Water is extremely important -- so much so that it makes up 60% of our bodies. If you don't drink enough water in any given day, you can feel the physical effects, including fatigue, irritability and headaches.
Dehydration can also impact your overall health and well being in more ways than you may think, leading to UTIs, digestion issues and even kidney issues. It turns out that water may be the cure to several common maladies, but some people still struggle to drink enough.
Here's just some of the amazing things drinking enough water can do for you, and how to tell if you're hydrated. And before you reach for a disposable plastic bottle, try one of these reusable bottles instead.
Benefits of drinking more water
1. You'll feel energized
Drinking more water gives you more energy to do anything from strenuous physical feats to staying awake at your desk after lunch. Many studies have shown that dehydration lowers athletic performance, making you feel sluggish and off your game. It can also cause you to feel tired or sleepy, so if you're getting enough sleep but can't keep your eyes open, you may need to just up your water intake.
One study suggested that being dehydrated hurts physical performance for any activity longer than thirty seconds. Even if you don't work out for hours on end, short flights of stairs or walking around the city you live in will feel much easier if you're hydrated.
2. You're less likely to get constipated
Drinking more water also helps with acute constipation (if you have a chronic condition the solution is likely more complex). Dehydration is a common culprit of slow-moving bowels, so your bathroom troubles may have a quick fix. The effect is not well understood, but drinking carbonated water specifically could help with an upset stomach.
While we're talking about the bathroom, you can lose a ton of water through your gastrointestinal tract. If you have diarrhea, you should drink extra water to ensure you stay hydrated and healthy.
3. You'll be in a better mood
Dehydration can disrupt your mood and cognitive functioning. While a little thirst won't make you brain-dead, one study showed that dehydrated people consistently had elevated fatigue, confusion and anger. The subjects also had issues with concentration, alertness, and short term memory.
4. Keep headaches at bay
Another unfortunate side effect of dehydration is headaches, specifically migraines. The effect is not especially well documented, but drinking water has been observed to alleviate the pain. In one study, consistently being more hydrated helped lower the duration and intensity of headaches.
Some researchers believe that certain migraines are caused by the brain shrinking away from the skull due to fluid loss. When you drink more water, the brain returns to its full size and the pain is lessened.
5. No more mindless snacking
Oftentimes we confuse hunger with thirst, and end up eating more when we don't actually need to. While you shouldn't try to use copious amounts of water as an appetite suppressant, hydrating before you eat can help you not exceed your energy needs. In one study, drinking water before a meal helped adults with obesity consume less. The effect is especially pronounced in older adults-- in another study, the group that drank water before eating lost 44% more weight in 12 weeks.
6. A lower resting heart rate
Even within the normal range of 60-100 beats per minute, a lower resting heart rate is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. When you're dehydrated, there's less blood circulating through your body, and your heart has to work harder to circulate it to all your extremities. If you don't drink enough water, your resting heart rate will be higher, so grab that bottle and give your heart a break.
7. Your kidneys will thank you
Your kidneys remove toxins from your blood and urine, and they need adequate water to work. Their function is impaired from dehydration, so if you're not getting enough fluids, toxins may be building up in your body. Forget fancy green juices and broth -- drinking enough water is one detox that actually works.
Hydration also helps prevent kidney stones and UTIs, two of the most painful conditions I know of. If that's not enough motivation to drink more water, I don't know what is.
How much water should I drink?
We've all heard the old adage of 8 glasses of water a day, but in reality everyone has differing hydration needs. Instead, doctors recommend to pay attention to the signals your body is sending.
Generally, you should try to drink before you're thirsty. By the time you feel parched, you're already slightly dehydrated. Another way to keep tabs is to check your urine. It should be a pale yellow color. If it's dark yellow, it's time to drink some more water.
If both of these don't give you enough clues, one more interesting test is to examine your skin elasticity. To do so, use two fingers to pinch your skin on your lower arm or abdomen. Hold it for a few seconds to form a tent-like shape, then let go. If it snaps quickly back into place, you're adequately hydrated. If it takes some time to return to its shape, you're probably dehydrated.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.