Something we tend to not pay attention to on a day to day basis, something as simple as lack of water consumption, can have very serious ramifications on our health. A recent study found that nearly a third of Americans are NOT drinking enough water, with a lot getting their H2O only when it’s contained in other beverages. Sports drinks with their electrolytes, coffee, soda and herbal tea all have water in them, but some also have a ton of sugar, which brings a whole host of other potential problems. Okay, so how much water should you drink per day? Well, that depends.
There is a consensus that people should drink around 8 glasses of water every day. That’s the standard. But like most standards, there are exceptions. It’s not a one size fits all solution. Certain factors come into play that may demand more water consumption or less, depending on the individual. Let’s explore those factors a bit more deeply.
The more physical activity you do either through a workout or through the demands of your job, the more water you’re going to need to replenish the body. About 60% of our body is composed of water. When we do any kind of physical activity, our bodies sweat. Not only that but when we breathe out, we’re releasing water too. That water needs to be replaced. A study of college football players by Amanda Carlson found that almost all of the players (98%!) were dehydrated at the beginning of the day, BEFORE practice.
And really, you’re only hurting yourself by denying body water and not just in the typical way. Your workout won’t be as good. You’ll feel lethargic from the get go. You’ll get dizzy easily. Your muscles don’t work as well without fluid. Think of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz needing his oil can. In contrast, a well-hydrated workout means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood, reducing the strain on that muscle.
The IOM (Institute of Medicine) has different daily recommendations when it comes to children. Between the ages of 4 and 8, boys & girls should drink about 5 cups per day. When they become 9-13 years old, that increases to about 7-8 cups a day and for the teen years (14-18) as much as 8-11 cups per day.
This is because developing minds need that fluid to grow along with the body. Both short-term memory and long-term memory can be hampered when the body doesn’t get enough water.
Warm climates mean you’re more likely to sweat out water than colder climates. Also, if you live at a higher altitude (over 8,200 feet), you need to up your water intake by as much as 1-2 additional glasses a day.
Okay, we’ve seen the downside to not drinking enough water. But is there an upside when you DO get enough water? You betcha! Give the body what it needs and it will make your life better in all sorts of ways.
- carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
- flushing bacteria from your bladder
- aiding digestion
- preventing constipation
- normalizing blood pressure
- stabilizing the heartbeat
- cushioning joints
- protecting organs and tissues
- regulating body temperature
- maintaining electrolyte (sodium) balance.
Not only that but it also helps us in other ways:
Drinking more water makes us feel more full, which in turn reduces the desire to eat to salve that hunger. A study also found that when having a glass of water when we first wake up reduces the amount of calories consumed during breakfast by 13%. In addition, the water boosts our system into activity, meaning you’ll be burning more calories over the course of the day than those who did not have that first glass in the morning.
A good anti-aging hack is to drink more water. A dehydrated body will pull water from other parts of our system to make sure that crucial functions work properly. That usually leaves our skin as the odd person out. Dry skin will result. Rough skin will result too. It will lose elasticity, causing premature sagging. Nothing will make you look older than you are than having dehydrated skin.
Kidney Stone Prevention
If you aren’t properly hydrated, then it is more likely for waste products to build up in the kidneys, as they aren’t getting washed away. Kidney stones form over time, adding to the mass the more waste products gather together. But if the system is cleaning out the kidney with fluid pushing them into the bladder and eventually expelling them, then it’s less likely to build up sufficiently to create a stone.
There are many different types of headaches and various causes for each. One factor in getting tension headaches is the lack of proper hydration. Getting enough water can make a headache (and sometimes even migraines) go away in as little time as 30 minutes.
There are other benefits as well, but there is one danger that we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up. You can have too much of a good thing here. While getting enough is important and most of us are not getting enough. Overcompensation has problems of its own too. There is such a thing as water intoxication. Remember, our bodies were designed to function in balance, so getting out of balance has consequences too. More water means less sodium in our blood or even a diluting of other vital fluids inside our bodies. So, while you making sure that your getting enough water, keep an eye out that you aren’t getting too much.
This means looking in the toilet after you urinate. The totally clear liquid is a sign that you’re overhydrated. If it’s a dark yellow color, then you need more water. What you want is urine with a light tinge of yellow in it. If you have a difficult time getting that result and you’re properly hydrating yourself, seek medical attention. Something could be wrong, like a urinary tract infection. If you suspect this to be the case, get tested.