We’ve heard it a thousand times, “Drink more water,” but have you ever stopped to think about why we should choose water to drink? Water isn’t just the best way to hydrate the body. Water is an essential nutrient that keeps the body healthy and functioning at its best.
Mild dehydration affects the brain. Dehydration can impair short and long term memory. It can cause irritability, fatigue, and headaches. It is harder to concentrate and stay focused on tasks when we are dehydrated. With 80% of the brain being made up of water, it stands to reason the brain functions best when we are fully hydrated.
Cartilage is made up of 60% water. Cartilage is a shock absorber in the joints serving to reduce the friction between the bones in the joint. When the body is dehydrated, cartilage becomes less pliable and loses its ability to cushion the joints. Staying hydrated keeps your joints healthy and working properly to prevent injury.
Just about every body process needs water for healthy, normal function. The kidneys need water to flush toxins from the body. The digestive system needs water to move and process the food we eat. Water is essential for softening food, breaking down and absorbing nutrients, and ensuring everything runs smoothly. Dehydration can result in digestive problems including constipation, stomach ulcers, and heartburn.
The Ultimate Energy Drink
Start each day with a tall glass of water to give you a quick and lasting energy boost. If you simply want to stay awake in your afternoon meeting, again, water is your solution. Instead of reaching for that afternoon cup of coffee or energy drink, grab a tall glass of water. When we are dehydrated the flow of oxygen to the brain is reduced. The heart has to work harder to move oxygen throughout the body. Dehydration can leave you feeling sluggish and off your game.
Athletes know the critical role hydration plays in performance and recovery and drink water regularly to keep their bodies at optimal operation. Maybe you’re not looking for optimal athletic performance, but you still want to keep pace with your daily routine. Walking the dog or taking the stairs to your apartment will feel much easier if you’re hydrated.
Am I Dehydrated?
So, how do you know if you are dehydrated? The body gives us many signals to let us know it needs more water. The most direct signal is thirst. When we are thirsty, the body is telling us it needs water. Did you know that the body will send hunger signals if it needs water too? Often food cravings between meals are really signals of dehydration. Before you grab a bag of chips, have a glass of water and see how you feel. Chances are the food cravings will subside.
Dark-colored urine is a symptom of dehydration. The kidneys hold on to water when the body is dehydrated. When you are hydrated, your urine will appear pale yellow. Dry lips, dry skin, and reduced skin elasticity are also signs of dehydration. Headache, fatigue, or poor concentration aren’t often associated with dehydration, but they can indicate that the body is dehydrated. Listen up and pay attention to what your body is telling you. You’ll feel better for it.
Get in the Flow
Here are a few ideas to help you optimize your water intake:
- Carry a refillable water bottle with you. Make sure it is a bottle you like to carry and one that you enjoy drinking from.
- Jump start your day by drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning.
- Set alarms on your phone to remind you to drink a glass of water.
- Keep a glass of water or your water bottle on your desk or work station as a reminder to sip water all day long.
- Infuse fruits, vegetables, or herbs in your water for a little extra flavor.
- Start a water consumption challenge with co-workers, friends, or family members.
- Find an app that sends you alerts to drink water and helps you track your water intake.
There is no prescribed amount of how much water you should drink. Hydration needs vary for each person and depend on several things such as age, physical activity, gender, and the climate one lives in. Just remember that drinking plenty of water is the best thing you can do for your overall health and well-being.