Why Is Hydration Important and Is Water The Only Option
We’ve all heard it time and time again: drink more water. Although it’s easy to tell when you’re thirsty after a run or time outside in the sun, you may not be as in tune with what your body needs to maintain its ideal level of hydration.
In terms of wellness, staying hydrated is one of the easiest lifestyle changes you can make—and one of the most impactful. Read on for a quick primer that will help you make better decisions about what you drink and how often.
The Importance of Hydration
Did you know that half of your body weight is water? That percentage is even higher in babies, but our systems continue to have remarkable amounts of water as we age. Our brains, lungs, heart, and muscles are upwards of 75% water, and even our calcium-rich bones are 30% water.
The idea behind hydration is simple: replacing the fluid that our body loses to sweat, respiration, and urination. With so much water in our bodies, it's no surprise that consuming enough of it is an essential part of taking care of ourselves.
From transporting nutrients and eliminating water to supporting brain function and regulating body temperature, water is a vital component of every bodily function. Without enough of it, our systems aren't at their best.
The Dangers of Dehydration
Your body becomes dehydrated when you don’t get enough water. In extreme circumstances, this can have immediate, potentially deadly effects. For example, dehydration can cause you to become faint and unable to stand. You can also experience emotional distress and confusion. Your pulse can become weak and your breath quick, and if you don't resolve the situation, you could lose consciousness.
Luckily, most of us will never experience such an extreme case of dehydration, as we won’t be shipwrecked, lost in the desert, or running an ultramarathon. We do, however, regularly experience dehydration on a level that isn’t deadly but is still harmful to health.
Short-Term Effects of Dehydration
Have you ever felt cranky or irritable, but you weren’t sure why? Or had a headache without a discernible cause? You could have been dehydrated. Water hydrates every cell and without it, cells shrink, causing pain like headaches.
Low levels of fluid intake can also cause our bodies to perform less efficiently, and this impact is often most noticeable in our mental state. Basically, we aren’t our best selves. Brain fog, irritation, and other changes in moods can tip us off to potential dehydration.
Long-Term Effects of Dehydration
In the long run, constant sub-optimal hydration can have other adverse effects on the body. Imagine a car that hasn’t had its fluids checked or changed for an extended period. It won’t perform as well as one that has been taken care of, and it may not last as long. Hydration is key to circulation, nutrient uptake, and cognition, and if you ignore it for too much time, the effects can be significant and long-lasting.
Recent research has even shown a possible link between hydration levels and mortality from COVID-19. As hydration is key to general health, maintaining recommended levels may allow our bodies to be more prepared to fight off certain infections.
How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated
Whether or not you measure your water intake, there are a few sure ways to tell if you are properly hydrated.
Probably the easiest way to check for dehydration is to monitor the color of your urine. You may have seen signs in the bathroom at your doctor’s office illustrating urine’s different shades of yellow. As a necessary function of health, urine is indeed an effective indicator of your hydration level.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re dehydrated, keep tabs when you go to the bathroom. Just remember: Light yellow, like the color of real lemonade, means you’re getting enough liquid. Darker yellows means you need to drink more water. Add in whether you are urinating frequently, and you'll get a good idea of how well you are doing at getting enough fluids.
Other signs of dehydration are related to its negative impacts on the body. For example, we all know what to do when we’re thirsty, a dry mouth, or have a headache. But to truly care for our bodies and prevent even low levels of dehydration, we should be consistently drinking water so we don’t experience those sensations. Thirst is actually an indicator that you are already dehydrated.
The Role of Electrolytes in Dehydration
Dehydration isn’t only related to a lack of fluids themselves. It also results from a depletion in electrolytes, which are minerals that help regulate the balance of liquids in your body.
Electrolytes have other roles, as well. Certain minerals ensure that your blood’s pH is within normal levels. Others relate to muscle contractions, nerve signals, and blood clotting. The proper functioning of your heart and nerve cells depends upon the correct balance of electrolytes.
The three main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and magnesium, and each plays a role in maintaining proper bodily functions. You naturally lose these minerals through sweat, which is one reason sports drinks often include them for recuperation. The effects of dehydration will become more evident as these minerals are depleted.
How to Stay Hydrated
Keeping your hydration level optimal is an easy way to take good care of yourself. Why is it easy? It’s all up to you, it’s inexpensive, and anyone can do it.
Start by paying attention to the amount of liquid you consume. Ideally, you should drink water throughout the day, not just when you are eating or when you feel thirsty.
By drinking regularly, your body will function better, and you’ll avoid the primary pitfall of increased hydration: going to the bathroom more. Small sips throughout the day should make that less of an issue.
Another tip is to develop a routine. Start the morning with a glass of water and keep a bottle in the fridge so that you can have easy access. Incorporate water into your exercise routine, both before and after. If you work at a desk, ensure that you always have a drink nearby and take hydration breaks throughout the day. You can also keep water bottles in your car.
Options for Hydration Drinks
So now you know how important it is to be hydrated. What's next? Sometimes you want something besides just an ordinary glass of water. Thankfully, these days there are plenty of options out there.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of water. Since they are low calories, fat and sodium, you can fit as many services into your diet as you like. Celery, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, squashes, melons, and most other fruits contain high amounts of water.
But sometimes you don't feel like having another slice of watermelon, or you don't have access to fresh food. Another hydration option is caffeinated water with electrolytes. With a little kick of caffeine and electrolytes, this new type of beverage can be a healthy alternative to sugary, caffeine-packed energy drinks and coffee. You can also flavor your water with fresh-squeezed citrus or infuse it with cucumber and mint, strawberries or other fruit.
While these drinks may boost your energy, most lack electrolytes, have a high calorie content or use artificial sweetener. Plain water doesn’t replace the essential minerals lost during exercise, sweat-inducing exercise, or a stomach bug, so consider drinking beverages with electrolytes to help you recover faster.
Looking for a hydration option that also gives you the benefits of caffeine and electrolytes? Find a location where you can discover Curly’s caffeine water or order online.
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