We've all heard that we need to drink more water to keep our bodies hydrated. But hydration is much more than just drinking a specific amount of water. Water plays a massive role in the body, and therefore in our well-being. By understanding why water is essential, we can see why hydration is a key to staying healthy and happy for longer.
What Does Water Do In The Body?
You might be aware of some of the mechanisms of the body that require water. People know that things like urine and sweat production need water. But water is actually needed for the majority of reactions in the body.
Our bodies use water for:
Transport of nutrients via the blood
Removal of waste via urine
Removal of waste via the bowels
Temperature regulation, including sweat
Lubrication of the joints
Moistening eyes, mouth and nose to protect the body from pathogens
Digestion of food
Keeping the urinary tract free of bacteria
Protect the spinal cord and eyes from damage, working as a 'shock absorber'
Maintaining the integrity of our largest organ – the skin
These are just some of the key mechanisms of water. Every single cell in the human body needs water in order to survive. So it's not surprising that dehydration can impact our health.
The Signs Of Dehydration
Dehydration can sneak up on you. You can go from feeling fine to being parched in a matter of minutes. But there are more signs to dehydration than just feeling thirsty.
Here are the signs to watch for if you think you're dehydrated:
Poor focus and concentration
Moodiness, including irritation
Low energy levels
Poor performance during workouts
Chronic dehydration can also lead to:
Dry, damaged skin
Low blood pressure
High risk of joint damage
Urinary tract infections
Increased risk of infections
Of course, all of these symptoms could be due to a number of factors. But if you experience any of them regularly, hydrating your body could be an easy way to relieve them.
The Benefits Of Hydration
Should you work on keeping your body hydrated? Well, if you want to experience:
Firm, healthy skin
Steady energy levels
Less mindless 'boredom' eating
Improved focus and concentration
Fewer mood swings
- then the answer is yes. If you are dehydrated, drinking enough water can help you achieve all of these benefits.
Water & Electrolytes
There's more to keeping the body hydrated than just water. Another key player is electrolyte balance. In particular, potassium and sodium play a role in balancing the hydration of the body.
Many people know that excess sodium can lead to water retention. This is because sodium holds water in the body. But at the same time, too little sodium means that the body cannot hold onto water. Instead, it just passes straight through to the kidneys.
For optimal electrolyte balance, it's best to balance your sodium intake by:
Eliminating as many sources of processed sodium as possible. This means processed foods, takeaway foods and very salty foods like soy sauce.
Including sodium in a more natural form, such as sea salt. Many people who eat only whole-foods can become deficient in sodium. Minimally processed salts such as sea salt have a balance of minerals.
How Much Is Enough?
Many people want to know the 'magic number' for hydration. Unfortunately, it really depends on the person. Your age, weight, activity level and diet all affect how much water you should be consuming.
To get you started on finding your personal 'magic number', try these steps:
Start with aiming between 1.5 and 2L per day. Try to consume this amount for at least 2 weeks, so your body adjusts to the additional water. If you consume far less than this, start with a week of slowly increasing your intake – increase by 1 cup per day.
When exercising, add 1-2 cups of water for every 30 minutes of intense exercise, and 1 cup for every 30 minutes of easy or moderate exercise.
Observe your urine colour to monitor your state of hydration. Some medications, foods and supplements can affect the colour, especially B vitamins. But on average, you want it to be a very light yellow colour. If it's consistently dark yellow, increase your water by another 1-2 cups a day.
By following these guidelines, you can find your optimal hydration level.
Getting Enough Water
Now you know how water works, and why it could help you feel more energetic and focused. But remembering to drink water can be difficult throughout the day.
So here are some easy ways to incorporate more water into your day:
Consume high-water fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries and celery. These can be particularly useful in summer, when it's hard to stay hydrated in the heat.
Flavour your water. This is an easy way to make water more appetizing, especially if you don't like water. You can add fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables and even herbs into your water to infuse
If you prefer soft drinks, try drinking sparkling water. You can infuse it with fruits for a sweeter taste.
Enjoy herbal teas, particularly in the colder months. You can even go for specific warming blends, such as turmeric, ginger and cinnamon teas.
Download a water reminder app for your phone, or buy a water bottle with times on the side. This will help you get into the habit of drinking small amounts frequently. Having a water bottle is also a good way of monitoring what you have consumed that day and how much you have left to go.
So if you're ready to feel happy, healthy and strong, start by looking at optimising your hydration levels. Something as simple as drinking enough water can make a huge impact on your health, energy and vitality.