There’s not much in this world more refreshing than a tall, ice-cold glass of water. I don’t think there’s anyone alive that can deny that sometimes, a simple glass of water can be more satisfying than a cup of coffee or a can of soda. Despite this, too many of us don’t drink enough water on a daily basis. By depriving ourselves of the world’s most natural resource, we are continuously damaging our bodies. If you experience any of the following, you can improve your situation by starting with a glass of H2O.
1. Your Mouth is Dry
This seems pretty obvious, but the ramifications might not be so. Of course, any time you feel that sticky, nasty feeling in your mouth, you’d obviously reach for some sort of liquid. But sugary drinks are only a temporary solution to a larger problem. Drinking water lubricates the mucus membranes in your mouth and throat, which will continue to keep your mouth moist with saliva long after that first sip.
2. Your Skin is Dry
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so of course it needs to stay hydrated. In fact, dry skin is one of the earliest signs of full-on dehydration, which can lead to much larger problems. A lack of water means a lack of sweat, which leads to a body’s inability to wash away excess dirt and oil accumulated throughout the day. If you want to stave off breakouts, your first recourse should be to drink more water.
3. You’re Overly Thirsty
We went over dry mouth already, but thirst goes beyond a desert-like tongue. Anyone who’s ever had a hangover can tell you that, upon waking up, your body just can’t get enough water. Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, and drinking water sends “YES PLEASE!” signals to the brain until your fluid levels get back to baseline. Listen to what your body is telling you; it knows what it’s talking about!
4. Your Eyes Are Dry
By now it should be clear that drinking water affects more than just your mouth and throat. A lack of water intake leads to dry, bloodshot eyes (again, think of that last pounding hangover). Without water in the body,your tear ducts dry up. If you’re thinking “So what if I can’t cry?”, realize that this could cause much more harm to your eyes, especially if you wear contacts on a daily basis.
5. You Experience Joint Pain
Our cartilage and spinal discs are made up of about 80% water. This is an absolute necessity to keep our bones from grinding against each other with every step we take. By keeping your body hydrated, you ensure that your joints can absorb the shock of sudden movements, such as running, jumping, or falling awkwardly.
6. Your Muscle Mass Decreases
Your muscles, also, are comprised mostly of water. Obviously, less water in the body means less muscle mass. Drinking water before, during, and after a workout not only keeps you hydrated and comfortable, it also brings water to the right places in your body, and decreases the chance of developing inflammation and soreness related to exercise and weightlifting.
7. You Stay Sick Longer
Drinking water allows your body to continuously flush out toxins. Your organs work to filter our certain waste products like a machine, but if you don’t fuel the machine with water, it cannot work properly. What ends up happening in a dehydrated body is organs start to pull water from stored areas like your blood, which leads to a whole new set of problems.
8. You Feel Fatigued and Lethargic
As we just mentioned, when a body is dehydrated it “borrows” water from your blood. A lack of properly hydrated blood leads to a lack of oxygen being brought throughout the body. Of course, a lack of oxygen leads tosleepiness and outright fatigue. A lack of stamina means you”ll start to experience that 2PM crash earlier and earlier in your day (and remember, coffee won’t help in the long run).
9. You Experience Hunger Pangs
When you’re dehydrated, your body might start to think it needs some food. This happens throughout the day, and overnight when you wake up craving that midnight snack. However, eating food creates more work for your body, whereas drinking water purifies and your organs and supplies it with the fuel it needs to go through the other processes a body goes through.
10. You Experience Digestive Problems
We spoke before about the mucus in our mouth and throat, and how keeping hydrated allows the membrane to function correctly. This also applies to the entire digestive system. Without proper hydration, the amount and strength of mucus in the stomach lessens, allowing stomach acid to do some major damage to your insides. This leads to what we commonly refer to as heartburn and indigestion.
11. You Experience Constipation
Like we said, staying hydrated helps lubricate the digestive system. During the process of dehydration, the colon uses up the water that would have been used by the intestines in the next step of the digestive process. Without going into too much detail, I’ll let you figure out what a lack of lubricant in the intestines leads to.
12. You Experience Reduced Urination
Believe it or not, if you’re not taking a trip to the restroom 4-7 times a day, you’re probably not drinking enough water. And when you do go #1, it should be a light yellow or clear color. If it’s a darker yellow, your body is telling you it’s lacking proper hydration. In extreme cases, dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, in which case you should consult a doctor right away.
13. You Experience Premature Aging
The amount of water our bodies retain naturally decreases as we age. Obviously, what this means is that, as we get older, we should consciously increase our water intake. While premature aging is more evident on the outside, the damage it does to our insides will ultimately be felt over time. To decrease the risk of running your body raw, it’s important to continue to drink water throughout your lifetime.
14. You’re Reading This And Have Gotten This Far
I drink water all the time. I almost always have a glass or bottle of water next to me, whether I’m working, working out, or vegging out in front of the TV. If you clicked on this article, chances are you thought to yourself “Hm, I don’t think I drink enough water.” So if you don’t think you do, pour a glass right now! Don’t overdo it, of course, but if you’re not getting the recommended amount (which is higher than you’d think), there’s no harm in drinking more. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this typing has made me thirsty.
Water: How much should you drink every day?
Water is essential to good health, yet needs vary by individual. These guidelines can help ensure you drink enough fluids.
How much water should you drink each day? It’s a simple question with no easy answers. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but in truth, your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.
Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.
Functions of water in the body
Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.
Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.
How much water do you need?
Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.
What about the advice to drink 8 glasses a day?
Everyone has heard the advice, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” That’s about 1.9 liters, which isn’t that different from the Institute of Medicine recommendations. Although the “8 by 8” rule isn’t supported by hard evidence, it remains popular because it’s easy to remember. Just keep in mind that the rule should be re-framed as: “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day,” because all fluids count toward the daily total.
Factors that influence water needs
You may need to modify your total fluid intake depending on how active you are, the climate you live in, your health status, and if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
- Exercise. If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400 to 600 milliliters) of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour (for example, running a marathon) requires more fluid intake. How much additional fluid you need depends on how much you sweat during exercise, and the duration and type of exercise.
- Intense exercise. During long bouts of intense exercise, it’s best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia, which can be life-threatening. Also, continue to replace fluids after you’re finished exercising.
- Environment. Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid. Heated indoor air also can cause your skin to lose moisture during wintertime. Further, altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves.
- Illnesses or health conditions. When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. In these cases, you should drink more water. In some cases, your doctor may recommend oral rehydration solutions, such as Gatorade, Powerade or CeraLyte. You may also need increased fluid intake if you develop certain conditions, including bladder infections or urinary tract stones. On the other hand, some conditions, such as heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases, may impair excretion of water and even require that you limit your fluid intake.
- Pregnancy or breast-feeding. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. Large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups (2.3 liters) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 13 cups (3.1 liters ) of fluids a day.
Beyond the tap: Other sources of water
You don’t need to rely only on what you drink to meet your fluid needs. What you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are 90 percent or more water by weight.
In addition, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water. Even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages — such as coffee, tea or soda — can contribute, but these should not be a major portion of your daily total fluid intake. Water is still your best bet because it’s calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.
Staying safely hydrated
Generally, if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow — and measures about 6.3 cups (1.5 liters) or more a day if you were to keep track — your fluid intake is probably adequate. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake or have health issues, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you determine the amount of water that’s right for you.
To ward off dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, make water your beverage of choice. It’s also a good idea to:
- Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal
- Drink water before, during and after exercise
Although uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia. Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners who drink large amounts of water, are at higher risk of hyponatremia. In general, though, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average American diet.