These days people will do just about anything to not drink plain water. Added flavors, carbonation, sugar, you name it.
Water improves mood and cognition, reduces the risk of high blood pressure and high blood sugar, and helps to reduce body weight and overeating. It even decreases the likelihood of heart and kidney disease as well as ensuring all your cells can perform their jobs easily.
If you haven’t had a drink of water at this point, you’d better go get one!
We are used to thinking of water as a state, you’re either hydrated, dehydrated, or somewhere in between, but I’d like you to start thinking of hydration as a process.
Water is important (duh)
Water is critical for your survival. It is the medium for all your metabolic reactions, gives form to your cells, lubricates your joints and tissues, transports nutrients and waste, and regulates body temperature. Drinking plain water is one of the easiest and cheapest health interventions, and a key in optimizing health long term. In a study, people diagnosed as overweight or obese were given 2 cups of water before each meal and lost 4.5 pounds more than those without. Another study showed that 2 cups of water can increase your energy expenditure at rest for 90 minutes.
Seriously, go get a drink of water.
The hydration process
Your total body water makes up about 50-60% of your total body mass, and 70-80% of your fat free mass. Understandably, your TBW is in constant flux from respiration, sweat, and waste. This total water loss accumulates to about 10.5 cups a day, with more possible from exercise or heat.
Our fluid intake needs to offset this daily loss with water, foods, and water created as a byproduct of our metabolism. That means for the average man, 15.5 cups per day, with 3 those coming from food, and for the average female, 11.5 cups per day, with 2 coming from food. That sounds like a lot, right? It is, and most evidence points to Americans drinking significantly less than this per day.
With all the benefits of staying hydrated listed earlier, it’s clear that being underhydrated can have loads of negative effects. Even a 1-3% loss of TBW, even though you might not notice it day to day, can have drastic consequences long term. Research shows that chronic hypohydration (a loss of 1-3%) can negatively affect mood, cognition, metabolism, kidney and cardiac health, and have negative implications for immune function and cancer prognosis.
What about those electrolyte things?
You’ve probably heard the term electrolytes thrown around all the time, but only have a vague idea of what they are. Electrolytes are electrically charged particles from salts that are dissolved in water and they play an important role in rehydration and the capacity to retain water.
Potassium and Sodium are the two most predominant electrolytes in your body with Sodium having the strongest influence of water volume in the areas outside of your cells. Maybe you’ve noticed some swelling after a salty meal? This is important to know because Sodium is the primary component of sweat. So, a high output of sweat will lead to a large reduction in Sodium levels in the body, making it harder to retain water and allow hypohydration to develop or continue.
Many factors affect how your body absorbs fluid from food and beverages. In general, the greater the amount of fluid in the stomach, the faster it exits, but be careful when trying to replenish from high bouts of exercise or sweat. It is easy to overstimulate the kidneys, overproducing urine, and undermining your rehydration efforts.
Plain water is also emptied from the stomach faster than fluids containing electrolytes or calories. Fruit juices and sodas actually force your body to draw in water to the small intestine to be absorbed, making them ineffective for rehydration. Sports drinks with a carbohydrate and electrolyte solution with a carbohydrate concentration of less than 2.5% can be absorbed by the body about as fast as pain water. Anything over 2.5% slows the process.
Caffeine consumption under 500-600 milligrams per day is not dehydrating, but higher caffeine consumption can increase urine output, increasing your need to consume additional fluid.
If you want to ensure you're properly hydrated everyday, here are a few tips to follow:
If you undergo extreme bouts of sweat, replenish with water and electrolytes.
Don’t try to overhydrate immediately following exercise or large sweat output.
Urine color can help assess your hydration levels. Anything darker than sunflower yellow means you should drink more water.
If water is sloshing around in your stomach, you don’t need to drink more.
Sodas and fruit juices are ineffective to rehydrate the body.
Find a bottle to measure your water intake throughout the day.
When in doubt drink more water.
If you're struggling with health, body composition, or sport performance issues, it't time to check in with your hydration efforts. As one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve your health, raise a glass with me, and drink up!
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