Seven Benefits of Staying Hydrated

Surely you’ve heard the advice to drink more water. The old adage is eight glasses a day, but often times those that repeat that recommendation simply say to do it because it is “good for you.” I won’t deny that water is good for you. Heck, your body is composed of roughly two-thirds water so it logically follows that it plays a huge role in maintaining bodily functions. If you’re not convinced, let’s expound upon that reasoning and provide some concrete evidence supporting the need to keep your body hydrated.

1. Support detox

Before you jump on the latest trendy juice cleanse, take a look at your water consumption. Proper hydration is required for your natural detox pathways to operate optimally. These pathways includes elimination of waste (urine, sweat, and feces). Even minor dehydration can cause the cells to pull water from the bloodstream, making the kidneys work harder to extract waste from the blood.

2. Power the Brain

The same mild dehydration can pull water from your brain cells as well and this can lead to a whole host of issues. Your brain is sensitive to ionic (Na+, K+, etc.) balance, which is kept in check through proper hydration.Dehydration can cause headeaches. Multiple studies have shown that simply drinking water can reduce the length and intensity of headaches. This is why drinking water when you’re hungover works so well.

Dehydration can also impact cognitive tasks. Studies on groups of well-hydrated and dehydrated individuals showed the hydrated group performed better on cognitive tests and were able to maintain focus longer. Got a big test you are studying for? It’s a good idea to make sure you are hydrated beforehand.

3. Aid digestion

Dehydration can be a cause of constipation. Sure, we’re told to eat more fiber to help pass waste through our system, but rarely are we told to drink more water. This goes back to the fact that water can be pulled from the digestive tract to support other, more important physiological tasks. As a result the stool is not softened enough to encourage proper elimination.

4. Lessen stress

Our bodies are under enough stress the way it is and even a mild dehydrated state can elevate the stress hormone cortisol. All the more reason to drink up and prevent further accumulation of fat around the midsection, one of effects of elevated levels of cortisol on the body.

5. Fight fatigue

A stressed, dehydrated body is going to do no favors for your energy levels. All of the body’s natural processes rely on water to function optimally, and being in a state of dehydration requires the body to work harder to continue to function. Things like a reduction of blood volume can cause the heart to struggle to keep the blood circulating optimally. As a result oxygen and nutrients aren’t delivered as efficiently to your tissues, including the brain, which can lead to an overall feeling of fatigue.

6. Curb Hunger

While I’m not a huge fan of tricking your body into thinking it’s full, water definitely has the ability to curtail your hunger and cravings. A glass or two of water before (not during as you can dilute enzymes necessary for digestion) has been shown to reduce the amount eaten at meal time. Drinking water can also be effective late at night when all you want is a snack to reduce those hunger pangs.

One important thing to note is that dehydration can manifest itself as hunger, especially in the morning after a night of fluid loss (through respiration), so you may actually be doing your body good by reaching for water instead of food. This is why I think it is extremely important to begin hydrating upon waking. I drink at least 32 ounces of water in the morning before I do anything else. More often than not my “hunger” disappears.

7.  Athletic Performance

Your muscle tissue is around 75% water so keeping muscles hydrated during exercise seems like a no-brainer. Even mild hydration can result in a reduction of Vo2 max and and overall strength. Your muscles rely on that ionic balance to fire properly and unimpeded blood flow to receive oxygenated blood. Not to mention that dehydration can lead to a reduction in sweat rate and increase in core temperature, which causes the body to work harder to support vital functions and not your athletic endeavor.

Beyond that, hydration is necessary to lubricate the joints and is helpful for recovery by ensuring nutrients are delivered to the cells post exercise and reducing inflammation. In addition water helps build the structures of protein and glycogen, which are necessary for repair and replenishment.

It shouldn’t really be in question at this point that it’s important to keep your body hydrated, but how much water do you really need? It’s probably more than the prescribed eight glasses (64 ounces), but much of that can depend on your environment and how active you are. Obviously if you undertake periods of high activity in extremely warm conditions you will need to consume more fluids (and electrolytes) than someone laying on couch in the air conditioning watching tv.

Your body has this amazing mechanism called thirst to tell you when you need more fluids so I recommended learning to read those signs to know when to drink rather than try to gulp down some prescribed daily intake. Overconsumption of water can lead to hyponatremia, where the body’s sodium levels drop because of too much fluid intake. This is common in endurance athletes that pound water out of fear of dehydration and can have dangerous consequences such heart, liver, and kidney failure. This is also the reason I tend to add a little Himalayan salt to my water, especially in the hot summer months or after a workout.

In summary, drink when you wake. Drink when you’re hungry, tired, or sore.  Drink when it’s hot, when you’re working out, or when you have a headache. Drink until you’re no longer thirsty.

Yes, it’s really that simple.

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