Let’s address the most important nutrient in your diet. That’s water! If you’re concerned about your physical and mental wellness, losing weight, and fitness performance, be mindful of your water intake.
Consuming enough fluids is part of your self-care plan and a critical part of taking responsibility for your own health.
All of the major systems in your body depend on water to function correctly. Water transports nutrients to your cells, eliminates waste products, and regulates your body temperature.
You can live for weeks without food, but you can’t live for more than a few days without water. Drinking an appropriate amount of water is vital to your wellness—both mentally and physically.
Detrimental Health Effects of Dehydration
If you’re not drinking enough fluids, your body detects that you’re dehydrated through a complex hormonal system. This causes you to feel thirsty. But by this time, you’re already dehydrated.
Even mild dehydration causes noticeable symptoms like:
- Dry mouth
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor mood
- Muscle cramping
- Inability to sweat
- Decreased urine output
Becoming Mindful About Drinking Enough Water
Listen to your body. It will remind you to consume fluids if you’re mindful of the symptoms of dehydration. Your sensation of thirst is one helpful reminder to drink more fluids. But in our busy lives, we often get distracted and fail to respond adequately to the feeling of thirst.
This is why it’s important to be proactive with your water intake. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty or other symptoms arise. At this point, you’re already suffering the consequences of being dehydrated.
If you want to feel full of energy, achieve optimal health, and perform at your best, you need to be mindful of consuming enough water.
To stay hydrated, begin your day by drinking a large glass of water. Then, keep a water bottle with you and make it a habit to drink throughout your day.
Most of us don’t get enough water. With our busy lives, we often don’t remember to stop and drink a glass of water. Most people exist in a continuous state of dehydration and aren’t operating at peak health and performance. Some studies say up to 75% of people live in a chronic state of dehydration.
The World Health Organization has noted that there’s a lack of medical attention on the benefits of hydration levels. They call for further studies to determine “the contribution of fluids to longer, healthier, and more productive lives.”
How You Can Become Dehydrated
About two-thirds of your body is water. But you’re continually expelling water. You lose water every time you breathe (as you exhale, you expel water vapor), sweat, and go to the bathroom. So it’s important to replenish that water loss.
Several factors influence your personal water needs. The two main factors are:
- The temperature and humidity level in your environment
- How much water you lose through physical activity (sweating and exhaling water vapor)
When You Need to Drink Additional Water
It’s important to drink additional water under these circumstances:
- When the temperature is hot
- When you’re exercising
- When you’re running a fever
- If you have diarrhea or are vomiting
- If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding
Any of the situations can cause you to quickly become dehydrated. At these times, drink extra water.
How Much Water Do You Need?
There’s no consensus on how much water to drink each day. It’s difficult to give specific recommendations because each person lives in different environmental conditions and has varying amounts of physical activity.
As a general guide to knowing how much fluids you need, consider the recommendation from The Institute of Medicine. They suggest an adequate daily fluid intake for men is roughly 13 cups (3 liters). For women, they recommend about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total fluids a day. Each cup is 8 ounces.
Water’s Role in Weight Loss
Staying well hydrated can help you lose weight. If you’re dehydrated, you may be misinterpreting your body’s signals to drink more water, and instead think that you’re hungry for food. If you need to lose weight, be sure to get plenty of water in your day so that you lessen hunger pangs.
When you’re well hydrated, you won’t be as likely to over-eat. Drink a glass of water before each meal so you’ll feel full and won’t eat as much food.
And for an additional weight-loss strategy, choose foods that have a high water content. This will make you feel full and you’ll eat less calories overall.
The Best Sources for Fluids
Your fluid needs are met through drinking water and other beverages, as well as eating foods that are high in water content like fruits, vegetables, and broth-based soups.
For your beverage intake, make healthy choices. Consider these zero-calorie or low-calorie drinks:
- Sparkling water or club soda
- Herbal tea
- Water flavored with a spritz of lemon or lime
- Decaf coffee
- Unsweetened soy milk or nut milks
- Fresh vegetable juices
To lose weight and improve your overall health, drink beverages that don’t contain added sugar. Avoid excessive amounts of fruit juices which also contain high levels or sugar and calories.