Drinking is something that everybody does, what most of us don’t do is drink enough, or drink the right things.
As you might already know, our bodies consist of about 55-70% water. To further break it down, your brain consists of almost 78% water, your lungs are about 90% water, blood around 83%, and lean muscle contains about 75% water by weight. Body fat contains around 10% water and bone 22%. As you can see, this adds up to quite a lot of water. If you weigh 80 kg, that would equate to between 44 and 56 liters of water. One of the biggest factors of how big a percentage of water you are made up of is your body fat percentage. Body fat contains much less water than lean muscle does.
So, what does all of this mean?
Why is all of this important? Well, part of knowing gives you context to knowing why drinking is so important. Maybe you’ve heard from parents, partner or friends that it’s important to drink a lot of water. This is why. You consist of so much of water that if you don’t properly rehydrate, your body simply can’t function as effectively as it otherwise would.
Water also lubricates your joints and cartilages and allows them to move more fluidly. When dehydrated, the body rations water away from the joints. Less lubrication equals greater friction and that can cause joint, knee and back pain potentially leading to injuries and arthritis. Even your eyeballs need plenty of lubrication to work well and remain healthy.
The scary thing is that as little as a 2% drop in hydration could lead to showing signs of dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Dry eyes
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Fuzzy short-term memory
- Decreased urine output
- Few or no tears while crying
- Trouble focusing on small print (such as a computer screen)
- Trouble with basic math
- Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness
If you keep going dehydrated even after seeing signs of dehydration, you could even become chronically dehydrated. Over time when the body is not properly hydrated chronic dehydration occurs which can lead to high/low blood pressure, stomach ulcers, repertory problems, and many other severe problems. But even still, many will walk around dehydrated, most of the time unknowingly, because thirst is a poor indicator of dehydration. By the time you get thirsty, it is too late!
In addition to avoiding a lot of negative things by drinking, you introduce a lot of benefits by drinking.
Benefits of drinking a lot of water
- It helps your body get rid of waste, it helps your body transport nutrients to your cells.
- Water helps to maintain healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and regulating appetite.
- Water leads to increased energy levels.
- Drinking adequate amounts can decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50%, and breast cancer.
- Drinking water can significantly reduce joint and/or back pain.
- Water leads to overall greater health by flushing out wastes and bacteria that can cause disease.
- Water can prevent and alleviate headaches.
- Water naturally moisturizes skin and ensures proper cellular formation underneath layers of skin to give it a healthy, glowing appearance.
- Water aids in the digestion process and prevents constipation.
- Water is the primary mode of transportation for all nutrients in the body and is essential for proper circulation.
- Water helps regulate your body temperature as water has a high heat capacity.
So how much should I drink?
Every day you have replace around 2.4 liters of water that you lose through breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. Around 20% of this volume will be provided through food, but the rest is needed to be ingested through fluids.
That doesn’t mean that you can go around drinking just anything and count it to the total amount of daily intake. Drinks such as alcohol, sodas and drinks with caffeine (such as coffee) may feel nice going down, but they are not meant to hydrate you, in fact they promote urination and makes you lose water, which means that for every cup of coffee you drink, you have to drink at least one glass of water to make up for it.
Also the amount of water you need depends on your physical activity, the climate you live in and a lot of other factors, but drinking at least 2 liters of water every day is a good goal to aim for, after all.
Is it possible to drink too much?
In one word; yes. But it is very difficult to drink too much, as it is not how much you drink that matters as much as how fast you drink. Of course I’m not saying that you should start drinking more slowly, it’s when you drink enormous amounts at one time that it becomes dangerous. Your body can process as much as 15 liters of water per day, so there is no extreme danger that you’d drink too much unless you start chugging instead of spreading fluid intake out over the day.
Then what is dangerous drinking?
When you drink a lot in a short timespan, that is dangerous because essentially you dilute your cells and can lead to a condition called Water Intoxication and to a related problem resulting from the dilution of sodium in the body, hyponatremia. Water acts like a solvent and breaks down minerals to transport to your cells, and when the water to mineral concentration becomes too small, your cells start behaving the same way they would if you were drowning in fresh water. Water intoxication and hyponatremia result when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without the accompanying electrolytes.
Electrolyte imbalance and tissue swelling can cause an irregular heartbeat, allow fluid to enter the lungs, and may cause fluttering eyelids. Swelling puts pressure on the brain and nerves, which can cause behaviors resembling alcohol intoxication. Swelling of brain tissues can cause seizures, coma and ultimately death unless water intake is restricted and a hypertonic saline (salt) solution is administered. If treatment is given before tissue swelling causes too much cellular damage, then a complete recovery can be expected within a few days.
What to drink and not to drink (more about this in a later blog post)
During long bouts of intense exercise, it’s best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia (loss of Sodium), which can be life-threatening. Also it’s very important to continue to replace fluids after you are finished exercising.
There are three important rules when it comes to drinking water:
- Drink twice as much as it takes to quench your thirst.
- Drink frequently throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
- Drink at least eight glasses daily (around 2-3 liters).