Our bodies are composed of approximately 60% water and we constantly lose water throughout the day. When we fail to top up the water we lose, dehydration can occur. This can have long term impacts on our health, such as reduced kidney function. Even relatively low levels of dehydration can have serious consequences over a long enough period of time. And more people are likely dehydrated than you realize.
Shockingly a recent study showed that almost 56% of people (in a 2000 person study) were shown to be dehydrated despite drinking the recommended amounts of water.
What Are The Immediate Benefits of Staying Hydrated
Cognitive Function: A study published in the "Journal of Nutrition" in 2012 by Edmonds et al. found that mild dehydration, even as low as 1% to 2% loss of body water, can impair cognitive function, particularly in tasks that require attention, motor coordination, and complex problem-solving.
Physical Performance: A research paper titled "Effects of dehydration on exercise performance" by Casa, D.J. et al., published in the "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise" journal in 2007, highlights how dehydration can have a significant negative impact on physical performance during exercise. Dehydration can lead to increased fatigue, reduced endurance, and impaired thermoregulation.
How Much Water Should I Drink In A Day?
The standard recommendation in the USA is 8 glasses a day or the "8x8 rule," suggests drinking about 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of water 8 times a day. This comes to around 64oz, but it’s worth noting that the Europeans generally recommend about 40% more than this for men.
Body Size: Larger individuals may require more water than smaller ones. It's not one size fits all.
Gender: Men typically require more water per day than women.
Activity Level: Sweating through exercise or hot weather increases water needs. Don't forget to replenish what you lose.
Climate: Hot and dry climates can lead to more significant water loss through sweat and evaporation.
Health Conditions: Some medical conditions like kidney problems may require adjusting your water intake. Consult your healthcare provider for specific guidance.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Expecting or nursing mothers need more fluids to support their changing bodies.
Thirst: Listen to your body. If you're thirsty, drink up. Thirst is your body's way of signaling its need for water.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
So, we know why we should stay hydrated, but as the title of the article would suggest you’re probably here for the tips on how to stay hydrated.
1. Sip Water Consistently
Instead of waiting until you feel thirsty try to get into the habit of supping water consistently throughout the day. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already slightly dehydrated. Keep a reusable water bottle with you and take small sips at regular intervals to ensure hydration remains constant.
2. Flavor Your Water
If plain water feels boring to you, and it does for a lot of us. Try adding natural flavors to enhance its taste. It’s not the end of the world to flavor your water, just avoid anything that’s got a high amount of calories. Even a diet soda is for most people better than being dehydrated, so if that’s what works for you then it’s OK.
But, if you want to keep it as healthy as possible fresh fruits like citrus slices, berries, or herbs like mint can infuse your water with refreshing flavors.
3. Eat Hydrating Foods
You can always get a bit extra with water rich fruits and vegetables into your diet. Fruits such as watermelon and vegetables like cucumbers are good examples.
4. Be Mindful of Your Environment
If you live in a warm or dry climate, it's important to take extra precautions to stay hydrated. San Diego, for example, has a warm and dry climate year-round, making it essential for residents to be mindful of their hydration levels
5. Dress Appropriately
Wearing light and easily breathable clothing can help regulate your body temperature and prevent excessive sweating.
6. Set Reminders and Track Your Intake
Using technology to set reminders throughout the day can help you stay on track with your hydration goals. Set alarms on your phone or use smart devices like Alexa or Google to remind you to drink water at regular intervals. This may seem a bit extreme, so it probably isn’t for everyone.
7. Make Water a Habit
Start your day by drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning. This kickstarts your metabolism and provides an energy boost to start your day. Additionally it can be a good idea to make it a habit to drink a glass of water before each meal as it can aid in digestion and help you feel full faster.
8. Monitor Your Urine Color
Keeping an eye on the color of your urine can provide insights into your hydration levels. Clear or light-colored urine indicates that you are adequately hydrated, while dark yellow urine may be a sign of dehydration. If you notice your urine is consistently dark, increase your water intake accordingly.
9. Set Daily Hydration Goals
Setting daily hydration goals can help you stay motivated and committed to maintaining a healthy habit. Whilst it can sound a bit daft to set a daily glasses of water goal to some, this is 100% the way to go for others. Start with achievable goals and gradually increase your water intake over time. You can even turn hydration into a fun challenge by inviting friends or family members to join you in meeting
10. Listen to Your Body
Above all, listen to your body's signals. Thirst is a natural indicator that your body needs hydration. Be mindful of whether you are genuinely thirsty or mistaking thirst for hunger. Sometimes, we eat when we are actually just dehydrated. Pay attention to how your body feels and respond accordingly.
Why is hydration important?
Hydration is crucial because water plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including maintaining body temperature, supporting digestion, transporting nutrients, and enabling cellular processes.
How much water should I drink daily?
The standard recommendation is about 8 glasses a day (64 ounces or 1.9 liters). However, individual water needs vary based on factors like body size, activity level, climate, and health conditions.
Can I overhydrate?
Yes, excessive water intake can lead to a condition called water intoxication or hyponatremia. It's essential to find the right balance between staying hydrated and avoiding excessive water consumption.
What are signs of dehydration?
Common signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dark urine, headache, fatigue, dizziness, and reduced urine output. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
Does coffee and tea count toward my daily water intake?
Yes, caffeinated beverages can contribute to your daily fluid intake, but they may have a mild diuretic effect, so balance them with plain water.
How can I stay hydrated during exercise?
Drink water before, during, and after physical activity. The amount depends on the duration and intensity of your exercise. Sports drinks can be beneficial for intense, prolonged workouts.
Can I rely on my thirst to know when to drink water?
Thirst is a reliable indicator for most people. If you feel thirsty, it's time to hydrate. However, in certain situations, like hot weather or strenuous exercise, you may need to drink before you feel thirsty.
Are there foods that can help with hydration?
Yes, fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, and oranges, can contribute to your daily hydration needs.
What are the effects of chronic dehydration?
Chronic dehydration can lead to various health issues, including kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and impaired cognitive function. It's essential to address dehydration in the long term.