Why you need to stay hydrated
Adult bodies are about 60% water (children range from 65 – 75%), so staying hydrated means maintaining the body’s equilibrium. Water is required for every chemical process in our body. It helps to metabolize our food, carries nutrients to and eliminates waste from our cells. It lubricates joints and insulates our brain and organs – acting as a shock absorber. Water also regulates body temperature and modulates hunger.
This is even more important when exercising heavily or when the weather (or exercise environment) is warm. According to medical research, dehydration by 2% of body mass impairs exercise performance and increases risk of injury, particularly in hot conditions. Dehydration increases heart rate, body temperature and histamine levels in the body, leading to inflammation and pain.
Chronic dehydration leads to fatigue, low mood, high blood pressure, constipation and even obesity (lack of fluids increases craving for sweet things because the liver uses water for release of glucose into the bloodstream).
How much water should you drink a day?
Health Canada advises us to drink water regularly: “It’s a calorie-free way to quench your thirst. Drink more water in hot weather or when you are very active.”
How much water you should drink every day depends on your specific body composition and exercise level. 8 glasses a day is a good rule of thumb because it is based on an average diet of 2,000 calories a day (one millilitre of water per calorie of intake is needed to metabolize the food we eat, so 2,000 calories equal 2,000ml or 8 glasses of water). Keep in mind that the hotter the environment or the harder you’re working out the more you will need to replenish your fluids.
Often thirst signals are mistaken for hunger. If you wish to lose weight, increasing your water intake will be helpful.
Signs of dehydration
Symptoms of dehydration include dark yellow urine and nausea after exercising. Chronic dehydration signs include dry eyes and mouth, bad breath, irritability, headache and cramps.
Tips for staying hydrated
Here are a few tips to staying well-hydrated and functioning optimally:
- Stay hydrated before, during and after you exercise – drink a glass of water before, during and after you work out (as a minimum).
- Sip sports drinks or coconut water during heavy or prolonged (1 hr +) workouts – sports drinks and coconut water contain electrolytes and carbohydrates to help replenish what’s lost through sweat and helps with recovery. However, limit sports drinks that contain high levels of sugar, salt or caffeine.
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables – they are natural water stores!
- Drink a glass of water before every meal – helps to control overeating.
- Make your water appealing by adding flavour – add a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber to your water. Try a few frozen berries, which adds colour and helps to keep the water cold.
- Choose sparkling water over sodas – sugary pop is a significant contributor to obesity.
- Drink some herbal tea – hot or iced, non-caffeinated teas increase your water intake.
- Keep a full water bottle with you – pack a water bottle wherever you go, as you’re more likely to drink water if it’s handy.
Stay hydrated – your body will thank you for it!
Wiley is a long-time North Vancouver resident. She works as a technical writer and is the current newsletter editor for the North Shore Writers’ Association. She spends her free time feeding her twin passions of creative writing and hiking. She recently discovered a potential third passion - the pottery studio at the Delbrook Community Recreation Centre.