You have probably heard people say that it is important to stay hydrated. Especially during the summer months, it can have a drastic effect on our health if we don't get plenty of fluids. Why is it important? What should we be drinking? And, how much should we be drinking?
Why Is It So Important To Stay Hydrated?
Besides the fact that every single cell in your body relies on water in one way or another to function properly, water is also vital in almost every bodily function. Your body just doesn’t work without water.
Here are some very important functions that your body needs water for:
Nervous system health – Just like your eyes, nose and mouth don’t like to be dry, neither does your brain, spinal cord or nerves. Staying hydrated helps support proper nervous system function.
Joint health – Your joints also rely on water to lubricate and support proper movement and cushioning.
Purifying the body – Whether it is from the environment, or the natural byproducts of your metabolism, the body needs to get rid of toxins and waste. Water is one of the primary vehicles that our body has for expelling these things.
Digestion – From beginning to end, our digestion relies in some way, on water. Saliva and the digestive fluids in the stomach all rely on water, and without proper moisture our intestines and colon would not be able to properly absorb nutrients or pass waste.
Sweating – During physical activity or just the hot summer months, sweating is a vital function for keeping our bodies at a healthy temperature. Without water, our bodies cannot form sweat and we would be in danger of overheating.
And if that doesn’t sell you on the importance of hydration, here are some of the potential effects of just mild dehydration:
exhaustion, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, constipation, high blood pressure, skin disorders (such as dermatitis and psoriasis) and joint pain or stiffness.
What Should We Be Drinking?
While water would seem to be the easy answer here, sometimes plain water is not enough. On hot days and during physical activity your body also loses electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride.
In the case of electrolyte depletion, drinking a lot of water without replacing electrolytes can actually make the situation worse. Plain water flushes electrolytes out of your body.
Sports drinks are a good choice for staying hydrated, but many of these products you find on the shelf contain chemical colorings and unhealthy sweeteners and preservatives. You want a product that has a good selection of electrolytes and simple carbohydrates (such as natural or fruit sugars) to help with fatigue.
A more natural alternative to the chemical laden big brand drinks are electrolyte powders, sports drink mixes and other healthier options that you can find online or at your local health food store.
What Should We Avoid?
You should definitely avoid anything with caffeine. This includes, but is not limited to, soda, energy drinks, coffee and tea. While it may seem refreshing at first, the caffeine in these beverages causes your body to lose even more water and you will end up dehydrating your body even further. You should also avoid alcohol for the same reason.
How Much Should We Drink?
The amount of liquids you need to drink per day will depend on a number of factors, such as your weight, activity level and the climate you live in.
A good rule of thumb though, is about half an once to an ounce of water for every pound you weigh. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you would want to drink between 90 and 180 ounces of water per day.
The hotter the climate or the more active you are, the higher in this range you will want to target for.
Another rough gauge you can use to determine if you are drinking enough fluids is the color of your urine. If it is clear or light yellow with little odor, you are likely well hydrated. The darker it is and the stronger the smell, the less hydrated you are.
It is also important to try to drink liquids regularly throughout the day. Not all at once. An important part of hydration is staying hydrated throughout the day.