Everyone knows drinking enough water is good for you. But why is it good for you? How much should you be drinking per day? And how can you make sure you're getting enough?
How much should I be drinking per day?
Most people have heard that you should drink at least eight glasses of water per day, but in truth, there is no one standard. Everyone is built differently, has different health conditions, activity levels, metabolic rates and live in different climates. It is impossible to hold everyone to the same standard.
I've read that a more accurate measurement is to try drink at least half your body weight in pounds, in ounces of water. This makes sense, since the human body is roughly 50% to 70% water (that's a very rough estimate, since it varies from person to person). This method, however, does not take into account how much sweat and urine you lose in a day.
I'm sure the previously mentioned strategy would work just fine for most people, but my personal philosophy has usually been to listen to my body. There is a reason why people get thirsty — this is the body's way of saying that it needs to take in water. Many people often ignore the feeling though, usually because they're too busy doing other things. However, it is important to respond to the signals your body is giving you, as failing to drink water when you need it won't just leave you thirsty, but can also lead to fatigue, headaches and other more serious conditions. I explain why this happens further down in the post.
The easiest way to tell is to notice the color of your urine when you go to the bathroom. A healthy person's urine should be mostly light yellow or clear in color. If you find your urine is a dark shade of yellow, or smells quite strong, then you are not getting nearly the amount of water your body needs to function at its best. However, if you're very dehydrated, you may also notice dry skin, fatigue and perhaps even hunger. Many people confuse hunger with needing food, when in fact the body actually needs more water. So the next time you feel hungry between meals, try drinking a glass of water instead of immediately reaching for the snacks.
What does water do for your body?
As I mentioned before, the human body is at least about 50% water, and it is what keeps everything running smoothly. Water helps the body digest food, distribute nutrients, regulate body temperature, flush out the toxins, and keep the rest of the organs working.
Blood is roughly 80% water, muscle is about 75%, and the brain is as much as 90% percent water. This is why it is so important to always make sure your body is hydrated, because a deficiency of water slows all of your organs down. Even our lungs need fluid from our bodies to keep the air we breathe moist and comfortable to breathe.
What are the benefits of drinking enough water?
Keeping your body hydrated does more than keep your organs running. When everything is working right, it helps with your complexion by moisturizing the skin and increasing its elasticity, not to mention it helps flush out the toxins that contribute to acne and other dermatological problems. Water also helps you think better and work more efficiently by aiding the function of your brain and by keeping those neurons firing properly. Muscles and joints won't be so prone to cramps, sprains and aches if you drink enough water, as it helps keep these areas lubricated and limber.
Although a lot of people associate water with bloating, keeping the body hydrated actually helps you reduce weight by aiding metabolism. When your digestive tract and metabolism function efficiently, you get all the nutrients you need from food while also flushing out unwanted fats and toxins. Thus preventing putting on any unwanted weight. Drinking enough water also helps boost your energy level and immune system, which means you'll be less likely to get sick as your body is strong enough to fight off many bacteria and virus infections.
What happens when you don't drink enough water?
I mentioned before that failing to drink enough water may lead to fatigue, headaches, among other more serious ailments. I also mentioned that the brain is about 90% water. So it stands to reason that not having enough of water would cause your brain to function poorly. Fatigue and headaches may not sound like a big deal, but dehydration can also lead to poor bowel movements, muscle cramps, irregular blood pressure and kidney problems. In general, the body may start to suffer from a whole host of unpleasant side effects that could be easily remedied by simply taking in more water.
And everyone knows the worst consequence of dehydration is, of course, death.
How can I make sure I'm getting enough water in my diet?
It can be hard to remember to stop what you're doing several times throughout the day to pour yourself a glass of water. Instead, try always keeping a bottle or thermos of water with you. Your body absorbs water better if you spread it out throughout the day, instead of guzzling a glass every few hours. Keep the bottle on your work desk, where you can see it, and take a sip every now and then. When it's empty, refill it immediately.
Fruits and vegetables are also filled with water, so adding more of those into your diet not only replenishes the fluid in your body, but increases the amount of fiber you're consuming, which is also great for your digestive system.
If you're an active person, you may need more water than the average person, at least a glass or two. But don't forget that you're also losing electrolytes when you exercise. In this case, sports drinks come in handy (preferably the ones without sugar additives).
Is there such thing as drinking too much water?
Hyponatremia is what it's called, also known as water intoxication. It may be strange to think someone could consume enough water to drink themselves to death, but it is possible. Hyponatremia is when the kidneys can't flush out the water fast enough, which leads to the salt levels in the blood becoming too low, so the water enters the cells instead, causing them to swell. This may sound like simple water retention, but consuming too much water could cause the cells in the brain begin to swell as well. There is absolutely no room in a person's skull to accommodate a swollen brain, and that is when death becomes a likely possibility.
The symptoms of hyponatremia include fatigue, headaches, vomiting and confusion. More serious cases present symptoms of seizures, respiratory arrest and coma.
Although hyponatremia is possible, it requires taking in a large amount of water within a short amount of time without expelling it through sweat or urine. So unless you're actively consuming a lot of water in one sitting, or being forced to, you should be fine.
If you'd like to find out ways you can help those in need get access to clean drinking water, visit Water.org.