Feeling your best begins with maximizing your nutrition in a way that will help you feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically. Of course, your diet plan and the foods that you eat do matter, but it’s equally as important to stay well hydrated.
While certain foods can help, the best practice is to drink plenty of water throughout the day, beginning first thing in the morning.
Knowing how much water to drink
In the past, the most common advice was to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day, or 64 ounces total. But today, that recommendation has changed. For men, it’s now roughly 13 cups per day while women should aim for at least nine cups daily. But those are simply guidelines—what’s most important is to listen to your own body and decipher what it needs.
When you get in tune with your body’s natural balance, you can start to identify when you need more fluids and, conversely, when you might already be well-hydrated. If you feel parched, tired, or start suffering from issues like headaches and have trouble concentrating, it may be a sign that you need to drink some more water.
It’s also essential to drink extra amounts of H2O when you’re working out, ill, or involved in activities in high heat—all three can quickly deplete fluids in the body. Still, going beyond the basics is always important to reap the many benefits that drinking water can provide.
The many health benefits of drinking water
There are numerous reasons that drinking water is so important, but it begins with the fact that, as humans, our bodies are made up of almost nothing but water. It’s what keeps us healthy and what keeps us working at our best, and without it numerous health problems can occur. Here are some of the benefits of staying hydrated every day.
Improved athletic performance
Drinking plenty of water helps to promote better physical performance. Athletes can lose as much as 10 percent of their water weight through nothing more than sweating; as well, our muscles are about 80 percent water. As a result, dehydration makes it much harder to get the most from your exercise routine.
Better brain function
Your brain simply won’t work as well as it should when you’re dehydrated. Research has found that even mild dehydration is enough to reduce overall cognitive function: A fluid loss of 1.3 percent is enough to lead to reduced moods and concentration in women, and a 1.59 percent loss of fluids triggered anxiety, mental fatigue, and reduced memory in men.
Studies have also found that dehydration can lead to increased frequency and severity of headaches and migraines. The same research also shows that drinking water can help reduce the intensity and duration of headaches when they do occur. For those who suffer frequent episodes, drinking water can help in a big way.
Fatigue is one of the key signs of dehydration; for those that feel constantly fatigued, it’s ideal to drink plenty of water before you start reaching for caffeine pick-me-ups (which can dehydrate you even further). Proper water intake alone can provide significant energy levels.
Reduced risk of kidney stones
Kidney stones are caused by increased mineral deposits in the urinary tract. And while a number of things can lead to their development, some studies suggest that by increasing the amount of water that you drink on a regular basis, you can help to prevent the recurrence of kidney stones. The theory says that the increased fluids will dilute the mineral buildup that would otherwise crystallize and create stones.
Constipation can also be relieved by a greater intake of water. In fact, some studies have found that dehydration can lead to an increased risk of constipation—whereas water can help dissolve fats and fiber within the intestinal tract, helping make it easier to go.
Just drinking 17 extra ounces of water a day can increase the body’s metabolic function in a significant way by increasing the number of calories you burn. As well, in many instances, feeling hungry might just be a sign of dehydration. Staying hydrated can help reduce hunger sensations and lead to less eating, thus helping you lose weight more effectively.
Some studies have found evidence that higher levels of fluid intake can translate to reduced risk of developing bladder cancer. When those fluids happen to be water, the reduction is even more profound. Experts suggest that this could be the case since more frequent urination helps remove the buildup of carcinogens in the bladder.
Even slight dehydration can lead to less pronounced feelings of well-being. Drinking proper amounts of water can help you feel happier and have a better overall state of mind.
Better temperature control
In particular, those working in the heat need to drink plenty of water in order to maintain proper body temperature and prevent things like heat stroke from occurring. The hotter it is outside, the more you’ll sweat, but drinking water replenishes those fluids.
It’s worth mentioning that those who are well hydrated may actually never even notice the numerous benefits listed above. That’s because proper hydration keeps the body working at its prime throughout the day. It’s also important to note that if you regularly experience things like headaches, difficulty urinating, and other symptoms of dehydration that you take the time to speak to your doctor. Water will certainly help ease the symptoms, but it’s vital to ensure that no underlying health conditions exist, either.
When to drink more water
Throughout the day, drinking water helps keep you hydrated and feeling better. But, there are some signs that you need to increase your water intake even more so because you’re becoming dehydrated. Remember these tips from the American Heart Association:
- Those who perspire more heavily may need to drink more water throughout the day than the normal guidelines.
- People suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, and other medical conditions may need to drink more water.
- Certain medications can act like diuretics, but drinking more water offsets that loss of fluids.
- Drink before you get thirsty—feeling thirsty is a sign that you’re already dehydrated. Preventing that from occurring maintains better health and wellness.
- Look at your urine. If you notice that it’s pale or clear, that’s a sign you’re well hydrated. Darker colored urine means that you need to drink more water.
- If you know you’ll be in the sun or working out heavily, hydrate before you get to the gym or before you step outside. This helps prepare your body for the natural loss of fluids that will happen from sweating.
- If you are in an intense heat situation and have suddenly stopped sweating, you’re probably overly dehydrated. Drinking water quickly is important.
Signs of dehydration
Along with the indicators listed above, it’s important to note some of the clear signs of dehydration. Here are the most obvious signs that you need to drink more water as soon as possible:
- Extreme thirst
- Lightheaded feeling or dizziness
- Dry mouth
A note on other drinks
It’s also important to note that staying hydrated begins with water. Many people assume that drinking anything liquid can help provide fluids. That’s true to a point, but consider some of the following:
- Sports drinks can help during high intensity workouts or during hot weather, but they’re often loaded with excess sugars and extra calories.
- Sodas and fruit juices are also filled with sugars, and can actually be harder for your stomach to digest if you’re dehydrated already.
- Caffeinated drinks (tea included) are actually diuretics, and can cause you to lose more fluids than you gain by drinking them.
Experiment with water infusions
After a while, water can get a little ho-hum. But there are ways to add flavor without going overboard on sugar. Try adding lemon, or put a few ginger slices in a cup of hot water for an afternoon pick-me-up. Other popular add-ins include:
- Fresh or frozen blueberries
- Cucumber slices
Most of these variations can be made by the glass or in large batches. Though, when making half a gallon or more, be sure to allow the flavors to infuse for at least two hours while being refrigerated.
You can also reach for a bottle of coconut water, which has even more vitamins and minerals, or make a refreshing spa water with Thrive Market’s sparkling peach-thyme recipe. Any way you choose to drink it, know that water is the building block of life and it’s vital that you get enough of it in its purest form. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and you’ll be feeling better than ever in no time.