In order to stay hydrated we have to consume a certain amount of water throughout the day. It is essential that we drink water every single day. Without it we would not survive any more than 2 or 3 days. Our bodies truly depend on water to survive. Staying hydrated is also key to maintaining overall health.
Water is used to maintain proper body temperature as well as remove waste from our bodies and lubricate our joints. (1) Let’s discuss even further why water is so important and easy ways to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Hydration is important for every function of the body. Our bodies are comprised mostly of water and we lose water everyday through sweating, urination, and even when we breathe. For those who are physically active, water loss is even greater as well as when someone who is sick and may be losing water through vomiting or running a fever.
Since our bodies are made of mostly water and we lose water every single day, it is extremely important that we replenish what has been lost. The balance between water intake and electrolytes in our bodies is also essential for our nerve and muscular systems. (2) Without the proper balance, these systems would not be functioning at a proper level. Water is essential for life. Without it we would not be alive.
Almost every part of the body relies on proper hydration and some more than others. When our bodies are hydrated they are able to carry out the functions needed to survive and be healthy. Drinking water helps our bodies remove waste through urination, helps to control body temperature, controls heart rate as well as blood pressure and helps to maintain a healthy metabolism. (2) If we do not hydrate our bodies, systems will begin to shut down.
If we do not supply our bodies with adequate hydration our body systems will shut down and we will enter a state of dehydration. During dehydration altered behavior can occur such as anxiety or confusion. Becoming dizzy and faint even while lying down is also a classic symptom of someone that may be dehydrated. When someone is severely dehydrated, you may see a rapid, weak pulse, rapid breathing, a loss of consciousness and inability to walk. (2) Headaches are also a common sign of dehydration but this is unfortunately a late sign since the body is able to hide symptoms of mild dehydration very well. (2) Hydrating frequently is the best strategy in preventing this.
During strenuous physical activity the ability to become dehydrated is much higher than someone who lives a more sedentary lifestyle. During physical activity a decrease in water intake as little as 2% can put someone at risk of dehydration. Performance may be affected with a 2% change and a 3-4% decrease in water intake can cause health risks such as increased heart rate and an increase in body temperature. (2)
The elderly population is also at a higher risk of developing dehydration as well as younger children, those with chronic illness, and people who live in hotter climates and sweat more than others. Dehydration is a serious issue and if not treated or prevented can cause body systems to shut down and can lead to death. Staying hydrated is the only way to prevent dehydration from occurring.
There is speculation as to exactly how many cups of water should be consumed each day, and 8 cups per day is what most people hear is the recommended amount. There is no scientific evidence to state that 8 cups is the golden number, but this does not mean drinking 8 cups per day would be harmful in any way. A different guideline to go by is drinking enough water is to make you have to go to the bathroom every 2 to 4 hours.(2)
You also want to make sure that your urine is a light colour which can be a great indication that you are getting enough fluid. Between drinks with meals and without meals, as well as foods that are high in water, most of us are getting a decent amount of fluid each day, but the amount of fluid needed is really dependent on the individual. People who do sports are going to need more since they are losing more water than the average person.
As we have discussed, hydration is extremely important for our bodies to function and without it we could not live, but is there such as thing as over hydrating? Becoming over hydrated is known as hyponatremia, which means having low sodium levels. It is not as common as dehydration, but it can happen. According to the ACSM web site:
While hyponatremia is a rare occurrence, it is a dangerous condition that may arise when athletes drink too much water, diluting the body’s sodium levels. It is most often seen in prolonged endurance athletes, such as those participating in marathons and triathlons.
For athletes a good rule of thumb is to weigh yourself prior to exercise and then after. If you gained weight after it probably means you are drinking more water than you are actually losing through sweat and activity, meaning you could be over hydrating. If you see that you are losing weight after exercise then it is possible that you are not hydrating enough. Finding a balance is key to being sure you are not over or under hydrating your body.
Staying hydrated does not have to be a tedious task. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself hydrated without having to really think about. The first thing that makes staying hydrated more fun is to add some fresh sliced fruit to your plain water. Some people just have a hard time drinking water because it lacks any flavour. Slicing up fruit can add a kick and make drinking water more pleasurable.
Consuming foods that are high in water content is also helpful and you don’t even think you are hydrating while eating these foods. Start adding some more watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, celery, lettuce, yogurt or soup into your diet to amp up your fluid intake. Hydrated doesn’t necessarily mean water either, you can chose to drink a glass of milk, blend up a homemade smoothie, have a sports drink or enjoy a refreshing coconut water to help to stay hydrated.
If you are looking to increase your water intake buying a larger water bottle can be helpful as well. If you upgrade to a larger water bottle than you can set a goal to finish the entire bottle by lunch and refill it again to have before dinner. Setting an alarm is also an easy way to help to keep hydrated. If you are someone who never feels thirsty, and has to have a reminder to drink, setting an alarm may be the trick for you. Try setting it a couple of times a day as a reminder to have a glass of water, or refill you water bottle.
Lastly, trying to drink 1 glass of water before everything you eat can help to guarantee that you are increasing the amount of fluid you are taking in. If you drink a glass before breakfast, lunch and dinner that is a whole 3 glasses right there. Adding on 2 glasses before snacks can be 5 glasses extra per day.
As you can see, staying hydrated is essential for living a healthy life and key to preventing dehydration. Although everyone will need a different amount of fluids each day, striving for the average 8 cups per day, or even 6 cups with some foods that have a large amount of water added into your diet, is a great rule of thumb for proper hydration. Staying hydrated doesn’t have to be tedious and with a few tips and tricks, staying hydrated will start to become a no brainer.
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