Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!
A healthy diet and exercise habits are widely celebrated core aspects of “wellness”, however there’s one often underappreciated piece to the healthy living puzzle; making sure to drink enough water. “Stay hydrated!” is probably a sentiment you’ve been hearing since childhood, but did you know that 75% of American adults are chronically dehydrated? Even drinking your recommended 8 glasses a day can be offset by caffeine, sodium, and alcohol consumption; so basically, most of the ways we stay fed and social in modern society! You may be wondering, “So what? It’s just water.” However, proper hydration plays a key role in health processes that extend far past just feeling thirsty. Let’s discuss a few ways that water affects your body processes.
Water Impacts Your Mental Health
First off, it’s important to note that our bodies are mostly made up of water. The average adult body is about 60% water, but important organs like our brains are actually even more fluid. A dehydrated brain is not to be taken lightly, as it can cause or aggravate symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and trouble focusing. Even slight dehydration has proven to cause increased effort on behalf of the brain during cognitive tasks; meaning it’s harder to complete the task and puts more strain on your noggin. So, drinking water is key if you’re wanting to stay sharp.
Staying Hydrated Keeps Your Organs Healthy
Maintaining proper hydration is also important when it comes to your other organ systems. Since our blood is (not surprisingly) mostly water, lower fluid levels make for lower overall fluid volume within the body. This means that blood pressure lowers, and not in a good way. Without the blood flow they need, our organs won’t receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly.
This is especially important when it comes to the kidneys, as they filter the waste our bodies accumulate. Without blood flow, it’s harder to do their job; additionally, without water, they can’t release that waste out of the body through our urine. That accumulation of waste can lead to harmful acid and protein buildup that can lead to long term damage.
Proper Water Intake Affects Your Fitness Performance
Chances are, you already know about the importance of exercise for a healthy body; but did you know being dehydrated can actually hinder your fitness goals? Since our body maintains the temperature and other crucial functions by releasing sweat, exercise can certainly contribute to overall dehydration if you don’t drink water to replace those fluids. More importantly though, without that water being replaced, you put yourself at risk for performance issues and tougher recovery.
Even a 2% loss in fluids can result in denser blood, which the heart has to work harder to pump, leading to some extra fatigue that could slow you down on your run. Also, since water plays a key role in muscle contractions and cell regeneration, soreness levels can be impacted by hydration. After your next leg day, make sure you hydrate properly to lessen the chance of spending the next day wincing every time you need to sit!
Clearly, hydration is much more important than just fighting thirst. So, what are some ways you can make sure you’re getting enough water? Well, in addition to drinking, you can actually eat your water too! Key food groups like fruits and vegetables contain a high fluid volume, while dishes like soups and salads provide a lot of the moisture your body craves.
Making sure you always have a water bottle on hand or keeping a pitcher of fruit-infused water in your fridge can help make sure you’re making your body, and your tastebuds, happy. Avoiding sugary drinks is a key player when it comes to improving your health, so replacing them with flavored water makes sense for reasons extending even beyond hydration. While it’s good to shoot for at least half a gallon of water a day, drinking more certainly won’t hurt, so drink up!