By Dr. Patrick Jean-Pierre MD
Up to 60% of the human body is water. Water is essential for all life. Despite this knowledge of water’s benefits, many of us aren’t drinking enough water each day. A 1% drop in your body’s total water content is enough to impact your cognitive function and mood.
Chronic dehydration is more common than you think, but it’s entirely preventable. Nearly 80% of working Americans say they don’t drink enough water. Health experts recommend we drink eight 8-ounce glasses, or two liters, of water per day. Let’s take a look at the evidence-based health benefits of drinking plenty of water.
If you’re not drinking enough water, your physical performance can take a hit. We need water to survive. It’s in every cell, tissue, and organ. Your body uses water to transport nutrients and oxygen, to lubricate joints, and to remove toxins from the body. Throughout the day, you naturally lose water. You lose water even faster when you exercise, so it’s vital to stay hydrated.
Tips for hydration include:
When you lose water weight through sweat, it can alter your body temperature and increase tiredness, making exercise feel much more challenging, both physically and mentally. Exercise dehydration can lead to loss of coordination and muscle fatigue. Keeping hydrated has been found to stop this from happening; it also reduces oxidative stress. Considering muscles are 80% water, it’s not surprising the benefits water can have on your physical performance.
Our bodies tend to tell us when we’re dehydrated. Instead of waiting for these signals to show up, you can be proactive. You need to drink plenty of water every day before you experience symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration can trigger headaches and sometimes migraines in individuals. Several studies have found that drinking water can help relieve headaches in dehydrated people. However, this is dependent on the type of headache you have and whether it’s a dehydration headache.
Drinking enough water can support weight loss. When you drink enough water, it can increase feelings of fullness as well as boost your metabolic rate. One study found that drinking half a liter (17 ounces) of water leads to an increase in metabolism by 24–30% for up to 1.5 hours. By drinking 2 liters of water each day, you could increase your total calorie expenditure by 93 calories.
Research shows that timing is essential, as well. Drinking water a half hour before a meal seems to be the most effective for making you feel fuller, therefore consuming fewer calories.
Every day, your heart is continuously working to pump about 2,000 gallons of blood around your body. When you’re hydrated through drinking plenty of water, you help your heart to do its job. Dehydration can lower blood volume, which means your heart has to work harder to transport blood and oxygen around the body. Because of this, walking and exercise can feel more difficult.
When your skin is lacking water, it can be dry, itchy, and dull-looking. Your complexion may appear uneven, and fine lines are much more noticeable. By maintaining hydration throughout your whole body, your skin will benefit.
Dry skin and dehydrated skin are different. Dry skin is usually the result of soap or exposure to hot water or dry air. While water isn’t a miracle cure for wrinkles and dry skin, it will keep your skin hydrated and looking supple.
Water is essential for building and maintaining strong muscles. Whether you’re heading to the gym or have a big race, if you’re not drinking enough water, your muscles aren’t getting the electrolytes they need to perform at their best. When you drink enough water, it energizes your muscles.
Sore muscles are one of the biggest obstacles to consistently building strong muscles. Water helps to speed up recovery time, remove toxins from the body, and eliminate feelings of soreness. Water makes up a large part of your muscles, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise.
Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their lives. Constipation is common in all ages and populations. Approximately 16 out of 100 adults have symptoms of constipation. It’s often recommended to increase your fluid intake when you feel blocked. Evidence shows that low water consumption is a risk factor for developing constipation. Drinking enough water can help to relieve constipation and keep bowel movements regular.
Dehydration influences brain function. Even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on brain function, memory, and mood. One study found that a water loss of 1.36% after exercise increased the number of headaches. It also impacted mood and concentration.
Nothing can immediately cure a common cold or flu. But, there are things you can do to help ease the sniffling and sneezing. Besides getting lots of rest, staying hydrated is key to fighting off illness. Water helps to loosen congestion. It will also help you to digest your food better and flush out any harmful toxins from your immune system.
Beyond all of these points, proper hydration can benefit you during workouts by helping to regulate your temperature and prevent you from overheating your body. When you exercise, your body can’t release the heat it needs to if you don’t have enough water to sweat. As your core body temperature increases rapidly, it causes the heart unnecessary stress if your body temperature isn’t regulated.
When we think about our health, often we think about exercise and nutrition. We tend to forget about the critical role hydration plays in our overall well-being. Even just the slightest loss in water weight has a considerable impact on brain function and physical performance. By drinking plenty of water, you’re giving your body the best chance to be healthy and achieve your goals.