We do not drink enough water, plain and simple. It may seem like an abundant resource that’s everywhere, yet dehydration (both chronic and acute) have taken root in many parts of the United States. Approximately 60% of your body weight is due to water, which means the majority of the weight on the scale depends on your ability to stay hydrated. No wonder water is heavily connected to your appearance and your health. If your body is the car and food is the gas, then water is the oil that keeps everything going smoothly.
There are a multitude of measurable and reported symptoms related to both chronic and acute dehydration, though identifying the problem and being able to correlate a lack of water content in your cells to a headache or dizziness is not always clear. The vast majority of us, (approximately 75% of all Americans reported by CBS news two years ago), are suspected to be suffering from chronic dehydration. Sources such as ABC and CBS news, WebMD, and various websites challenge their audiences to drink more water to achieve greater health, and in doing so are combating the effects of dehydration. What exactly happens when you decide to take on one of these 30 day “drink 6 bottles of water a day” challenges, or in other words providing enough water for your body to properly maintain equilibrium?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 4 main benefits of drinking water (in no particular order) include:
1. Keeps the body’s temperature normal
2. Lubricates and cushions your joints
3. Protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
4. Gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel
When participating in regular exercise, water maintains its supremacy as one of the most important components of the human body. When we exercise, maintaining our body’s acid-base balance is crucial for optimal performance. Water plays a critical role in this balance by serving as a transport medium for protein buffers (shields), such as hemoglobin and plays an indirect role in the functioning and formation of the blood’s most potent chemical buffer, sodium bicarbonate. There’s more than one reason you’d see athletes in the past mixing baking soda in their water!
Maintaining proper fluid levels in the body is very important, but what happens when you go into a state of dehydration? The term dehydration is defined as “a condition resulting from negative water balance.” An example of this would be water loss exceeding water intake, like a marathon runner excreting more fluid through sweat than his or her fluid intake. During moderate to intense exercise, the signs and symptoms, according to Practical Applications in Sport Nutrition, to lookout for are:
Increasing pulse and respiration rate (during rest)
Outside of exercise (or after exercise), other signs and symptoms to monitor for are:
Fatigue or tiredness
Decreased urine output
Few or no tears when crying
Some of the above symptoms may be present when waking up from a night’s sleep, which means your body is telling you to rehydrate. So when you wake up with a headache, don’t reach for the Advil, reach for the water!
Now that you know the benefits of hydration and the warning signs of dehydration, what should your fluid sources be? To answer that, filtered water should be your main source of fluid intake, with the exception of water with added organic electrolytes. No matter how much watermelon you consume, it won’t be enough to satisfy the Institute of Medicine’s daily recommended intake of 13 cups of beverages per day for men and 9 cups per day for women (yes, beverages, not specifically water). Out of these beverages, which ones should you stay away from? Answer, any drinks with caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics, which diminishes the total amount of water in your the body.
If exercise is involved, there are a variety of studies, for and against, replenishing muscle glycogen and blood glucose levels with sports drinks or juices (some even list an option of diluting soda with water then adding salt). To be on the safe side stick with juices that are fresh squeezed, sports drinks that are made without any high fructose corn syrup or preservatives, and milk that is minimally processed.
Water is amazing, no doubt about that, but it’s much more complicated than most of us initially think. We should be striving to stay hydrated and make sure our daily water intake is adequate to stave off sickness and keep us healthy. The benefits are numerous, and everyone, including those who are physically conditioned, must always be wary of dehydration sneaking up on them. There are two easy recommendations to follow. Choose 2-3 times a day where you get water independent of eating food, whether it be right next to your keyboard or in the cup holder of your vehicle, aiming for 16 oz at a time (or as close to 16 ounces as possible). The second is to have 8-16 oz of water right when you wake up. After a long night of resting and recovering from the previous day, your body will likely be dehydrated and call for fluid replacement. This is why a second glass of juice or coffee in the morning is not uncommon. Use one or both of these strategies, and your body’s ability to filter out toxins and metabolic wastes will increase greatly, making your day that much healthier.