Happy Hydration – the importance of drinking water

There are many simple things we can do to improve our health. Getting enough sleep, eating our 5 a day and cutting down on our alcohol intake are all things that don’t a huge effort, but make a big difference to our health. There is one other, simple thing that works wonders for our health and our appearance. And that’s drinking enough water! According to several surveys, only 1 in 10 people in the UK consume enough water per day to be considered hydrated! And apart from drinking enough, do we fully understand why water is so important for us? To get our facts straight, we had a little chat with Infruition and here is what we got from it…

How much water do we actually need?

Drinking ‘2 litres a day’ has become something of a health mantra for many. It’s an achievable goal to aim for. But do we accomplish this every day? A common mistake many people make is to confuse the symptoms of thirst for hunger. This leads us to eat rather than rehydrate. Another one is waiting until we feel thirsty before hydrating. According to Infruition, evidence suggests that our thirst sensation doesn’t actually occur until we are 1 – 2% dehydrated. By this time it will have affected the performance of our body and mind.

This means our thirst signals are not as reliable as we think. This means we should look to another bodily signal instead:

The colour of our urine. It should be a pale straw colour. Anything dark and you know you need hydrating. It’s also important to be mindful of the fact that we need to drink more when exercising, or in hot and humid conditions to compensate for additional fluid loss. We should try not to fixate on the “2 litres a day” figure, as this does not take into consideration our individuality or activity levels.  Instead, we should be using our own bodies as a guide.

Why is hydration so important?

Some of the most apparent and well-recognized signals of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, mild headaches, and dark-coloured urine. However, the impact on the body from not drinking enough water goes far beyond these telltale signs. Here are a few things that can be affected:

Energy & Mood

Our brains are composed of 85% water, and studies have shown that even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on mood, energy levels, and mental performance. Researchers at the University of Connecticut in the U.S found that mild dehydration in study participants led to alterations in mood, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. These findings, published in The Journal of Nutrition were found to be more pronounced in women than in men (take note, ladies!); and occurred both at rest and during exercise.

Reduced Endurance & Muscle Fatigue

Dehydration can have a significant impact on athletic performance. Under relatively mild levels of dehydration, individuals participating in rigorous physical activity were shown to display reduced endurance, increased fatigue, and reduced motivation. This highlights the importance of being well hydrated before exercise, and not just to replenish lost fluids post exertion. Muscle soreness, cramping, and longer recovery times can also occur as a result of not drinking enough water before and throughout exercising.

Water Retention

Water is absolutely vital for the efficient functioning of all our body systems including our cardiovascular, nervous and digestive systems. If water intake is insufficient, the body will compensate by holding onto fluid in its cells, resulting in bloating and discomfort associated with water retention. Paradoxically, drinking more water, not less, can eliminate fluid retention!

Sluggish Digestion

Water is essential for keeping things flowing through the gastrointestinal tract. When we don’t get enough fluid, the body will compensate by pulling water from stools to maintain hydration. And we’re sorry to say but this is a contributing factor to causing hard stools that are difficult to pass, sometimes resulting in constipation! We also need water to produce the digestive juices that break down our food. Without these, a variety of digestive problems can result including gas, bloating, discomfort and nausea.

Good ways to increase your water intake

If you find it difficult to drink enough water, here are a few tips:
·      Keep a bottle of water in front of you on your desk at work. If it’s in your line of vision, you are less likely to forget. You could even set a few alerts on your phone throughout the day to remind yourself!
·      Switching your tea or coffee for herbal teas. This is a fantastic way to up your fluid intake, especially during the winter months.
·      Eat your water. Cucumber, lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, and watermelon are all at least 90% water, so pack your diet with these juicy foods.
·      Fruit-infused water. By infusing your water with fresh fruits and herbs you can add flavour to your water, and get the added boost of vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients at the same time. With this in mind, here are 4 health-boosting fruit-infusion combinations:
1. Strawberry, lime & cucumber. For a delicious antioxidant hit with skin-boosting properties.
2. Grapefruit & Rosemary. This refreshing combination features grapefruit, which is packed with vitamin C, together with rosemary, which contains compounds that may enhance memory and concentration.
3. Pineapple, fennel & mint. These ingredients all support a healthy digestive system, making this a perfect post-meal combination.
4. Lemon & ginger. Classic immune-boosting water. It’s also great for an unsettled stomach as ginger has wonderful anti-nausea properties.

Cheers to happy hydration & good health!