Why is water so important, how much exactly do we need to drink, and what happens to our bodies if we don’t get enough water?
As a rule of thumb, most dietitians advise women to drink a minimum of two litres of water per day and men to drink three liters – but the truth is the amount of water you need is personal. It fluctuates based on age, health status, and activity level. The average person loses about 2.5L of water each day. We make up at least 20% of that loss with the food that we eat (more when we eat healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables). You need to drink enough water on a daily basis to replace what is lost - if you exercise more, you need more water. Staying properly hydrated throughout the day is not only essential to several body processes, it can also have a huge impact on your appetite, energy levels, and your mood.
Join the 9 Day Hydration Challenge and enjoy the many positive health benefits of improved hydration.
What happens when we don't drink enough water?
- Fatigue: Research demonstrates that even mild levels of dehydration leads to fatigue1 – so if you are constantly feeling tired or low energy, the solution may be as easy as drinking more water during the day! That said, if you are constantly tired or low energy it's also likely you aren't getting enough sleep - another critical element for maintaining a healthy body and brain.
- Mood and Cognitive Disturbances: Research has shown that even mild levels of dehydration impairs cognitive functioning and increases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The cognitive impacts of insufficient water intake include decreases in concentration and short-term memory, as well as significantly increased feelings of anxiousness and anxiety. Studies have also shown that increased water intake also supports improvements in attention and memory2 , which could help make you more productive during the day.
- Slowed Metabolism: Sufficient hydration can help regulate hunger, but the link between water and weight maintenance doesn’t stop there. Your metabolism is directly linked to water consumption. Carbohydrates are broken into their component molecules by water through a process called hydrolysis – insufficient water intake can lead to slowed metabolism and, in turn, to weight gain. In fact, one study found that drinking more water helped boost healthy men and women’s metabolic rate by up to 30%3 .
- Constipation: About 15-30% of Canadians suffer from chronic constipation, predisposing them to various colorectal health issues, hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, fecal incontinence, and causing physical duress and emotional stress. "Drinking enough water is key to preventing constipation", explains Registered Dietitian Jessica Tong, based out of the Medisys clinic in Calgary. “The fibre in foods absorbs water and, in so doing, increases stool bulk and increases gut motility, preventing constipation” Tong adds.
6 Ways To Ensure Healthy Hydration :
1. Avoid sugary beverages, drink water instead! Eggnog, hot chocolate, energy drinks, fruit juice, rum punch, sports drinks, pop and other beverages contain high amounts of sugar and Calories, and low amounts of fibre. One 500 mL glass of eggnog can contain up to 800 Calories and nearly 80 grams of sugar! One 10 oz glass of 100%-all-natural fruit juice contains more than a whole day's worth of free sugars, and about the same amount of sugar per oz as pop! If you love fruit, great, eat fruit – but skip on the fruit juice and drink pure water instead.
2. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee as well as alcohol are diuretics4 – meaning that instead of hydrating you they have the exact opposite effect. The more coffee and alcohol you consume, the more water you need to drink to help counterbalance the dehydrating effect. Diuretic substances dehydrate you by increasing the body’s production of urine. For example, consuming the equivalent of 50 grams of pure alcohol through drinking beer, wine, or mixed drinks results in the elimination from the body of about 1 litre of water as urine. This happens because alcohol blocks the release of the hormone needed for water reabsorption (antidiuretic hormone) – when you consume alcohol, instead of the kidneys reabsorbing the water, they excrete it. Caffeine has a similar diuretic effect so it’s important to consume caffeine in moderation as well.
3. Drink water before, during, and after your workout. Use the following guide:
4. Eat more water. In case you needed one more reason to love fresh fruits and raw vegetables, consider the fact that fruits and vegetables can provide 20% or more of your daily fluid needs. Check out the following chart:
• Strawberries - 91%
• Watermelon - 92%
• Papaya - 88%
• Broccoli - 90%
5. Make water part of your daily routine. Get in the habit of having a glass of water when you wake up and at each meal – keep a refillable water bottle with you at work and in the car to sip on throughout the day. If drinking plain water sounds like a bore to you, shake things up a bit. Add sliced lemon, fresh herbs, cucumber, pomegranate seeds, ginger, or frozen fruit to still or sparkling water. Try an iced herbal tea like peppermint, lavender, or hibiscus to quench your thirst. Keeping your water interesting and making water-drinking part of your daily routine are the best ways to make sure you stay hydrated.
6. Use the colour test. Not sure if you’re drinking enough water? Our kidneys react directly to our body’s water content – the colour of your urine is a good indicator for whether or not you are hydrated. If your urine is pale yellow, you are probably properly hydrated, but if your urine is bright, cloudy or dark yellow, drink up!
1. Armstrong, L. E., Et. Al (2012). Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. The Journal of nutrition, 142(2), 382-388. 2. Benton, D. (2011). Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis?. Nutrients, 3(5), 555-573. 3. Boschmann, M, Et. Al (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 88(12), 6015-6019. 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984246/
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