The Importance Of Staying Hydrated
It's hard to overstate how important drinking enough water is to maintaining your weight and to maintaining your health. The human body is made of at least fifty percent water, and basically every bodily function requires it; sweating, crying, spitting, using the bathroom—even just breathing!
Since you lose water doing all of these things, you need to drink quite a lot of it to stay up-to-date with your body's requirements. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men consume about 3.7 liters of fluid per day and women consume about 2.7 liters.
Note that this measurement includes fluid intake from food and non-water beverages; even dehydrating beverages like coffee will contain some water. Furthermore, for reference, one liter amounts to about 33 ounces, so women should be aiming to drink a little more than five sixteen-ounce water bottles per day and men should be aiming to drink slightly more than seven.
The commonly cited "eight glasses of water" figure is slightly less reliable since a "glass" isn't a standardized measurement, but it's also probably a decent rule of thumb.
Additionally, there are plenty of circumstances under which you'd need to drink more water than usual, such as if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you're spending a lot of time outside in a hot climate, if you've been taking diuretics, or if you've been doing a lot of exercise.
One well-known symptom of dehydration is a headache, which can occur because the body tends to take water from your blood if you haven't been drinking enough of it, thus decreasing the amount of blood and oxygen that gets to your brain. The reduced blood flow caused by dehydration has also been implicated in muscle cramps, increased post-workout soreness, and impaired post-workout recovery.
Other symptoms of mild dehydration include tiredness, joint pain, dry eyes, and trouble focusing. One recent study suggested that these symptoms can emerge when your intake of water is even just one percent lower than is optimal!
Since dehydration can lower your levels of serotonin, it can also lower your mood. Lack of adequate water intake can also cause dry mouth, which could eventually lead to bad breath as a lack of saliva leads to a buildup of bacteria.
Finally, dehydration can dry out your skin. which can result in poor skin quality and breakouts, since it's sweat (which contains mostly water) that usually helps cleanse your skin of dirt and oils.
As dehydration becomes more severe, you may experience dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, increased heart rate, chills, and even loss of consciousness or death.
Drinking enough water has also been shown to increase your metabolic rate, and it is crucial for flushing toxins and waste out of the body. Without adequate water intake, your colon will soak up water from your food waste, making your stools harder and more difficult to pass and thus leading to constipation.
Not drinking enough water can also, paradoxically, lead to water retention, which can show up as "water weight" on the scale. This occurs since your body is more likely to hold onto excess water if it doesn't know when or if it will be getting more.
Your brain can also mix up the signals for thirst with the signals for hunger, so it may be worth at least trying a glass of water before you go reaching for an unhealthy snack.
Unfortunately, since your body uses glycogen faster when you are in a dehydrated state, you are especially likely to crave sugar. Even worse, since your body actually needs water to digest food, this could end up being a self-perpetuating cycle.
Adequate hydration also reduces your risk of a urinary tract infection by encouraging you to urinate more frequently. Also, gross as it sounds, you should probably keep an eye on the color of urine if you're worried about your hydration status. Clear or pale yellow means that you're probably fine, but dark yellow or orange means that you need more water!
It's best to stay ahead of the game and drink water before you get to the point of craving it; by the time you consciously feel "thirsty," you're probably already a little dehydrated!
On the other hand, if you've been drinking more than enough water and find that you're still always thirsty, it may be time to visit your doctor, since excessive thirst could be a symptom of diabetes.
Also, in case you're wondering if there's a such thing as drinking too much water, the answer is yes, but it's so rare that there's practically no need for the average person to worry about it.
When one drinks an extreme amount of water, it can throw off the body's usual balance of water and sodium, leading to a potentially condition fatal called hyponatremia.
Cases of hypontatremia usually involve people who were under the influence of certain drugs or extreme athletes who drank a lot of water very quickly during long, intense workouts without adequately replenishing their electrolytes.
So what to do if you're having trouble drinking enough water? Some people find that they are more motivated to drink sparkling water, or water with a little lemon or lime added, than water that's purely plain. Adding a teabag or two of non-caffeinated tea is also a 0-calorie way to give your water a little flavor and make it easier to drink your fill.
If your problem is remembering to drink, make sure to drink water at every meal and to look for other built in "water breaks" in your day. Or, if you're really committed, you can invest in a smart water bottle, which has built in mechanisms for helping you stay aware of how much you're drinking. There are also plenty of free apps out there specifically designed to help you track your water intake, like Waterlogged, Daily Water, and Plant Nanny.
Some lower tech ideas are to place a visible reminder to water in a prominent place near your desk or to use rubber bands as your water-markers. Just put them on the bottom of your water bottle in the morning, then remove them every time you drink a whole container! Others have also found that simply having a larger water bottle helped them drink more without even having to think about it.
If you're still having trouble drinking, you could at least make an effort to eat more hydrating food. Some 123Diet-friendly examples are strawberries, tomatoes, apples, celery, cucumbers, oranges, radishes, lettuce, broth, cabbage, grapefruit, and spinach.
Drinking colder water might offer you a slightly greater metabolism boost as compared to warm or room temperature water, but this effect is probably negligible—far more important to drink water at all!