12 min read
Chances are, you don’t think much about the way you chew — and who could blame you? It’s not something we really focus on when we are eating....
It goes without saying that water is critical to our survival, health, and longevity. Yet there are still many unanswered questions about this essential nutrient. Ahead, we explore exactly why water is so vital, how it nourishes our systems, and what you can do to cultivate a long-lasting habit of healthy hydration.
It’s common knowledge that humans need enough daily water to survive and thrive. But if you think you’re drinking enough water, the unfortunate news is you’re probably wrong. In fact, according to a recent survey of U.S. citizens, 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
Don’t feel dehydrated?
Actually, most people don’t. That’s because “feeling parched” isn’t a reliable indicator of the initial stages of dehydration. There are many other symptoms that show up before thirst, which better signify your body’s need for water.
If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night aching for a big gulp of water, the truth is your dehydration likely started hours before you went to bed. Feeling thirsty is a late-stage symptom of dehydration. More reliable, first-stage symptoms of dehydration can be subtle, but often include:
Less frequent urination
There’s no doubt that increasing your water intake benefits the body from the inside out. From younger-looking skin to improvements in mood and sleep, a healthy hydration habit aids the body’s ability to cleanse and rejuvenate. In fact, the better hydrated you are, the better everything in your body works.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific benefits you can expect when you up your daily consumption of water. While some are fairly obvious, others may surprise you.
With obesity on the rise, humans are looking for ways to curb their appetites and slim their waistlines.
These efforts are not without merit. Being overweight or obese comes with a host of accompanying risk factors, including an increased likelihood of developing:
High blood pressure
Low levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL cholesterol)
Low levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL cholesterol)
Coronary heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Arthritis and other joint problems
Certain cancers (such as liver, kidney, colon, breast, gallbladder, and endometrial cancers)
Clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
Breathing issues such as sleep apnea
Naturally, better nutrition and increased physical activity are two ways to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, when needed. However, increased hydration can also lead to better weight management.
Science tells us that the more water you drink, the healthier your body weight is likely to be. A recent scientific review published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that “increased water intake is associated with loss of body weight produced via two mechanisms, decreased feeding and increased lipolysis.”
In other words, staying hydrated will help you maintain a healthier body weight overall for two reasons. First, it will help you eat fewer calories. Second, a process called lipolysis increases the more water you consume. Lipolysis is the breakdown of fats as a result of their reaction to water in the body.
“Pre-drinking” is a highly effective tool for weight loss and weight maintenance. It involves consuming water before consuming meals and/or snacks in order to decrease the number of calories consumed when eating.
The next time you feel hunger pangs, consider reaching for a glass of water. Try anticipating your hunger so that you can take a drink approximately 30 minutes prior to your meals. Drinking regularly throughout the day will help with this, but that extra glass right before eating is key and will ultimately result in reduced calorie intake.
In fact, some people say that they don’t end up eating at all after “pre-drinking.” Often, when you think your body is hungry, it’s actually just thirsty.
Even if you truly are hungry, drinking water before meals can result in consuming an average of 75 fewer calories per meal. Even more impressive, drinking water before just one meal per day would cause you to consume 27,000 fewer calories per year.
Drinking water while exercising is standard for most athletes — whether professional or novice. Not only does it replenish the water lost through sweat and quench that aching thirst that routinely creeps up during a good workout, but water also helps rebuild muscle and connective tissue. It can lubricate the joints both pre-and post-workout as well.
For serious athletes or anyone with fitness goals in mind during their workouts, it’s important to note that research also suggests that water can increase performance. Dehydration, on the other hand, can reduce performance in activities longer than 30 minutes. This is yet another reason to continually replenish your body’s water supply for optimal performance during exercise.
We recommend drinking approximately 250 mL (~ 8.5 ounces) of water for every 20 minutes of exercise you perform. It’s also advisable to consider the electrolytes you lose during exercise.
When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes, which are electrically charged minerals and other compounds found naturally in the body. Electrolytes4 are essential to your body because they help it move and perform daily physical activities (including exercise). For instance, electrolytes help your muscles contract. This includes the contraction of your heart muscle every time it beats.
Additionally, electrolytes help your body:
Produce natural energy
Keep your blood pH levels at a normal range
Transmit nerve signals between brain, muscle, and cells
Regulate your body's blood plasma fluid levels
Electrolytes include minerals like potassium, sodium, chloride, and calcium. When you lose these minerals, you need to replenish them. Water alone doesn’t quite cut it in this case, which is why we advise drinking a sports drink with electrolytes during a hard workout or, even better, adding some coconut water to your hydration bottle.
Nourishing your skin from the inside out is actually possible. While most people assume that moisturizers, lotions, and oils are the only way to attain better-hydrated skin, it’s actually more likely that drinking more water will give you your desired results. Furthermore, as a result of better-hydrated skin, you’ll benefit from fewer fine lines and wrinkles.
How Staying Hydrated Can Help Minimize Fine Lines & Wrinkles
A recent study looked at this possibility in depth, studying two groups of females (49 females in total) and how their water consumption related to the hydration in their skin (specifically, hydration levels in the face).
One of the two groups of females consistently consumed less than 3,200 mL (~108 ounces) of water per day, and the other group consistently consumed more than 3,200 mL (~108 ounces) of water per day.
The results showed that the group of women who consistently consumed more than 3,200 mL of water per day had better hydrated skin. Findings from the study lead “the authors to suggest that increasing the dietary water take would affect the skin the same way as a topical moisturizer.” The authors went on to conclude that the “impact on epidermal hydration was consistently noticed in both surface and deep hydration variables.”
So far, we've been focusing on the physical benefits of drinking enough water. But the truth is that increasing your water intake can affect you mentally and emotionally as well.
This is because how much water you have in your system is directly related to how tired, irritable, and focused you feel. In general, researchers have found that the more dehydrated you are, the higher the likelihood that you’ll be fatigued, ill-tempered, and unmotivated.
Mindy L. Millard-Stafford, a professor at Georgia Tech in the Biological Sciences Department of the College of Sciences found this out when she analyzed 33 studies relating to concentration, mood, and water consumption. Her analysis found that those attempting to carry out complex tasks while under-hydrated were less likely to perform well. Even mild dehydration hindered their ability to concentrate and execute tasks that required a lot of attention.
In addition to helping people improve their focus and perform better at complicated tasks, it’s also been shown that regular, daily hydration helps balance out negative stress hormones and stimulates the release of the positive-response hormone called serotonin.
Serotonin is produced in the brain, and it is a type of neurotransmitter. This means its chemical makeup is such that it can help communicate brain signals from one brain area to another. As a result, serotonin influences nearly all of the 40 million brain cells that an individual has in their brain. It is involved with memory, appetite, temperature regulation, learning, memory, and social behavior.
If an individual has an imbalance of serotonin, research has shown that this can greatly influence their mood — and not in a good way. In fact, an imbalance of serotonin is often seen as one of the main causes of depression — or at least as a contributing factor.
Often, serotonin-influenced depression comes with the early symptom of excess stress as well. This means that even if you’re not clinically depressed as a result of a serotonin imbalance, you may suffer from severe stress and chronic anxiety.
Several studies have led researchers to believe that brain serotonin levels are greatly affected by water intake. Some related studies were conducted with rats while others have examined how serotonin levels change in humans when varying amounts of water are consumed. As a rule, the more water consumed, the more stable serotonin levels were.
One of the connections between water intake and serotonin levels lies in tryptophan, which is an amino acid.
Higher levels of tryptophan have been found to increase mood, reduce irritability, and generally produce a less-stressed temperament in individuals. But tryptophan requires adequate amounts of water to be produced.
This means that regular, daily hydration is key to keeping amino acids as tryptophan balanced and your mood lifted.
Building a healthy hydration habit can be as simple as making a few adjustments to your daily routine. These small changes can deliver surprising improvements in your overall health and wellbeing.
Let’s explore how to go about implementing a consistent healthy hydration habit into your life. We’ll start by discussing what your daily water intake goals should be and how to make sure you’re drinking the purest water possible.
Humans require more daily water than you probably assume. But when you consider that your body is made up of about 60 percent water, things become a little clearer. In order to replenish this supply and keep it replenished, we must intake quite large quantities of water on a regular basis.
Generally speaking, you’ll be hard-pressed to find strict guidelines on how much water you should drink every day. Rarely will an authority authoritatively come out and say, point-blank, that “humans need X ounces of water each day.” Certainly, there are some guidelines available, and authoritative sources aren’t averse to delivering rough recommendations. But if you’re looking for one magic number that applies to basically everyone, you’re probably out of luck.
Still, this doesn’t mean you have to be completely in the dark when it comes to your water intake goals. The following comprises the most up-to-date and relevant scientific guidelines concerning how much water humans should be consuming on a daily basis.
Many people want to know, how much water should I drink daily?
Again, the answer is not simple to find. As a rule, we often recommend (as do many doctors, nutritionists, and health resources) that individuals aim to drink half their body weight in ounces of water every day. Therefore, if you weigh 140 lbs., you should be drinking around 70 ounces (or 2 liters) of water every day.
Of course, this doesn’t account for gender, age, height, body type, activity, level, or location in terms of climate. Therefore, if you’re looking for a more scientific recommendation, read on.
Reference the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and they’ll send you to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine - Health and Medicine Division. From there, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will point you to their “Electrolytes and Water Table.”
According to this source, these are the guidelines for recommended intake of water on a daily basis. Guidelines are according to age and gender, with added recommendations for pregnant and nursing women.
Children, 1-3 years old: 1.3 liters per day
Children, 4-8 years old: 1.7 liters per day
Males, 9-13 years old: 2.4 liters per day
Males, 14-18 years old: 3.3 liters per day
Males, 19+ years old: 3.7 liters per day
Females, 9-13 years old: 2.1 liters per day
Females, 14-18 years old: 2.3 liters per day
Females, 19+ years old: 2.7 liters per day
Pregnant Females: 3 liters per day
Nursing Females: 3.8 liters per day
* Note that according to this source, the intake recommendations suggested “are for total water in temperate climates. All sources can contribute to total water needs: beverages (including tea, coffee, juices, sodas, and drinking water) and moisture found in foods. Moisture in food accounts for about 20% of total water intake.”
There are certain times when your body needs more water than usual. For example, if you are running a fever and your body temperature is high, you will require additional hydration to regulate your temp.
In other situations where you are sick, you may require additional rehydration as well. For example, if a stomach bug is causing you to have bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, this will drastically lower your water levels. As a result, you may become dehydrated.
This is a secondary complication that can actually worsen conditions (like influenza or food poisoning), which may have otherwise gotten better on their own. This is especially true in small children and the elderly, and it’s why it is imperative that these individuals continually rehydrate when they are sick.
You may also require more water if you live in a hot climate and/or during the summer months when temperatures are high. Finally, when you are physically active, it is important to rehydrate often as outlined in the section above entitled “Easier Attainment of Fitness Goals.”
It is always recommended that you filter your water. The most we can do to avoid ingesting excess chemicals, the better. At-home filtration pitchers or tap filtration systems are great ways to ensure you’re not digesting harmful chemicals like chlorine, which is commonly found in tap water.
Furthermore, charcoal stick water filtration systems can help you have a higher-quality water source wherever you go. Simply drop the stick in your glass or water bottle, and it will be instantly treated.
* Note: We especially love the Santevia tumblers and alkaline filtration systems.
Use these additional tips to improve how much water you drink every day and to make water consumption easier and more habitual.
Before you can set goals and successfully change habits, it is necessary to establish your health and wellness baseline. This means — without judgment — keeping track of how much water you drink every day.
We recommend keeping a notebook handy everywhere you go. As you drink, log the number of milliliters (or ounces) you consume. Make sure you have this notepad with you in your purse or briefcase, in your car, at your desk, at the dinner table, and even at your bedside at night.
Starting right away at logging your water intake is a simple way to keep track of where this habit is currently. Later, you can figure out how you can improve your intake over time.
As a side note, for those who prefer tracking data on a mobile device such as a smartphone, we suggest the WaterMinder App. Of course, there are plenty of apps available that will help accomplish the same goal.
Having your own personal water bottle that goes everywhere you do is a great way to incorporate hydration into your everyday routine.
Not only does your bottle serve as a constant reminder to drink, drink, drink, but it also provides you with visual cues on how much you have had to drink already. This makes tracking your intake that much easier. Of course, this means making sure you buy a water bottle with marked levels on the side. Make sure they are large and easily legible.
Water bottles come in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, glass, and plastic. If you choose a glass bottle, make sure you also have a silicone or plastic cover to avoid breakage or chips. If you choose a plastic bottle, be sure it’s a high-grade plastic that won’t leach toxic chemicals over time.
Drinking several liters of water every day isn’t easy. If you don’t start within the first hour of waking up, it’s likely you won’t attain your daily goal. Therefore, as a rule, aim to start sipping water as soon as you get out of bed.
Not only does this routine give you a head start on hydration for the day, but it also kick-starts your metabolic and digestive systems. A great tip is to keep your water bottle (or a simple glass of water) at your bedside so it’s there waiting for you as soon as you wake up.
Remember that your daily water intake can include fluids other than still water. Many other fluids “count” for your water intake as well. These include:
Various types of milk (cow, goat, nut-based, coconut, etc)
Some sports drinks
Tea and coffee (in moderation)
Carbonated water or club soda
Foods, especially water-rich foods like cucumber and melon
Additionally, try making “average water” (like water from the tap) more exciting by adding small bits of flavor. For example, try adding:
Berries frozen in ice cubes
Fresh herbs like basil and mint
Occasionally, you may choose to drink an alcoholic beverage. Remember that alcohol is extremely dehydrating. As a result, if you choose to drink alcohol, make sure to always pair each drink you consume with a glass of water. This will help compensate for the amount of hydration you lose as you sip your beer or wine.
To help you meet your daily water intake goals, try setting “mini deadlines” throughout the day. For example, if your ultimate goal is to consume 2 liters of water per day, break the day into rough fourths. This would mean aiming to drink about half of a liter every three hours.
Lastly, remember that like any positive habit, you won’t become a perfect, habitual water drinker overnight. Be patient with the process. Instead of chastising yourself if you don’t meet your daily goals, praise yourself for the efforts you’re putting forth. Moreover, pay attention to the healthy physical and mental effects you’ve been seeing thus far on your journey.
*Information provided includes general guidelines only. Guidelines for unique individuals may vary. Consult your doctor.
As mentioned, staying hydrated is important. Keeping your water levels in your body at a level is a necessity. But staying hydrated and healthy is more than just drinking water and your daily water intake.
Your electrolyte levels and balance is equally as important as your daily water intake.
Electrolytes consist of minerals, essential to the human body. These minerals are:
All of these minerals are vital for the human body. They play a key role in many of the body's functions. This answers the question of what electrolytes are but not their individual function so let's break it down further.
Sodium is a mineral whose primary function is to ensure enough water is stored both in- and outside the cells. On top of that it also ensures proper electrolyte balance throughout the body. This is when you have normal sodium levels in your body. As if that wasn't enough, sodium also helps with the muscle and nerve function in the body. The majority of the body's sodium can be found in the blood and lymph fluid. Normal sodium levels in a healthy person should be between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter. Low sodium levels go under the medical term Hypernatremia. Hypernatremia symptoms can manifest in many different ways. If you experience any of the symptoms below, after a workout or physical activity, it could be a sign of low sodium level:
To combat this electrolyte imbalance you need to replenish them. Restoring the lack of sodium in your body. Many would often turn to sports drinks such as Gatorade to restore the electrolyte imbalance. However, a simple drink such as coconut water will have the same effect. This simple, yet effective drink, includes sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Another “homemade” electrolyte drink is milk. It is rich in calcium, sodium, and potassium.
Here we have one of the most important electrolytes in the body. Just as sodium, chloride ensures that the body retains the proper amount of water both within and outside the cells. Besides this, it is also crucial when it comes to a human's blood pressure, volume, and pH levels. Suffering from low chloride levels goes under the medical term hypochloremia. In most cases, you will not even be aware that you are suffering from hypochloremia. Instead, you might suffer from a different electrolyte imbalance and this in combination with those symptoms can cause hypochloremia. These symptoms include:
Treating hypochloremia in a medical facility is done through IV-fluids. At home, the easiest way to treat it is to consume regular table salt, drink salt water or regular water, and eat salted crackers. Any type of food rich in salt in combination with good hydration will reduce the symptoms and restore the body to normal chloride levels. The opposite of hypochloremia is hyperchloremia. That is when you are suffering from high chloride levels. The normal chloride range is considered to be between 96 to 106 milliequivalents per liter.
Next on the list, we have calcium which main objective is to ensure strong bones and teeth. It is also needed for muscle movements and for nerves to send messages throughout the body. Suffering from a calcium deficiency goes under the medical term Hypocalcemia.
If the levels are just slightly low you might not notice that you are suffering from low calcium levels. As the levels keep decreasing you could start to experience symptoms such as:
Low calcium levels could be caused by vitamin D deficiency, low calcium intake, a medication that prevents the body to absorb calcium, amongst others.
Magnesium is an essential part of the body just as all the others mentioned above. Magnesium's primary functions in the body including regulating muscle and nerve functions, managing blood pressure, and keeping blood sugar levels under control.
85% of the body's phosphate is located in the bones of the body. The remaining 15% can be found in the cells, involved with energy production. Suffering from low phosphate levels has the medical term Hypophosphatemia. Most people with a mild case of hypophosphatemia will show no symptoms at all. However, a more severe case can include symptoms such as:
The opposite of hypophosphatemia, meaning having too high levels of phosphates in the body is called hyperphosphatemia. It is essential for the body to maintain proper levels of phosphates in the body as it helps maintain strong bones and teeth. Too high levels can cause symptoms such as:
Bicarbonate is another of the substances classed as an electrolyte. It is a negatively charged ion. One of the primary functions is to regulate the body's acid-base (pH) balance. Along with this, it also works with the other electrolytes sodium, potassium, and chloride, ensuring electrical neutrality on a cellular level. Experiencing low levels of bicarbonate is referred to as metabolic acidosis. Symptoms of this can include:
Potassium is the opposite of bicarbonate, meaning it's a positively charged ion in the body. One of its primary functions is to conduct electricity throughout the body and is especially important for the heart. It is also worth mentioning that maintaining a potassium-rich diet will provide a lot of health benefits. These include:
As with everything, it is important to maintain proper levels of potassium in the body. Too high or too low can have severe consequences. Too high levels are referred to as hyperkalemia is a very serious condition and requires medical attention as it can have devastating effects on the heart. Too low levels of potassium are referred to as hypokalemia. Symptoms of this vary depending on the levels of hypokalemia as most mild cases show no to very few symptoms. The lower the levels get the worse the symptoms manifest, including:
As you can see, maintaining proper electrolyte levels is essential. This can be done through many different methods as mentioned above such as coconut water, sports drinks, milk, electrolyte powder mixed with water. There are other electrolyte drinks you can drink that will help you maintain and restore proper electrolyte levels. To see which electrolyte drink is best for you, do a search for the best electrolyte drinks and compare them, to find one that's best suited for you, your needs, and exercise.
The same goes for finding the best electrolyte powder as there are tons of different brands out there. Simply search for the best electrolyte powder, compare them, read reviews from others before selecting one that suits you.
How to stay hydrated is an important question. Equally important is which water is the best water to drink to ensure proper hydration. Should it be regular tap water, bottled water, or sparkling water, also referred to as carbonated or bubbly water. Or should I stick to mineral water?
Again this all depends on what you are doing, if you are simply drinking water to ensure proper water levels in your body throughout the day if you are exercising or doing any other type of activity. If you are enjoying a meal or special occasion. Another factor to take into account is the elements if you are in a hot or cold climate.
In short, regular water such as tap water will do you just fine. You can consume sparkling or carbonated water as well but in moderation. The same goes for mineral water to ensure you do not consume too much of the minerals.
The most important thing, and we cannot emphasize this enough is to ensure proper daily hydration. That you consume the correct amount of water on a daily basis. Many things in your daily life, issues or problems, big or small, could be caused by a simple thing such as not drinking enough water. This without you even knowing about it. So ensure you maintain healthy water consumption, every day of the week.
Water comprises two elements: Hydrogen and oxygen. There are three atoms in one molecule of water: 2 hydrogen (H) atoms and 1 oxygen (O) atom. Therefore, the chemical formula for water is H2O.
As a rule, yes. There isn't one single reason for this. Rather, there are multiple possible explanations.
First, when dehydrated even mildly, women tend to suffer worse consequences than men. For example, they will have more trouble focusing and concentrating as a result of dehydration, according to a 2010 study from The University of Connecticut.
Additionally, it's been found that women tend to sweat less during exercise than men, which results in females losing less water as a result of physical activity and, therefore, requiring less rehydration or hydration, in general.
Finally, women start with less water than men in the first place. In other words, while men have body compositions of approximately 60% water, women's bodies are only approximately 55% water at an average state.
There actually is such a thing as drinking too much water. It’s called hyponatremia.
In some cases, hyponatremia can result from an underlying medical condition. However, the most common cause of hyponatremia is drinking an excess of water. This causes sodium levels in your blood to be unusually low. Essentially, sodium becomes completely diluted by the excess water in the system. As a result of low sodium levels, the body's cells will start to swell, which can cause a range of medical conditions, some of which may be life-threatening.
Although hyponatremia does exist, it is quite rare. The more common water consumption-related issue is, again, dehydration — or not drinking enough water, as opposed to drinking too much.
It may surprise you that yes, caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee do count toward your daily intake of hydration. For a long time, health experts tut-tutted at drinking these beverages in place of water, but the myth that their diuretic effects run counter to hydration has been debunked.
At the same time, we would be remiss if we said that drinking a mug of coffee is exactly the same as drinking a glass of water. When it comes to overall nutrition and hydration benefits, water always wins.
Generally speaking, we advise staying away from sodas because of their lack of nutrition and high sugar content. At the same time, they can be hydrating, and some sources allow them to be included in daily water intake tallies. If you decide to do this, simply drink soda in moderation.
For the most part, yes, but beware. Not all juices are healthy for you, and it’s mostly because of their high sugar content. While juice can certainly count toward your daily water intake goal, aim to limit your juice consumption to one or two glasses at the most each day.
Yes. Again, you shouldn’t consume all of your daily water via sports drinks, but it can be hydrating. Furthermore, the electrolytes included in sports drinks are good for your body as outlined above in the section on exercise.
That’s what NASA says, anyway.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the most important strategy for finding life on other planets is to follow the water. It is the key to life, or as NASA calls it, the molecule of life.
Life … cannot exist without it. That goes for other planets and ours as well.
So, let’s take this concept to its logical conclusion. Have a look at whatever’s been ailing you in your everyday life — be it consistent fatigue, joint pain, anxiety, trouble focusing — and then consider how much you focus on the habit of drinking water.
Yes, these issues could be related to work stress, larger medical conditions, or other problems. But the law of parsimony (also known as Occam’s Razor) tells us that a more basic cause is often at the root of our woes. The principle states that “of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred.”
Drinking more water is one of the simplest things you can do. The benefits are extensive and well-documented. Therefore, the evidence is strong that if you only took the time to invest in your habit of consuming more water on a daily basis, you would reap a long list of benefits that go beyond even those of the best medicines money can buy.
Ready to give it a try? There’s no time like the present. Just grab a glass, and ‘say cheers’ to a long and happy life with healthy hydration.