A woman drinking water after doing sports

The importance of hydration: Why drinking enough water is vital for good health

Do you ever have days when you don’t quite feel like yourself? Feeling run down? Lacking energy? Have a bit of a headache? You might be dehydrated. So before you reach for the over-the-counter medication, drink a glass or two of water first. It is likely all you need to start feeling better.

Do you drink enough water each day? Many Canadians don’t. In fact, many people underestimate the important role water plays in keeping us healthy.

What is stopping us from drinking water? Some people simply don’t like it. Others fail to replace the water they lose during exercise. But perhaps the biggest issue is people replacing water with sweetened fruit juices and sugary sodas.

To make matters worse, people have a tendency to drink even less water during the winter. During the summer, people drink water to stay cool, but in the winter, people tend to shy away from cold drinks, especially water.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand the benefits of regularly consuming enough fluids.

How much water should I drink?

We have all heard that we should drink eight to 10 glasses of water per day. This is a general guideline, but other factors also come into play, such as body weight and activity level.

A report on Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest the following guidelines for water intake:

“General recommendations for women [are] approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water – from all beverages and foods – each day, and [for] men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water.”

Many people don’t realize they receive about 20% of their daily water intake from food. This means you do not have to drink all of the water you should be consuming. Fruits and vegetables contain a high percentage of water, so eating more of these items will help you increase your water intake.

The importance of keeping hydrated

Why do we need to drink so much water?

First, 60% of our bodies are composed of water. Also, our brains are 85% water. Our body needs it to function properly. It is the substance that keeps us going and keeps all the parts functioning in unison.

Failure to consume enough water can impact our ability to function properly, concentrate and perform at work or in the classroom.

Water also plays a large role in the body’s ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients, and it also helps to detoxify the kidneys and liver.

Further, an insufficient amount of water has long-term effects. Failure to drink enough water over a prolonged period of time can lead to various medical issues, such as chronic headaches, fatigue, joint pain and even high blood pressure and kidney disease.

How do I know if I am dehydrated?

How do you know if you are dehydrated? Here are some of the most common signs:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Thirst
  • Lack of energy or tiredness
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Feeling lightheaded (especially during exercise)

These can all be signs that you are mildly dehydrated. A couple of glasses of water should be all you need to feel better. If you are thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. Drink a glass of water.

Extreme cases of dehydration have more severe repercussions. Symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Little or no urination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor. Depending on your condition, you may require a rehydration solution or intravenous fluids to help you get your fluid levels back to normal.

Who is at risk?

Certain groups of people are at risk of becoming dehydrated, including infants, seniors, people with chronic illnesses, athletes, and people who work outdoors or in high-temperature environments.

If you fall into one of these categories, ensuring you drink the recommended amount of water each day is extremely important.

Eight tips for staying hydrated

Keeping hydrated is a balancing act. When your water intake is the same as what your body expels, your body is balanced and hydrated. However, maintaining the proper balance can be a challenge, and your ability to stay hydrated will vary based on your physical makeup and activity level.

Here are some tips to help you keep hydrated:

  1. Track your water intake: This is one of the sure-fire ways to get the recommended eight to 10 glasses of water per day
  2. Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up
  3. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, and include soup as part of your diet
  4. Drink a glass of water with every meal
  5. Drink a glass of water before you work out, during your workout and after you finish
  6. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and sip water throughout the day
  7. Increase your water intake if you are outdoors in warm weather or performing strenuous activities
  8. Flavour your water to make it more appealing (for example,  by adding a slice of lemon or orange)

Water is a basic need for all living things, so make sure you drink enough of it throughout the day. When you do, you will feel better, perform better and will be less likely to get sick.