The human body needs three things to survive: oxygen, water and food. Proper hydration is thus key to our survival and its also key to good health. The human body is composed of roughly 60% water, and it takes constant maintenance to maintain this healthy percentage.
Benefits of Water
Water is crucial for all the body’s cells and organs. Your body requires water to regulate its temperature, lubricate it joints, remove and dilute waste and allow your cells to reproduce. Being properly hydrated also makes you feel more energized, powerful and alert. It also allows your body to recover quicker and feel well.
How Much and When to Drink
The debate of exactly how much to drink is ongoing. It is safe to say that if you experience signs of dehydration then you are not drinking enough water. See below for some common signs of dehydration:
- Darker Urine
- Little or no Urine
- Dry mouth
If you experience any of the above symptoms then it may be wise to increase your fluid intake. The classic thought of drinking 8 glasses of water 8 times a day is a good starting point and is easy to remember but may not be sufficient hydration for everybody. Depending on each persons own body as well as their activity level, everyone’s precise hydration needs will be different. According to the Mayo Clinic:
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.
Even the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation could be low however if you are working out intensely. FamilyDoctor.org does an excellent job summing up how much water to drink before, during and after exercise:
The American Council on Exercise has suggested the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:
- Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising
- Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
- Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
- Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise
Athletes may want to measure how much fluid they lose during exercise to get a more specific measurement of how much water to drink (16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost).
Water is not the only way to stay hydrated. Sports Drink (although some are excessively high in sugar) and some foods can be an excellent source of water as well as provide your body with essential electrolytes. Coconut water is a good Sports Drink substitute that is packed full of electrolytes without all the added processed sugars. Watermelon and bananas are also good fruits for remaining hydrated. Watermelon mostly consists of water and bananas are full of the electrolyte potassium.
Beware that it is possible to have too much water, Hyponatremia is a rare condition that results from over hydration. It occurs when you consume so many liquids that you dilute the sodium levels in your body. This causes your cells to swell with water and not function correctly and can lead to swelling of the extremities, a comma and even possible death. Typically this is not a condition that the average Joe needs to be concerned with; extreme endurance athletes are more susceptible to it.