Humans lose water throughout the day via breathing, perspiration, and waste. As little as a 2% reduction in hydration begins to impair every physiological function. In order for the body to function optimally, this water needs to be replaced by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water.
Water plays a crucial role in every physiological function in the body. It helps flush toxins out of vital organs and carries nutrients from food to cells for energy. Water also regulates hormones, body temperature, and the digestive process. Joints, skin, and internal organs depend on water to function properly.
Physical symptoms may indicate dehydration. When someone is properly hydrated, urine should be clear and relatively odor-free. Dark yellow or cloudy urine is often a sign of dehydration. Another sign of dehydration is thirst. If a person drinks water only when thirsty, she may not be drinking enough. Additional signs of dehydration include: dry mouth, headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, inability to concentrate, dizziness, and nausea.
How much water a person needs to drink per day depends on several factors, including exercise, the environment, injury or illness, and pregnancy or breast feeding. Food contributes roughly 20% to overall hydration needs. Although specific recommendations vary among organizations, it is generally accepted that if an adult consumes two liters or a little more than eight cups of water daily in addition to a normal diet, this satisfies hydration needs. Instances where more water may need to be consumed include before, during, and after exercise–especially when exercising in hot weather.
Sports drinks that contain sodium and potassium (electrolytes) are generally only necessary when exercising vigorously for an hour or longer. Beware of the high caloric count in sports drinks. Even drinks that claim to have 10 calories per serving often have two or three servings per bottle.
Ways to increase water intake:
- Carry a large water bottle and drink from it throughout the day.
- Drink a full glass of water with each meal or snack.
- Drink a full glass of water whenever taking medication.
- Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
- Add a slice of lemon, lime, or a handful of raspberries to water to add a little flavor.
- When drinking juice, fill half of the glass with juice and top it off with water.