Happy Hydration – the importance of drinking water

There are many simple things we can do to improve our lifestyle and health. Getting enough sleep, eating our 5 greens a day and cutting down on our alcohol intake are all things that don’t take much, but make a big difference to our health. Another thing that is really simple and works wonders for our health and appearance is drinking enough water. Many know that we should be drinking more water and in fact, ‘2 liters a day’ has become something of a health mantra for many people – a tangible goal to aim for.
But can there really be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the amount of water we, as individuals, should drink every day? And do we fully understand why water is so important along with what the impacts are on our body if we don’t get enough? To get the facts on hydration we had a little chat with Infruition and here is what we got out of it…

How much water do we actually need?
A recent UK study showed that a staggering 89% of the population is not drinking enough water to maintain healthy hydration levels.  In fact, 13% of women, and 20% of men admitted that they drink no water at all.

So what is the reason for this? There isn’t one simple answer to this question but a common mistake many people make is to confuse the symptoms of thirst for hunger, which leads us to eat rather than rehydrate. Another one is that it naturally seems logical to wait until we are thirsty before we reach for the bottle of water. However, according to In fruition evidence suggests that our thirst sensation doesn’t actually occur until we are 1 – 2% dehydrated, and by this time it is certain to already be having a negative impact on how our body and mind perform. Additionally, Infruition tells us that it’s also known that our thirst sensations start to diminish as we age, which consequentially means that we may not register thirst until having reached a certain level of dehydration.
It’s quite confusing to not just rely on our thirst for signaling that we need more water, but there are a few alternatives to help us detect it. The best way we can monitor our hydration status is by checking the color of our urine, Infruition tells us. It should be a pale straw color, which can be maintained by sipping water regularly over the course of the day. Also, it’s 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 liters a day” figure, as this takes no account of individuality or activity levels, Infruition explains.  Instead, we should be using our own body 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-colored urine. However, the impact in the body of 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 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 significantly 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 the 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, causing hard stools that are difficult to pass and 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 or use this app for this very purpose!
·      Switching your tea or coffee for herbal teas is a fantastic way to up your fluid intake, especially during the winter months. Peppermint, fennel, and ginger are all good options, but most importantly choose the one you enjoy and will want to drink more of!
·      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 flavor 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 refreshing and delicious antioxidant hit with skin-boosting properties.
2. Grapefruit & rosemary- this 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 – fantastic immune-boosting water, that is also great for an unsettled stomach as ginger has wonderful anti-nausea properties.

Cheers to happy hydration & good health!