Are you drinking enough water?
What has no fat, zero calories, and is highly nutritious? Water! One of the most important nutrients for survival just happens to be found everywhere on earth. How convenient? Water is found in the foods we eat and the air we breathe. It aids in metabolism, heat regulation, and the removal of toxic waste from the body. As your body loses water throughout the day, the effects of dehydration begin to occur. These negative effects can begin even before the sensation of thirst. Generally, if you feel thirst, you are already 2-3% dehydrated.
Your body is roughly 60% to 80% water. As that percentage decreases, discomfort, lethargy, loss of appetite, and fatigue begin to occur. During exercise, dehydration can lead to cardiac drift, causing a decrease in aerobic capacity. At just a 2% decrease in body weight due to water loss, there is a 10-20% reduction in VO2 max. This means your perception of work will be greater than the amount of work you are completing. This can be detrimental during an exercise regimen because the perception of increased work will lead to overconsumption of calories than your body really needs, therefore inhibiting weight loss.
Further stress on the cardiovascular system can occur due to a decrease in blood plasma volume. A well hydrated person will have less viscous, or less thick, blood than someone who is dehydrated. The thickening of blood that occurs in people who are dehydrated causes a decrease in stroke volume as well as an increased force production by the heart. This increased force causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure to push blood to the body’s peripherals. By staying hydrated, a beneficial chain reaction occurs. The blood becomes less thick, stroke volume increases, force production decreases, heart rate decreases, and ultimately blood pressure drops. Just by drinking a glass of water before bedtime, you can significantly minimize your risk of forming a blood clot.
Improving blood flow can also aid in the removal of waste. This removal improves both gut and skin health. As water enters the stomach, gastric emptying is promoted. This helps increase metabolism by pushing nutrients to the small intestine for absorption. As water continues to move through the gut, it aids in softening stool to be evacuated from the bowels. In the skin, an increased water consumption allows for increased blood flow to the skin. Through sweat, your body is able to release the residues of metabolism. Without enough water, these byproducts may still reach the skin, but in the form acne and rashes.
A simple way to check how hydrated you are is to observe the color of your urine. A clear, light yellow color indicates proper hydration while a darker yellow, on the other hand, indicates dehydration. A major difficulty faced in staying hydrated is found in the type of drink consumed. Many people believe that the consumption of any type of liquid will lead to adequate hydration. In reality, the type of fluid consumed matters more than you’d think. Hypertonic drinks, such as soda and juice, should be avoided when trying to stay hydrated. These drinks contain more solute than they do liquid, therefore upon consumption the body will remove water from itself into the lumen of the cell to reach an equilibrium. Essentially, it sends water from inside the cell to outside of it, therefore delaying the time to full hydration. Hypotonic solutions, on the other hand, contain more fluid than they do solute. These type of drinks, such as water, immediately restore hydration levels in the body because cells contain more solute than the fluid consumed, therefore to reach equilibrium, water is pushed into the cell rather out.
To reap the benefits of proper hydration, eight ounces of water should be consumed eight times a day. To reach this 8x8 goal, it may be convenient to carry a water bottle, sipping on it throughout the day and refilling once empty. Remember, sipping on water every 15 minutes can improve metabolism and boost gastric emptying. Staying hydrated drives your body to be beautiful both inside and out. So, drink up!
B.S. Biochemistry, Exercise Physiology
University of Miami
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