“Water is the driving force of all nature” – Leonardo DaVinci
Beyond thinking of water as it relates to an individual’s morning routine—brushing teeth, taking a shower, making coffee—for most people, the importance of consuming enough water throughout the day is an ostensible concern at best. This is unfortunate considering water is the single most critical nutrient for good health on every level.
At some point in our lives we’ve all heard from some place or other that its important to drink water—does “8 glasses of water per day” sound familiar? But why is it so important?
Water is the major constituent of the human body since 60-70% of an average adult’s body weight is water. To break it down a little more, the heart and brain of an average adult human consists of 73% water, lungs are 83%, muscle and kidneys are 79%.
WHAT IS WATER’S FUNCTION IN THE BODY?
- In saliva and stomach secretions it helps properly digest food and dissolve minerals and other nutrients to make them more accessible to the body
- In our blood, it helps transport nutrients and oxygen to all cells throughout the body
- It acts as a lubricant around the joints and eyes
- It cushions organs and tissue
- It is essential for removing waste products from the body through urine and sweat
- It helps regulate body temperature through sweat
- It helps maintain proper sodium, potassium, electrolyte balance in the body
- It moistens the skin to help it maintain it’s texture and appearance
Considering the functions of water in the body, it naturally follows that staying properly hydrated is key to maintaining good health and proper metabolic functions on many levels. Just how important is staying hydrated? Consider this—a mere 2% decrease in total body water can cause a small shrinkage of the brain, which in turn can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. Other issues include decreased overall strength, reduced endurance, slow muscular response, and cramping—just to name a few.
The average adult loses about 10 cups of water simply by breathing, sweating, urinating, and eliminating waste. Imagine how much more water you loose if you maintain at least a moderately active lifestyle or live in an intemperate climate like Colorado.
The loss of body water, with the accompanying disruption of metabolic processes, is called DEHYDRATION. It is estimated that 75% of Americans suffer from mild to chronic dehydration, and most don’t even know it!
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
The most common signs of mild dehydration are thirst, fatigue, and headache. Symptoms of chronic dehydration include:
- Fatigue—Water is the most important source of energy in the body (If you feel fatigued during the day, try drinking a tall glass of water)
- Constipation—Without water, wastes move much more slowly through the large intestine
- Weight Gain—The body will NOT metabolize fat unless adequately hydrated (see more on weight loss)
- Skin Disorders—Dermatitis, psoriasis, premature wrinkling and discoloration
- Joint Pain or Stiffness—Cartilage around joints is weakened when dehydrated and joint repair is slow
- Bladder or Kidney Problems—When dehydrated the bladder and kidney become more prone to infection, inflammation, and pain
- Premature Aging—The skin begins to wrinkle prematurely when dehydrated. Also, what we don’t see is the same wrinkling and withering effect on the internal organs.
People who are severely dehydrated will experience nausea, chills, increased heart rate, inability to sweat, lightheadedness, and dizziness. At this point medical attention is required.
One of the reasons so many Americans are dehydrated is because our bodies sometimes confuse our thirst signal with a hunger signal—which is why drinking a glass of water before a meal is fantastic weight management tip. Also, our thirst mechanism has a bit of a delayed reaction. Once we feel thirsty, our bodies have already reached a point of mild dehydration and at this point it becomes more difficult to rehydrate.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU ARE HYDRATED OR DEHYDRATED
Because we cannot trust our bodies to tell us when we need water until we’ve reached the point of mild dehydration, the best way to tell if you’r properly hydrated is by monitoring your urine—yes, it means to look at your pee—regularly.
- Firstly, if you are properly hydrated you should be urinating a minimum of 3-4 times daily.
- If your urine is pale yellow or clear in color then you ARE drinking enough water.
- If your urine is dark yellow and/or odorous then you’r body is deficient in water and at this point it is best to go straight for a big glass of water and chug, chug, chug.
SO HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD YOU BE DRINKING?
It depends on the individual. There really is no one-size-fits-all approach to water consumption but the general rule of thumb is to consume between 88 and 128oz per day depending upon if you are male or female. Another general rule is that if you exercise, weigh yourself before and after your workout session; for every pound lost consume 16oz of water. Water needs are also based upon how many calories you burn in a day, environment, temperature, altitude, etc.
PEOPLE WHO NEED TO UP THEIR H2O INTAKE
- People on a high protein or high fiber diet
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- The physically active
- People who are vomiting or have diarrhea
- People who live in or are exposed to warm/hot conditions/climates
If you think you might not be getting enough water throughout the day then you’re very likely right. Because there are so many factors in determining how much water you should be consuming, check out this hydration calculator to get a better idea of how much is right for you personally.
To see how much of your body weight is water, fat, or lean muscle mass, schedule your free consultation with FitMD which includes a body scan.