The Science Of Hydration
Water is incredibly important to us; every cell in our bodies needs it, every tissue, every organ. H2O is one of the human body’s principal components. When we run low on water, our blood volume decreases, the concentration of salts in our bodies increase, and our heart rates and kidney functions alter in a fascinating coordinated effort to maximize the potential of all of the water across our systems. When these changes start taking place, we start to experience that feeling called thirst.
But how much should we be drinking every day? There are a lot of factors at play, like the average temperatures around us, how much we perspire, our weight, and what we eat. The U.S. National Academies determined that, on average, men need around 3.7 liters per day (that’s about 15 cups) and women need around 2.7 liters per day (11 cups).
So, what happens to our bodies when we stay regularly hydrated?
- Staying hydrated can diminish the risk of heart failure. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health conducted extensive research on this topic and found that drinking the right amount for the majority of our lives drastically reduces the risk of heart problems, high blood pressure, and embolisms! How amazing is that?
- Hydration can also help reduce and treat headaches. A poor balance of fluids and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium or potassium that help regulate many bodily functions) in the brain is one of the most common causes of headaches. Whenever we lose water, through perspiration or any other way, we also lose out on electrolytes, and when we’re low on both, the brain may temporarily contract, actually pulling away slightly from the skull. This results in a dehydration headache. This unpleasant feeling tells us that it’s time to grab that bottle and start glugging!
- Drinking enough water may improve memory and cognition. A study conducted by Cambridge researchers at the British Journal of Nutrition found overwhelmingly that mental performance is at its peak when people are properly hydrated! When people are dehydrated, there can be a drop off in cognitive function, memory, and even mood. Water affects so much of the way we experience the world, so just keeping that bottle topped off can make life so much better!
- Drinking more water can help with fitness and weight loss goals! One of the best ways to burn away fatty tissue is through perspiration, and the more you drink as you work out, the more you can perspire! Just be sure not to push yourself too hard, or you could risk dehydration. You may have even seen some local bodybuilders in the park running around with giant bottles of water and trash bags over their shirts. This is because they are trying to cut weight through hydration and perspiration. I used to live with a Scottish back-hold wrestler who did this, and he swore by it. I thought it was hilarious seeing him running around wearing a trash bag and holding a half gallon of water in one hand, but it really worked. I’m not saying that you need to be that extreme, but keeping hydrated is pretty useful!
- Staying hydrated has also been shown to improve physical performance. Not only can it help with weight loss, but it also improves how well our bodily tissues are able to operate. This is because every muscle and nerve in our bodies needs water to function, and the more water the better. Taking a sip of water isn’t going to make your muscles blow up like Popeye’s, but it sure can help!
Know the Signs of Dehydration!
Dehydration can be just as much a detriment to us as hydration can be a booster, especially on a hot day. Know the signs of dehydration to look after yourself and those around you:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dark and strong-smelling urine
- Feelings of tiredness
- Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
If you suspect that you or someone around you may be dehydrated, get them some fluids as soon as possible. To avoid dehydration, try to drink water throughout the day and especially at mealtimes, avoiding caffeinated and sugary liquids. This applies especially to those who are in at-risk groups, like the elderly, anyone with a related medical condition, or children.
It’s also possible to overdrink. There have been reported cases of athletes drinking too much water and contracting hypothermia. However, overdrinking is extremely rare and difficult to do, so don’t worry about it too much!
How to Stay Hydrated:
- Get a nice water bottle and drink from it throughout the day.
- Eat lots of vegetables, and fruits like cucumber, watermelon, or pineapple. They’re rich in natural water!
- Flavor your water. While it doesn’t help to hydrate you, it does encourage you to drink more!
- Be sure to drink water at mealtimes.
Water is so important for our health! And there’s so much we all can do in our day-to-day lives to improve our hydration, and our mental and physical health!
So, wat-er we waiting for? Let’s quench that thirst!