Water 101: What it does for your body and 10 tips to stay hydrated


full bottle of water images

You may have heard that everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day. While this advice is sound, it may not be suitable for everyone in all situations. Your individual needs will depend on many factors, including your health, activity level, environment, and more.

60% of our body is made up of water. We lose it through our skin, urine, waste and sweat every minute of the day – even when we breathe. Water intake is essential for the life of every cell in our body. Some benefits include ensuring:

  • electrolyte balance
  • regulate internal body temperature
  • Carbohydrates and proteins are transported in the blood
  • Food is metabolized and hunger is regulated
  • Well-functioning kidneys, skin and vascular system
  • joint lubrication
  • The body is flushed out of waste
  • Protect sensitive tissue
  • By acting as shock absorbers, the brain and spinal cord are safe
  • Adequate saliva production
  • Pregnancy is healthy with an ample supply of breast milk

When a person is not drinking enough water, many things can go wrong very quickly. “When a person is dehydrated, kidney function can be compromised, leading to acute kidney injury, kidney failure and even death,” says Darby Luckey, MD, a family medicine physician at Nebraska Medicine. “Your electrolytes may change and your function at the cellular level may be impaired.”

Water also provides essential hydration without adding extra calories. Unsweetened tea or coffee may be low in calories, but it has a diuretic effect that flushes fluids out of the body.

How much water should a person drink a day?

About 20% of our daily fluid intake comes from the food we eat and the rest from the fluids we drink. Men should drink 3.7 liters (about 125 ounces) of fluids a day, and women should drink 2.7 liters (about 91 ounces), according to the National Institutes of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. We also need to replace the fluids lost through factors such as exercise, sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever in order to function properly.

Is there such a thing as drinking too much water?

“Yes, absolutely,” Dr. Luckey said. “In fact, too much water can even be fatal. It’s rare, but drinking in moderation can be harmful, especially in patients with heart disease or electrolyte abnormalities. The best thing to do is to check with your doctor. The amount of water is what intake is best for your body and activity level.”

Tips for staying hydrated

1. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.

“Starting first thing in the morning can help your metabolism run and give you an energizing effect,” says Dr. Luckey. “Some people should take fluids directly before bed. Those with problems with enuresis, nocturia or heartburn may be harmed by a large glass of water before lying down.”

2. Invest in fun or fancy water bottles.

A good water bottle can act as a visual reminder to drink more water throughout the day. Some bottles are labeled with measurements to track intake, or have words of encouragement printed on the side when the water level drops.

3. Use alerts or notifications to your advantage.

Set up alarms or notifications on your smart device as reminders throughout the day. To keep your spirits up, set your Alexa or Google device to remind you with verbal, positive encouragement.

4. Pay attention to your body’s signals.

Pay attention to whether your body is thirsty or hungry. Sometimes we end up overeating because we mistake thirst for hunger.

5. Drink a glass of water before each meal.

It will help you stay hydrated, help your body digest food better and help you feel full faster.

6. Add calorie-free flavorings.

Try adding fruit or vegetables to the water to make it more appealing. Keep a jar in the fridge ready to soak overnight, making it easier to fill up a water bottle in the morning. Grab a water bottle with a built-in infusion basket for flavoring on the go.

7. Check the color of the urine.

Some people check the color of their urine throughout the day to make sure it’s clear or light. For some people, dark yellow urine can be a sign of dehydration.

8. Swap high-sugar beverages for soda or sparkling water.

Not only will you cut down on unnecessary sugar, but you’ll also increase your water intake.

9. Set daily goals.

A simple daily goal can help you stay motivated and work toward maintaining healthy habits.

10. Make it a challenge.

Ask your friends to join you in a healthy competition to see who is hitting their daily goals on a regular basis.

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