The body requires to be hydrated, to have sufficient water, to survive as every single cell in it depends on it to function.
Why does our body need water?
Even functions we give for granted and do not think much about, such as maintaining the body’s temperature, lubricate joints or remove waste, is performed using water in one way or another, therefore one must stay sufficiently hydrated to ensure proper body functions, and subsequently, health.
The body is composed of about 60% water and it is commonly thought that one needs to drink eight glasses of water per day; although this is not backed by any specific scientific research, it nevertheless underlines important principles.
The benefits of hydration
The benefits of good hydration are multiple, however here are some backed by science:
- Dehydration may cause physical performances to suffer.
High-performing athletes may lose up to 10% of their body’s hydration during a high sweating session, however, reduced performances can be noticed after losing also only 2% of the body’s hydration; the main effects of dehydration in this instance are fatigue, demotivation, and poor temperature control.
As a consequence, exercising may feel much harder both mentally and physically.
- Brain function and energy levels are highly influenced by hydration.
A small loss of hydration of about 1.5% can impact the function of the brain, altering one’s mood and ability to concentrate, increasing also the chance of suffering from headaches.
Deeper and longer studies have shown that dehydration can also have an impact on memory.
- Hydration may prevent and treat headaches.
Multiple studies have shown how dehydration may be the biggest cause of headaches, with some studies claiming up to 40% are caused by it.
- Hydration may help with reducing constipation.
Some studies have shown that increasing liquids intake may help increase bowel movements and this is often prescribed as part of a cure; mineral water, furthermore, may be particularly beneficial in such instances, especially the type rich in magnesium and sodium.
- Proper hydration may help decrease the risk of kidney stones.
Kidney stones are congregations of mineral crystals that are extremely painful and are formed in the kidneys and they are a type of urinary stones; increased intake of fluids increases the amount of urine passing through the kidneys, which may reduce the concentration of minerals and consequently may reduce the chances of these crystalizing together and forming kidney stones.
- Being hydrate may assist with weight-loss.
Some studies show how an increased intake of water may help with weight loss by slightly increasing one’s metabolic rate, therefore increasing the number of calories burnt throughout the day; furthermore, other studies show how increasing water intake half an hour before the main meal may reduce the number of calories consumed during a said meal, as one would feel more full.
What are the best ways to stay hydrated?
It is known that water is the best form of hydration, although all beverages count towards your daily target, whatever that may be, as that changes from person to person.
Fruit and vegetable juices are excellent sources of water, as well as milk and teas, although it is important to keep an eye on the sugars and added sugars; caffeinated drinks, although diuretics, do count towards your daily target as well, as long as consumed in moderation.
Studies have shown how consuming 400mg or less of caffeine should not be harmful to most people; popular caffeinated drinks are black tea, green tea, coffee, sodas, and energy drinks.
Other excellent sources of water are whole fruits and vegetables, such as watermelons, tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, oranges, and lettuce; broths are also a very hydrating food.
Sports drinks are mostly recommended for those who plan to exercise at higher than normal intensities for prolonger periods, such as one hour or more; these drinks are enriched with carbohydrates and electrolytes, which increase the energy levels, however, this means they may have very high amounts of sugar and consequently, calories, as well as sodium and some of them caffeine.
~~ Looking for an alternative to cow’s milk for your tea or coffee? The 12 Best Non-Dairy Substitutes for Milk | What is the best alternative to milk? How to choose it? | 12+ Plant-Based Alternatives
Energy drinks are not to be confused with sports drinks; energy drinks have extremely high amounts of caffeine that overstimulate the body, as well as sugars.
Most ingredients contained in energy drinks are ones that are not needed by the human body and are not recommended by doctors.
Tricks on how to increase water intake and stay hydrated
As hydration is a very important topic, there are many different tricks out there that may help you consume more water and stay sufficiently hydrated
- Carry a reusable bottle of water with you.
If you tend to be on the run a lot, carry a bottle of water along, so you can sip on it without the need of stopping.
- Keep a water bottle at your desk.
If instead of being on the run, you are sitting at your desk most of the day, keep a bottle of water right next to you, so you do not need to take time off to rehydrate.
- Flavor your water with fruit.
If you are bored of plain water or do not particularly like the taste, flavor your drink with a slice or two of your favorite fruits; excellent combinations are cucumber, lemon, and mint, lime, and lemon, blood orange, and grapefruit, or mixed berries and lemon.
- Stick to a schedule.
If you forget to drink, add this activity before, during, and after doing something; a good example would be to have some water before tackling those ten emails you need to reply to, then some more halfway through, and then again at the end.
- Put reminders.
If activities won’t remind you to keep hydrated, set some fixed alarm clocks on your phone and drink your decided amount every time it rings.
- Have a glass of water as soon as you feel hungry.
As stated before, studies have shown how drinking water may also slightly increase your metabolic rate, so having a glass of water as soon as you feel hungry maybe a double win.
~~ Learn more about Ghrelin | a.k.a. The Hunger Hormone
- Drink water when going to the restaurant or bar.
No, I’m not suggesting you give up on your favorite cocktail or juice, but that you order both your drink of choice and a glass of water at the same time and that you finish it before ordering the next round; this will save you not only calories, sugars and money, but it will also keep you very hydrated.
~~ Looking to try something different yet authentic while staying at home? Mumbai Chai Recipe | What is cutting chai and how to make it | Homemade Masala Tea
How do I know I’m not drinking enough water?
Multiple signs show you may not be drinking enough water and it is important to spot them as soon as possible, as your body requires to be hydrated to function properly.
Here are some of the most popular:
- Urine: your urine tells you a lot about your hydration level.
If you do little or no urine it is a very concerning sign of dehydration.
If you are producing urine and it is transparent or yellow, then you are well hydrated, if it is dark in color then you may be not.
A point to notice is how in the morning the urine is normally darker, one of the reasons is because we tend to get quite dehydrated during the night.
- Mouth: if you feel your mouth being dry, that could be a sign of dehydration.
Should this happen often also when you know you are hydrated, then it is best to consult a doctor as it may be a cause of different issues, such as diabetes, high-stress levels, and Alzheimer’s amongst others.
- Tiredness: should you feel extremely tired, sleepy, or fatigued then dehydration may be the cause, although these may be symptoms of other diseases as well.
Other signs of possible dehydration are headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion as well as extreme thirst.
How does drinking alcohol affect hydration?
Alcohol, like caffeine, is a diuretic and it tries to remove water from your body; it eliminates fluids through your kidneys, ureters, and bladder at a faster speed than non-diuretic drinks.
It is recommended that alcohol is consumed with water and/or food, as drinking alcoholic drinks on an empty stomach allows for it to be absorbed in the bloodstream in a much quicker way.
Once the alcohol is in your bloodstream, it travels everywhere in the body and it famously reaches the brain, which is what makes you feel buzzed and your judgment becomes impaired; this happens mainly because your body metabolizes alcohol very slowly.
Once the alcohol is metabolized though, it is processed by the liver’s enzymes, turning it into acetaldehyde, which in high quantities can be toxic and poisonous to the body; this makes the liver work even harder than normal, as it tries to convert the acetaldehyde into acetate.
While all of this is happening, alcohol also blocks the body from producing an anti-diuretic hormone called vasopressin, whose main scope is to ensure enough liquids are retained by the body, also by regulating the amount of urine the body produces.
Going back to the acetate, these are removed from the body mainly via the lungs in the form of carbon dioxide and water; although the kidneys assist in removing waste, most of the water loss is due to the lack of vasopressin.
As water is eliminated much quicker than alcohol, if you consume alcohol quicker than you replenish your water levels to rehydrate then your blood alcohol concentration rises very quickly.
~~ How does the human body digest food? Digestion | Our Body and How It Happens
What happens to your body when you drink too much alcohol and are constantly dehydrated?
Multiple things may happen to your body when alcohol consumption is high over a period of time and the body is dehydrated; the following are some of the most common consequences:
- Acne: your skin may get acne, especially from the levels of hormones in the body changing and the oxidative stress caused by the constant or high alcohol use.
- Alcoholic myopathy: consuming considerable amounts of alcohol over time may cause muscle mass to reduce, as well as muscle stiffness and cramps.
- Cirrhosis and Liver Disease: long term consumption of alcohol may damage the liver because of the accumulation of fat and protein.
- Kidneys: high amounts of alcohol being processed by the kidneys may harm the kidneys themselves because of the high pressure and toxins involved in the process.
- Brain: the brain may lose some of its cognitive functions when high levels of alcohol are consumed.
Water is essential for the body to function properly, but everyone has different requirements which vary dependent on different factors such as age, sex, height, weight, and many more.
There are multiple ways one can stay hydrated and multiple ways of increasing water consumption throughout the day.
Should one decide to consume alcohol, this should be done alongside water and/or food to ensure the body can continue working properly.
All in all, water is the best form of hydration, although fruit, vegetables, and other drinks count towards the daily goal as well.
~~ Interested in learning more about the body and what you put into it? Learn: The Body and Ingredients