WE ALL know that we need to drink more water, particularly in the hot summer months, when we sweat more and dehydration becomes a danger.
However, water is present in many other foods and liquids, so we may actually be getting enough without actually realising it.
Think of water as a nutrient your body needs that is present in liquids, plain water, and foods. All of these are essential daily to replace the large amounts of water lost each day.
Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health.
When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid losses are accentuated in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.
Here are a few reasons to make sure you’re drinking enough water or other fluids every day:
1. DRINKING WATER HELPS MAINTAIN THE BALANCE OF BODY FLUIDS. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.
Through the posterior pituitary gland, your brain communicates with your kidneys and tells it how much water to excrete as urine or hold onto for reserves.
When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. And unless you are taking medications that make you thirsty, you should listen to those cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk, coffee — anything but alcohol.
Alcohol interferes with the brain and kidney communication and causes excess excretion of fluids which can then lead to dehydration.
2. WATER CAN HELP CONTROL CALORIES. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher calorie beverages can certainly help.
Food with high water content tends to look larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.
3. WATER HELPS ENERGIZE MUSCLES. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer.
Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity.
These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise.
During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
4. WATER HELPS KEEP SKIN LOOKING GOOD. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. But don’t expect over-hydration to erase wrinkles or fine lines.
Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration.
But once you are adequately hydrated, the kidneys take over and excrete excess fluids.
You can also help “lock” moisture into your skin by using moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in.
5. WATER HELPS YOUR KIDNEYS. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine, explains Guest. Your kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding your body of toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate.
When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.
If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates.