Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Hydration is the number one wellness item to pay attention to, yet many of us don't pay attention to it throughout the day (I say "us" because I definitely have a hard time paying attention to this...so I thought this article would help me focus on it more).
Our bodies are 60% water and hydration is essential to every cell. Generally, three days is the max a person can go without water - which is good to know if you're stranded somewhere. This is not something you should put your body through regularly. To maintain health, most people need 30-50 ounces of fluid every day (this number depends on your weight, climate, activity) to keep the body properly functioning through all bodily systems.
Let's review the warning signs and effects of dehydration, how proper hydration affects your mind and body, and ways to keep your body hydrated each and every day.
Warning Signs and Effects of Dehydration
Did you know that you can become dehydrated in cold, dry winter months? Not just the heat of summer, when you're sweating like crazy. You can become dehydrated any time, any season. So, what does dehydration look like?
You are likely quite familiar with the first sign of dehydration, feeling thirsty. If you forget to drink water (like I often do), especially if you have been exerting yourself, you may start to feel other, more serious, warning signs of dehydration:
Dry mouth (can cause bad breath and can even promote cavities)...chapped lips anyone?
weakness / fatigue / lack of energy
low blood pressure / sharp changes in blood pressure
lower blood volume (causing the heart to work harder to pump the reduced amount of blood and get enough oxygen to the cells)
rapid heart rate
urine that's dark in color
skin problems (including dry, cracked skin)
stiff joints that may eventually stick and not work properly
raised or otherwise unregulated body temperature
kidneys may stop working and cause toxins to build up in your body
swelling in the brain
shock / unresponsiveness
How Proper Hydration Affects Your Mind
Keeping the body properly hydrated affects every cell and system in your body, including your mind. Have you ever noticed after an intense workout where you sweat a lot, you might have had a slight impairment of memory or mood, or maybe a headache? Even mild dehydration can negatively affect your mind.
Staying hydrated helps to:
keep memory sharp
keep mood stable
keep motivation intact
think through problems more easily
How Proper Hydration Affects Your Body
Again, keeping the body properly hydrated affects every cell and system in your body. Here's how proper hydration (aka Water) can keep the physical body functioning:
Prevents dry mouth
Promotes cardiovascular health (the heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood)
Keeps your body cool: Your body releases heat by expanding blood vessels close to the skin’s surface (this is why your face gets red during exercise), resulting in more blood flow and more heat dissipated into the air. When you’re dehydrated, however, it takes a higher environmental temperature to trigger blood vessels to widen, so you stay hotter.
Helps muscles and joints work better: the water surrounding the cells of muscles helps to provide nutrients and remove waste efficiently, so you can perform better. Water also helps to lubricate joints.
Keeps skin supple
Helps cleanse the body inside and out: the kidneys use water to filter waste from the blood and excrete it via urine. Proper hydration can also help prevent urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Boosts your metabolic rate, helping you to burn calories more efficiently.
Increase satiety: Drinking water 30-minutes before meals can make you feel more full so that you eat fewer calories.
How to maintain proper hydration
The key to proper hydration is knowing how much water you should be drinking each day. If you wait until you're thirsty, you're already starting to get dehydrated. It is better to monitor the color of your urine, looking for a pale, clear color (as opposed to darker or more yellow). If you need something more measurable, work towards 30-50 ounces of fluid every day. Hydration is most effective if you work on it gradually, throughout the day by drinking water (best option) or juices and eating water-rich foods.
Not all foods will help you keep you hydrated. Foods that are dry and/or salty, like bread and salty chips, can make dehydration worse. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks as they act as a diuretic, causing excessive urination (and therefore a loss in fluids).
If you've got a hard workout coming up, you can try weighing yourself before and after exercise to determine how much you've lost through perspiration...for every pound of sweat you lose, you'll need to replenish with a pint of water. And, reserve sports drinks with electrolytes for intense, vigorous exercise in hot weather...but know they tend to be high in added sugars and calories. A healthier approach is to drink water throughout your workout. When you're done, eat a healthy snack, like orange slices (which also have a high percentage of water).
Take note of how you're feeling throughout the day. If you find that you are sluggish or can't focus, try drinking cold water - or maybe sparkling water. As you start to get more water into your system each day, you should find that you are starting to feel better overall.
Hydration won't solve all your health problems, but it is the foundation and a great place to start if you're looking to make some changes.
March is Nutrition Month
If you're looking for additional nutrition information, follow my series this month on Facebook and Instagram: Nutrition Month. For the whole month of March I'll be taking a look at the various areas where we can start to clean up our nutrition habits in order to find our #HealthiestSelf. Topics include: Clean Eating, Nutrition Facts Panels, Meal Planning, Meal Prep, Food Safety, Eat the Rainbow, Portion Control and Mindful Eating. I’ll be sharing information on these topics AND healthy recipes that I’ve found and tried.⠀