Hydration as we know, is a fundamental part of leading a healthy life. I have no doubt you have been told how important it is to drink plenty of water and that staying hydrated is essential for good health. Whilst that is all true, do you really know the reasons why hydration is so important? Well, let me tell you…
Water accounts for more than 60% of our body make-up and plays an integral role in the way our body functions, both physiologically and biomechanically. Water plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, blood pressure, pH levels and glucose concentration within the body. A study in 2004 from The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) stated:
“The largest single constituent of the human body, water, is
essential for cellular homeostasis and life. It provides the
solvent for biochemical reactions, is the medium for mate-
rial transport, and has unique physical properties (high
specific heat) to absorb metabolic heat. Water is essential to
maintain vascular volume, to support the supply of nutrients
to tissues, and to remove waste via the cardiovascular sys-
tem and renal and hepatic clearance. Body water deficits
challenge the ability of the body to maintain homeostasis
during perturbations (e.g., sickness, physical exercise, or
climatic stress) and can impact function and health. Total
water intake includes drinking water, water in other bever-
ages, and water (moisture) in food.”
Good hydration has been shown to reduce the risk of constipation, exercise induced asthma hyperglycemia in diabetics, and is associated with a reduction in urinary tract infections, hypertension and fatal coronary heart disease, to name a few.
How much water do I need?
There are many factors which can dictate an individuals recommended water intake, such as gender, age, activity output, social environment, genetic background, cultural backgrounds etc. however the estimated average requirements for men is 3.5L a day, and for women is 2.5L a day. Now this may seem like a LOT of water to get through each and every day, so it is a good idea to see what this amount looks like in terms of bottles/ cups. Make sure you have a cup or bottle on hand throughout the day and try to get close to that intake.
How does exercise affect my hydration?
The more physical activity we engage in, the more water we need to effectively hydrate our body. Insufficient water intake whilst participating in an endurance based, strenuous sport or exercise can lead to dehydration. Dehydration has a negative impact on exercise performance and can cause an increased strain on the cardiovascular system (circulation), increase heat strain (core body temperature), and alter central nervous system function and metabolic function. Indicating that dehydration will have adverse effects on exercise performance when associated with higher core temperatures, heart rates, and increased physical exertion. So if you want to put yourself in the best position to get the most out of your exercise, keep hydrated!
How do I stay hydrated?
Hydrate. We easily mistake thirst for hunger, that is, we think we're hungry, but our body is actually dehydrated, so ensure you have a drink bottle on your desk or at hand, and make sure you are drinking from it. Aim to fill up at lunch time and again before leaving work. A glass is another great drinking tool, just be sure to head to the water cooler at regular intervals throughout the day. If drinking water is a bit of a struggle for you, try flavouring your water. Certain fruits and herbs can help keep things interesting, mint and lemon is a great combination with many great health benefits. Coconut water is also another great way to incease hydration along with increasing essential electroltyes in the body.