This blog was reprinted by permission from the University of Vermont Medical Center HealthSource blog.
While drinking enough water is important at any time of year, this sudden onset of summer-like weather is a good time to make sure that you are staying hydrated, especially if it has motivated you to resume or increase your regular exercise routine.
We all have that voice in our heads reminding us to drink more water. We are told to drink eight glasses of water per day to help stay hydrated, to keep our skin looking healthy and well, just BECAUSE. But, what is the reason for us to drink so much water each day? What happens to our bodies if we don’t? Can’t we just drink more water when we get home from work?
It turns out, our bodies, especially our brains, are very sensitive to changes in the amount of water we drink, and even a small amount of dehydration can have an effect on our ability to think clearly and remember minor tasks.
Our bodies are anywhere between 50 percent and 60 percent water which is found in all our tissues – blood, muscles, brain, and other organs. Water acts as a carrier of nutrients in our blood, helps regulate our temperatures and even acts as a shock absorber in our joints! When water levels get low, our body’s natural response is to trigger thirst, to remind us to drink.¹ Recent studies have shown that a loss of as little as 1 percent of body mass (say 1 lb in a 100 lb person) due to dehydration results in changes in mood, increased fatigue, and reduced alertness. These symptoms improved after drinking water.²
Staying hydrated can be a real challenge. Drinks like soda can be more appealing, but these beverages have more sugar and can lead to weight gain. Not to mention, soda and coffee won’t keep you hydrated like water will. Water will keep you hydrated, give you more energy, keep your skin looking fresh, can prevent headaches and will keep you healthier overall in the long run. Instead of stopping at Starbucks or swinging by the vending machine, fill up your water bottle and keep it close by at work.
In addition to not drinking enough or drinking too much soda and coffee, there are many other ways a person can become dehydrated. Vomiting, diarrhea, medications that cause urination, exercising in the heat, and eating too much of certain foods can all lead to a person becoming dehydrated.3 If you engage in physically demanding work you may wear clothing that increases sweating. Wear clothing that keeps you cool, take breaks, or turn on a fan in the room. These tips will help keep you cool so that you aren’t losing more water than you are taking in!
- Benton D, Jenkins KT, Watkins HT, Young HA. Minor degree of hypohydration adversely influences cognition: a mediator analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(3):603-612. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.132605.
- Jequier E, Constant F. Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;64(2):115-123.
- Alomar, M. Z., Akkam, A., Alashqar, S., & Eldali, A. (2013). Decreased hydration status of emergency department physicians and nurses by the end of their shift. International Journal of Emergency Medicine, 6, 27. http://doi.org/10.1186/1865-1380-6-27