Good for You?
For many, many reasons! Let’s begin with how dependent on water you already are…perhaps without even realizing it.
Water makes up roughly 60% of the adult human body. Everything from the brain, to the lungs, and even the skin needs it to function properly. Water is also involved in the production of hormones, indirectly affecting your overall mood and mental state. Saliva and mucus require water in order to be created, meaning water plays an integral role in processing food, lubrication of the throat, and keeping the sinuses healthy.
But it doesn’t stop there. Even your own blood is composed of 90% water, meaning water is constantly flowing through your body 24 hours per day. Water provides a cushion for your brain and organs, keeps your body temperature regulated (which is especially important when you are sick with a fever), allows vitamins and minerals to dissolve for absorption, lowers blood pressure, promotes proper bowel movements, fully enables digestion, keeps your joints flexible…and so much more.
Ultimately, the reason water is so good for you is that it is used in almost every facet of your bodily functions. Every cell in your body uses it as an essential nutrient to thrive.
Of course, plain water is not an infinite source within the body. It gets dried up, expelled, or absorbed—quickly, too. A constant resupply of water is vital for survival. Because of your body’s extreme dependence on water, it can only last approximately three days without hydration. Meanwhile, your body can sustain itself for weeks without food, depending on body composition.
What Are the Health Benefits of Drinking Water?
Besides simply supplying your body with enough hydration to work correctly, there are added benefits to drinking enough water each day that can affect both your physical and your mental wellness.
Drinking water frequently has been cited as a great way to facilitate weight loss as a side-effect. This is not only because you’re keeping your body fluids topped off for maximum performance, but also because you’re avoiding intaking other beverages that might contain fat, sugar, and chemicals that would otherwise be processed in your stomach. Soda, alcohol, and other soft drinks that generally do not benefit your health can be eliminated entirely just by opting for water instead. Losing weight becomes much easier when you don’t have to concern yourself with the beverages you’re drinking—by choosing water, that only leaves your food calories to track while you stay consistently hydrated! Water before a meal also helps you feel full, meaning you're inclined to eat less for lower body weight.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, good hydration is also key to getting the most out of athletic performance, including walking, running, weightlifting, and other physical activities. This is mostly seen in the ability to sweat, circling back to water’s ability to help regulate body temperatures. As you work out, your core temperature starts to rise as blood pumps faster through your veins and respiration increases. To avoid overheating, excess water is released through the pores on your skin to cool off your internal systems.
Furthermore, muscle growth is dependent on good amounts of water being present in the body. Water carries important vitamins and nutrients to your muscles to produce proteins and glycogen, which are then used to build muscle. Without proper hydration, muscle development is stunted. Because water also keeps your muscles flexible and in motion via electrolytes, gym-goers will find it harder to avoid cramps and minor injuries without enough water consumption before working out.
But one of the best additional benefits of drinking plenty of water involves its impact on the brain and stress levels. Even mild dehydration can easily cause symptoms that lead to anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Your brain’s tissues constantly use water to produce energy for mood control and stress management. When those tissues have little (or no) access to water, they become far less efficient at creating energy and might even close shop altogether until better hydration comes around. Serotonin levels decrease and stress rises as a result. If you are prone to panic attacks, dehydration is one of their leading instigators. Make sure to get enough water each day to reap the psychological and mental health advantages of hydration!
How Much Water Should I Drink?
The amount of recommended water drinking, known as adequate intake (AI), varies depending on several life factors (such as age). A complete report of dietary reference intakes, published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), indicates that men should drink 3.7 liters of water (or the equivalent of roughly 15.5 glasses of water) each day, while women should drink 2.7 liters (about 11.5 glasses). Keep in mind that a fair amount of water you intake also comes from your food—about 20%, in fact.
These intake estimates can also increase if you live in a hot environment, exercise at high intensities often, or have dehydrating health conditions that increase fluid loss, requiring a greater daily intake than usual. Note that there is no good evidence to support drinking only 8 glasses of water (assuming 8 ounces of water per glass) per day; that is generally too little.
The best way to tell if you’re drinking enough fluids? Pay attention to the color of your urine. If it’s clear or has a tinge of light yellow, that’s a good sign you’re properly hydrated. Urine that is dark yellow or amber means your body is dehydrated. You should also be urinating more than 9 times per day if you are properly hydrated. Watch for signs of a dry mouth, headaches, migraines, muscle cramps, or low energy, as these can all be brought about by suboptimal water intake. If in doubt, consult your dietitian to learn how to best regulate your fluid levels.
One easy way to build a habit of drinking more water is to buy a water bottle and carry it wherever you go, topping it off whenever you get the chance. The ease of access will help motivate you to take sips even when you don't feel like it.
Water is easily the most important component of a healthy, functioning human body. Without it, nearly everything your body is capable of doing becomes bottlenecked, inefficient, or shuts down completely. Along with good nutrition, adequate hydration should always be a concern while in pursuit of a healthy, happy lifestyle.
A toast to your health…with water, of course!