Plus Tips for Staying Hydrated
Adults tend to be fairly insensitive to thirst and, unfortunately, this insensitivity only increases with age. But getting enough water is crucial to staying healthy. Water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, carries nutrients to every cell in your body, helps flush toxins, aids in eliminating harmful bacteria from the gut, and prevents constipation. It can also help you lose weight, think more clearly, improve energy levels, improve your mood, and maximize athletic performance. Let’s look at how some of this works and why you should drink more water.
Preventing constipation + aiding in the elimination of toxins: Regular bowel movements are essential for health. They help remove waste, toxins, and even cholesterol from the body. The colon needs ample water in order to keep things moving. If you are dehydrated your stool will become hard and your bowel movements less regular. This is both uncomfortable and can negatively affect overall health. Ever notice how sometimes on days when you are constipated your skin also breaks out? Poor digestion is often linked to unfavorable changes in your gut microbiome. These changes can cause inflammation throughout the body, which can result result in the development of acne. Now, just imagine what else might be going on throughout your body because of this build-up. By drinking more water throughout the day, you can help to prevent constipation and all its associated health implications.
Losing weight: The symptoms of dehydration often mimic those of hunger (feeling tired, weak, dizzy, etc.). This means that thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Constantly drinking water throughout the day can prevent this confusion and help you avoid unnecessary calories. The water will also occupy space in your stomach, making it more challenging to overeat. In fact, research has demonstrated that increasing water intake can effectively support other dieting efforts. One study found that people who drank 50 ml of water before each meal for 12 weeks lost an average of 4.6 pounds more than people who were dieting, but did not drink the additional water.
Thinking clearly and improving energy levels: By the time you feel thirsty, you’ve already lost 2% – 3% of your body fluid. This effectively decreases your blood volume, lowers your blood pressure (which is why dehydration can make you feel dizzy), decreases the flow of blood (and oxygen) to your brain, and forces the heart to pump harder and faster. Limiting the brain’s access to oxygen decreases your ability to concentrate and think clearly. Thus, being hydrated is essential in order to maintain mental clarity.
Improves mood: Research has demonstrated that the neurological effects of dehydration include irritability and increased perception of task difficulty. Next time you are feeling down or overwhelmed, try drinking a glass of water. You may find that your mood lifts and challenges seem less daunting.
Maximizing athletic performance: Drinking more water is one of the best things you can do to immediately improve your athletic performance. When the body is low on fluids, it will prioritize sending liquid to organs that need it most. This means that blood flow to muscles will decrease, which can result in muscle cramps and an overall feeling of fatigue. Just a 2% dehydration level can result in a 10% decrease in athletic performance. One of the best ways to make sure you are getting the most out of your workouts is simply to ensure that you are drinking water regularly throughout the day, and that you start increasing your fluid intake an hour or so before your workout. This also means that you can use your workouts as motivation to start drinking more water. If you want to run faster, lift heavier, and work harder you will need to make sure you are properly hydrated. Being properly hydrated will also make adopting a new workout routine more manageable. Your body will be prepared to take on the extra workload and your mind will be able to handle the new challenge (remember that hydration increases mood and decreases the perceived difficulty of tasks).
The same holds true for improving performance of any physical activity, whether it be strenuous work around the house or garden, or as part of your job. So if you want to be more productive and have a better attitude about any physically demanding project or job, drinking more water may be the key.
So how much water should you be drinking? While 8 cups a day is a good guideline, it isn’t totally accurate for everyone. Your ideal water intake will vary based on your age, sex, activity level, and various other factors such as whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Below is a convenient table to help you get a better idea of about how much you, personally, should be drinking.
Of course if you are doing a strenuous activity, or living in a particularly hot or humid area, this amount will increase. If you detect any of the following signs of dehydration, you probably need to increase your fluid intake.
SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
Warning signs of dehydration include:
– Low blood pressure
– Dizziness, confusion
– Muscle cramps
– Urine that’s dark in color
Severe symptoms of dehydration:
– Mental confusion
– Loss of consciousness
Should you ever experience these symptoms, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.
The urine test is the easiest way to make sure that you are properly hydrated. Your urine should be colorless or light yellow. Urine that is dark yellow or amber-colored is a sign of dehydration.
TIPS FOR STAYING HYDRATED
Hydration levels are maintained through fluids that we drink as well as water-rich foods. Be careful with the drinks you select though. Some drinks, such as coffee, tea, soda, and alcohol, are diuretics and will dehydrate you. Should you consume any of these beverages during the day, you will need to increase your water intake. An easy rule of thumb to follow is that for every cup of coffee, tea, soda, or alcohol consumed, drink a cup of water.
Below are ways to make sure that you are staying properly hydrated.
1. Carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. A great way to do this is to purchase a small reusable water bottle that can fit in your bag and that you can easily refill throughout the day.
2. Keep a glass of water on your desk at work. Having it there will consistently remind you to drink more water and it can be used as a distraction when you get bored and would otherwise be inclined to start snacking.
3. Add a slice of lemon, cucumber, mint, or pineapple to your glass if you find yourself getting bored of water.
4. Skip sugar drinks. Sugary drinks, such as juice, will help hydrate you, but they also contain a lot of calories and sugar. If your goal is hydration, it’s better to stick with water (or sparkling water if you want a treat).
5. Cut down on the caffeine. This includes coffee, soda, tea, and sports drinks.
6. Before each meal, drink a big glass of water. This will ensure that you are eating out of hunger and not thirst.
7. Consume hydrating foods such as fruit, salads, and soup.
A NOTE ABOUT SPORTS DRINKS – SHOULD YOU BE DRINKING THEM?
For most people, water is all they need to rehydrate after working out. Unless you are exercising at a high intensity, in high heat, or for an extended period of time without rest, you most likely don’t need the added sugar and electrolytes provided by sports drinks. That being said, should you choose to consume sports drinks, and think you could use the added nutrients, choose your sports drink carefully. Look for options that are lower in calories (ideally under XX per 8 oz. serving) and that contain only 1-2 servings per bottle (if the nutrition label says 2 servings this means that by finishing the bottle you will be consuming twice as many calories and sugar). Other–healthier–options are Nuun electrolyte tablets, Ultima Replenisher, and good old lemon water.
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