We’ve heard it again and again; water is essential for our bodies. It is the main component of cells, tissues, and organs, comprising about 60% of our body, based on body composition.
Water regulates body temperature, removes toxins, controls heart rate, protects organs and tissues, and transports nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.1 The truth is, we would die in a few days without it. Yet, so many of us neglect to consume enough water throughout the day, and over time, this can lead to chronic dehydration, fatigue, constipation, fluctuations in blood pressure, and other health concerns.
It is estimated that 75% of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration; a pretty scary statistic for a nation that has regular access to tap and bottled water! Just as a car cannot run without gas, the body cannot survive without water. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43% of adults drink less than four cups of water per day. That includes 36% who drink one to three cups and 7% who drink none. Yes, water needs vary from person to person, but we are certainly falling short of the recommendation. The Mayo Clinic and Institute of Medicine recommends we drink about 1.9 liters per day, which equates to about eight 8-ounce glasses of water. While there’s no hard evidence supporting the 8 by 8 rule, it’s easy to remember.
Functions of water in the body
Hydration and Exercise
Thirst may be a reliable indicator that you need to drink more water, but the more active you are, the less reliable that indicator becomes. Studies have shown that by the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated; plus, a mere 2% drop in hydration may lead to an 8-10% decrease in performance. The amount of water needed will vary and depends on age, sex, body type, health level and activity. A good rule of thumb: the color of your urine should be light yellow to clear; however, if you supplement with B-vitamins, this tip will not apply. Other signs of dehydration are cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
One of the easiest ways to stay hydrated is to carry a bottle of water at all times, but we can obtain our servings in a multitude of ways. Water can come from fruits, vegetables, and low sodium broth-based soups. Make it a habit to drink water as soon as you wake up and before every meal and snack. Also try calorie-free fruit-flavored water or create your own beverage by adding sliced cucumber, orange, or berries. Track your water intake using your phone or Excel spreadsheet and set reminders throughout the day to drink more.
Be aware of your environment. The drier the climate, the more water your body will lose. For instance, flying in a plane is very dehydrating to the body.
Also, stay well hydrated before engaging in activities such as running, walking, cycling, or lifting weights. Be mindful of how your body functions. If you notice signs of dehydration, including headaches, decreased urine output, or extreme thirst, make sure to speak with your doctor.
So, three cheers to delicious, refreshing water. Ditch the morning coffee, the afternoon soda and the evening wine and switch to what your body really loves and needs … water.
- Jéquier, E. & Constant, F. Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. Eur J Clin Nutr 64, 115–123 (2010).