The Importance of Staying Hydrated

by Nicole Ramirez

One of the first health tips many will suggest is to stay hydrated. There are many reasons to this tip and one big one is that our body is made up of >60% of water. Our bones, muscles, lungs, blood and brain all use a certain amount of water just to function. Water can also help curb appetite, deliver specific nutrients throughout our body and even help our five senses work to their greatest capabilities. Hydration can also aide in thinking clearly. If you are dehydrated you can find yourself drowsy and unable to concentrate. Water helps to keep us alert. We lose body fluids all day long just by using the bathroom, sweating or even breathing. This is why adequate hydration is vital to our well being.

As we can see, water has many different functions in our body. Our blood which is made of primarily water, helps to carry nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body. Water also helps our heart pump efficiently. When you are not properly hydrated, your heart is working much harder. Water protects our organs and tissues by providing a cushion and keeping our tissues moist. Our joints also work better with water due to the lubrication it provides. Water also has the function of regulating body temperature due to the ability of absorbing and transferring heat. The water in our muscle cells exchange heat with the water in blood to help distribute the heat. Our brain will sense the increase in temperature in the blood which will then activate our sweat glands. This is how our body cools down when we are overheated. Something we may not even give a second thought to is how our five senses work. Water is essential for our senses to work properly. Our sense of hearing works through waves which are transmitted through fluids. Sight is another sense that works properly with adequate hydration. Our eyes are lubricated and light is reflected through these fluids. With all these functions depending on water, it is clear we cannot survive without water. Our body can last up to six weeks without food but only one week without water. In that one week without water, we would be surviving but not performing optimally. Slowly we would start to exhibit signs of dehydration such as dry skin, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, drowsiness and lack of energy.

To avoid these symptoms, staying hydrated is a daily priority. Just like most nutrient needs, the amount of fluid you need on a daily basis varies and is individualized. It can even vary for the same individual on a daily basis. For example, one day you had a very intense workout of lifting heavy weights and performing sprints on the treadmill. This workout caused you sweat a lot which in turn increases your fluid needs for the day. This is why you may drink a certain amount one day, but then find yourself thirstier on other days. Fluid needs will continue to change based on your activity for the day.

An older recommendation for average fluid intake is eight cups a day. Recent recommendations are now encouraging up to eleven cups of fluid per day for women. Since fluid recommendations are so individualized, the suggested way to check if you are properly hydrated is by monitoring your bathroom use. It is recommended to urinate at least five times a day and the color should be a light yellow. This gives an indication that you are properly hydrated. The reason this is one of the best ways to monitor yourself is that it shows your own results personal to you. The same two people can drink the same amount of water, but it does not mean they are both properly hydrated. Individually, they have different needs. Keep aware of signs of dehydration. If you are already feeling thirsty you need to drink more!

Luckily, for those who do not enjoy water, other liquids also can count toward fluid intake. Drinks that are primarily water, such as coffee, tea, sports drinks or broth are included in the fluid count. Try flavoring your water with your favorite fruit by making fruit infused water. All you need to do is slice your fruit into your water and let it sit. This will flavor your water making it more enjoyable to drink.

Here are a few other tips and tricks to drink more fluids throughout your day:

1) While you are getting ready in the morning to start your day, drink at least two glasses of water before leaving the house.
2) Keep a reusable water bottle filled next to you so you have access to water throughout your busy day.
3) When you exercise, drink a cup before exercise and at least half a cup with every fifteen minutes of exercise depending on intensity.
4) Make drinking fluids a habit, do not let yourself feel extreme thirst. This is actually a sign that you are already a bit dehydrated!
5) When you are feeling hungry, and are not ready for a meal or snack, drink water. Thirst can sometimes be confused with hunger. Drinking water can help fill your stomach with zero calories. Studies have shown this can help with weight loss.
6) Eat fruits and vegetables! Fruits and vegetables contain high water content which helps to hydrate you.

The average person does not drink enough fluid, remember to monitor your bathroom use to ensure proper hydration. Now, looking to the other scenario, what if you are drinking way too much water? Drinking too much water can affect how efficiently your kidneys are excreting water and cause too low sodium in our blood. You may think the lower sodium the better, but we do need some sodium in our bodies! It is an important mineral. Therefore, do not over hydrate. In the bathroom, urine should have a light pigment to it, not be completely clear. Also if you find yourself urinating >8-10 times a day it could be you are over hydrating. The average person is very unlikely to over hydrate, but it is something to keep in mind. While hydration has great health benefits, there is no need to over do it.

Use these tips to help you hit your fluid goals throughout the day and do not forget to try the Tone & Sculpt app hydration tracker too!