It may not seem like it, but our bodies are made up largely (60% or more) of water. It's required for healthy body functions such as digestion, transporting nutrients to cells, flushing out toxins, and maintaining normal body temperature.
Your body is constantly losing water. Fluid is lost when you breathe and sweat as well as through urine and stool. Therefore, water needs to be replenished consistently to ensure that you don't become dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, your body will have trouble working properly.
Here, we've collected just a few of the surprising ways that you can benefit from drinking water.
Water for Weight Loss
If weight loss is your goal, the first step is to make sure you're getting enough water. Water can contribute to easier weight loss in a variety of ways including those below.
- Getting enough water will improve your digestion. It may relieve constipation and help your intestines flush out unnecessary compounds.
- Water helps you feel full, so you won't take in as many calories. In fact, studies have shown that people who drink 16 ounces of water about 30 minutes before a meal generally take in around 13% fewer calories during that meal (Dennis EA, 2012).
- Drinking adequate water keeps you from putting on "water weight." If you don't take in enough water, your system will hold on to what it does have, causing your weight to be higher and your tissues to feel puffier. Drinking plenty of water allows your body to release what it doesn't need, often resulting in large weight loss numbers for people who suddenly start taking in enough fluids.
- Many people think they're hungry when they're actually thirsty. This can lead to extra calorie intake in an attempt to satisfy a non-existent hunger. If it's been less than 3 hours since you last ate, you are probably not hungry. Try having a glass of water instead of a snack.
- Being dehydrated can lead to sugar cravings. That's right: not only can thirst disguise itself as hunger, but it can specifically feel like a sugar craving. If you desire some simple sugars, take a drink of water first and then see how you feel.
For more on weight loss, check out "18 Proven Weight Loss Tips."
Water Can Help Prevent Headaches
If you're plagued with headaches, take a look at your water intake and consider whether dehydration might be playing a part.
Your brain is protected inside a sack of fluid. Dehydration can cause that fluid to dwindle, allowing your brain to push up against different areas of your skull, resulting in a headache.
Many people experience headaches ranging from mild to migraine-intensity when they are not properly hydrated. In fact, dehydration is a big cause of the headaches that people with hangovers often develop.
At the first sign of a headache, try drinking a few cups of water over about an hour's time. It may relieve the headache entirely or decrease its severity and length. And if you suffer from headaches routinely, make sure that you are getting enough water every day.
Drinking Plenty of Water Can Help Support Healthy Brain Function
The brain, like all organs in the body, requires adequate hydration to function properly. In fact, it is made up of around 80% water.
Being dehydrated can actually cause your brain to shrink, and then it requires more energy for it to accomplish the same task (Matthew J. Kempton, 2010). Drinking water can return your brain size to normal, but chronic dehydration may permanently affect some of your brain's functions. Scientists are still studying these potential effects.
Dehydration Causes Fatigue
Without adequate amounts of water in your system, your blood volume drops, and your heart has to work harder to deliver oxygen to all your tissues. This can result in muscle fatigue and general tiredness along with increased heart rate.
If you notice that you're tired a lot even though you feel that you're getting adequate rest, try upping your water intake.
Water Helps Regulate Body Temperature
Body temperature needs to be maintained within a fairly strict range for all bodily functions to be performed properly. One way the body regulates its temperature is by sweating when it gets too warm, which requires adequate water levels to be present. In fact, your body will prioritize temperature regulation over hydration. That means that, if you exert yourself, your body will first cool you down by sweating, possibly not leaving enough water in your system for other functions.
Being Well-Hydrated Improves your Physical Performance
Water is essential to good muscle performance. Without enough water in your system, your blood volume will decrease, making it difficult for enough oxygenated blood to reach your muscle tissues. Low oxygen leads to poorly functioning muscles and decreased performance.
Your muscles also need the proper electrolyte balance to function at peak level, and this balance is controlled partly by water.
Inadequate Hydration Can Cause Bad Breath
When you are dehydrated, your mouth tissues become dry. This is because your body doesn't have enough moisture to create adequate saliva. Your saliva has properties that fight bacteria, so a dry mouth can allow bad bugs to multiply, resulting in offensive breath.
Not having enough bacteria-fighting saliva in your mouth chronically can also lead to dental disease such as gingivitis.
Kidneys Need Water to Work Properly
One of the critical tasks of the kidneys is to remove waste from the body. Other functions these crucial organs help control are electrolyte balance and the production of hormones that affect many other bodily functions. Water aids the kidneys in their duties by diluting minerals so they can be used properly and by carrying waste products and bacteria out of body, and not having enough water can disrupt kidney function in several ways.
- If you don't drink enough water, you will be more susceptible to urinary tract infections. These infections have the potential to spread to the kidneys, which can be life-threatening.
- The incidence of kidney stones is also much higher in people who are chronically dehydrated. Kidney stones are painful and can contribute to kidney disease, dysfunction, and failure.
- When the kidneys don't have enough water to properly control electrolyte balance, the result can be seizures, muscle tremors, and even life-threatening loss of consciousness.
Dehydration Can Cause Joint Pain
Water keeps the cartilage within your joints plump and cushiony. Being dehydrated may be a big contributor to joint pain in many Americans.
Drinking enough water helps keep your cartilage "fluffy" so it can do its job of cushioning your joints so you experience less pain. As you get older, it's even more important to remain well-hydrated for good joint health.
Not Getting Enough Water Can Make Us Grumpy
Scientists have learned that being mildly dehydrated can result in mood disturbances, especially in women (Lawrence E. Armstrong, 2011). Being even a little bit low on water can cause grumpiness, and this can have an impact on all aspects of a person's life. If you're feeling a little out-of-sorts and can't pinpoint the reason, try having a glass of water and see if you feel better.
Reduce Your Cancer Risks by Drinking Enough Water
Various studies have shown lower rates of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal (Tang R, 1999) in those who drink adequate amounts of water. Bladder cancer risks decrease with increased water consumption, as well; probably because having plenty of water going through the bladder at all times dilutes cancer-causing agents and flushes them out faster.
So How Much Water Do You Need?
The issue of how much water a person should drink every day is a matter of some debate. Studies haven't produced repeatable results on this issue. Some commonly quoted amounts include:
- Eight 8-ounce cups per day (8 by 8).
- Half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces. So a 130-pound person should strive to drink 65 ounces of water per day.
- The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink around 3 liters of total beverages a day (around 102 ounces) and women drink 2.2 liters (about 75 ounces).
The truth is that many factors contribute to a person's daily water requirements. Climate, exercise level, age, weight, sex, and other health conditions can all impact how much water someone needs.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that, in general, if you drink enough fluids so that you don't often feel thirsty, you are probably getting an adequate amount.
Another way to monitor your hydration level is to evaluate your urine color. When you do this, watch your urine stream rather than looking at the urine in the toilet water, where it will be diluted and have an altered color.
The Mayo Clinic also states that you may get up to 20% of your daily fluid requirements through food sources. Fruits are an especially good food-based source of water.
Everything you drink contributes to your fluid totals, but the healthiest source for obtaining the majority of your fluid is probably water.
The Great Debate: Bottled or Tap?
According to most sources, bottled water is no safer than tap water. They are both regulated for safety unless you are drinking water from a well rather than a municipal source, in which case you should have your water tested for harmful substances and bacteria at least yearly.
If you live in an area where there is safe tap water, filtering it may be your best option for getting rid of some of its chemicals and avoiding the cost and potential environmental impact of consuming bottled water routinely.
Ideas for Increasing Your Water Consumption
Here are some tips for fitting more water into your daily routine:
- Spread your water intake out throughout the day, but drink some extra about 30 minutes before a meal to help you eat less.
- If you drink caffeinated beverages, you may wish to drink extra water to compensate because, as a diuretic, caffeine will pull some water out of your system.
- Eat foods that are high in moisture content to boost your water intake. Whole (one-ingredient, unprocessed, natural) foods have the highest water content, especially fruits and vegetables.
Consider healthy additives to make your water more interesting. Some of them can be added to water and chilled in a pitcher overnight, to make the flavor even stronger. Here are some great ideas:
- A squeeze of lemon or lime juice
- Splash of unsweetened juice such as cranberry
- Mint leaves
- Try making ice cubes out of juice and add them to your water for extra flavor.
Getting plenty of water may be one of the best ways for you to stay healthy, alert, strong, and fit.
- Dennis EA, D. A. (2012, Sept. 6). Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library: DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.235.
- Lawrence E. Armstrong, M. S. (2011, Nov. 9). Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women. Retrieved from jn.nutrition.org.
- Matthew J. Kempton, U. E. (2010, March 24). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Retrieved from onlinelibrary.wiley.com: DOI: 10.1002/hbm.20999.
- Tang R, W. J. (1999, Aug. 12). Physical activity, water intake and risk of colorectal cancer in Taiwan: a hospital-based case-control study. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.