We have all heard it for years. Drink eight (8 oz.) glasses of water per day and you are good to go for optimal hydration. Despite what we’ve been hearing from experts (and there is much variation as to what the best requirements are), many of us fail to drink enough water throughout the day, leaving us dry, parched, dehydrated and lacking energy. Gulping down at least 64 ounces per day of water, let alone even more if we are exercising or are athletes, is a challenge for many people. Heavy sweaters have even higher hydration needs that are often overlooked. In fact, many people often think they are hungry and gravitate towards food when really they are thirsty and need to drink.
Hydration plays a critical role for our bodies for many reasons. Let’s explore some of the physiological reasons we need to be drinking enough.
Body Temperature Regulation
Water has a large heat capacity which helps keeps body temperature steady in hot or cold environments. If the body’s temperature gets too high during physical exercise or work, water allows the body to release heat through sweat. Without proper hydration, it is more likely one will overheat. This is especially critical for athletes. According to the Sports Nutrition Care Manual, dehydration affects not only performance but can impact the ability to remove the heat produced during muscular work during exercise, leading to increases in body temperature and result in potential heat illnesses.
Without adequate water intake, digestive secretions are limited and the digestion process slows down. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. Consuming enough water or fluids on a daily basis will ensure digestion goes smoothly and everything moves along as it should.
Chronic dehydration can thicken your blood and cause blood vessels to contract leading to increased blood pressure. Proper hydration assists in keeping the blood at the proper thickness and the body will not need to work quite as hard to pump blood through it’s system. Those with high blood pressure need to be keenly aware of hydrating, as their body is already fighting to regulate efficiently and their hydration needs may be even higher.
Water acts as a lubricant for your joints. Without proper lubrication, ones joints may be become brittle and prone to arthritis. If someone is already battling arthritis, their hydration needs may also be higher as well.
While botox, fillers and supplements can absolutely play a role in celebrity looking skin, there is no more effective natural enhancement for radiant skin than drinking water. Water plumps the skin giving it a more youthful, glowing appearance. Dehydrated skin loses elasticity, causing skin to appear more wrinkled and dry. Many toxins are eliminated through our skin, but that elimination process requires water to properly dilute and move those toxins out of our bodies. Without proper hydration, these toxins have a hard time being removed and symptoms like skin irritation, inflammation, and redness can occur. Water allows for the efficient flow of nutrients into our body’s cells keeping them well hydrated and full. This inexpensive resource called water can lead to tight, clear and naturally radiant skin.
Kidney / Urinary
Water is essential for proper kidney function. The primary role of the kidneys is to flush out toxins in our system through our urine. If these unwanted toxins remain in the body, they will irritate our urinary systems and create a bacteria-friendly [and disease-friendly] environment.
So how do you know if you are dehydrated? Signs to look out for include thirst, headache, dry mouth, less visits to the bathroom to urinate, decreased amount of urine, dark yellow urine, sleepiness or tiredness, dizziness or lightheadedness.
Tips For Healthier Hydration
Daily hydration can be easier than you think. Here are some tips for staying well hydrated in any weather condition or climate:
Carry a BPA free water bottle with you. Find one you love that fits your personality and lifestyle and make it your best friend.
Aim for a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day or more if you are active, a heavy sweater or will be in extreme heat conditions.
Water can be boring and bland, we get it. Add some zest to your water by infusing lemon, citrus or berries. This gives it a hint of flavor without the sugar.
Experiment with naturally flavored or low sugar, naturally sweetened waters that are on the market today.
Try raw unsweetened coconut water or lightly sweetened such as Coco 5 as a sports drink alternative.
Sports drinks as a form of hydration can be appropriate in the right situations, but most often, water is king for athletes, whether you are the average gym goer or a professional athlete. Many sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are filled with artificial colors, dyes and sweeteners not to mention loads of sugar that is unnecessary for our bodies. It is critical to keep fluid levels up by drinking water before, during and after a workout.
Hydration does not just have to come from straight up water. Fruits and veggies have a high water content and can often provide hydration (not to mention vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber). Eating more fresh fruit and veggies can also help with hydration. This can also be in the form of cold pressed juices and soups. However, avoid those with added sugar and use more veg than fruit.