You can’t survive without water, but what does it actually do to your body? Our nutritionists explain why it's an important part of your routine.
We can all agree that the core benefit of drinking water is fairly obvious. You simply couldn’t survive without it.
That should be enough to encourage you to stay hydrated, right? Of course, it’s also interesting to discover how good old H2O fuels so many of the processes that get your body through the day.
We’ll leave it to our expert nutritionists to explain why drinking water is such an important part of your routine.
1. Replaces the water you’ve lost
Water makes up around 60% of your body. Pretty much all of it is used to keep you functioning on a daily basis.
Maintaining that 60% balance is important for your health, but it isn’t easy. Your body has a variety of creative ways to lose water, such as sweating, going to the toilet and even breathing. Drinking water is how you replace your stores.
If you’re curious about how much water you should drink to achieve this, we’ve answered that question for you.
2. Helps digestion
One of the most notorious consequences of not getting enough water is constipation. Much like the cartilage conundrum, if your body is dehydrated, your digestive system is one of the areas that has to sacrifice its fluid levels for the greater good.
Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes. Your gut absorbs water from your poo, causing (for want of a better phrase) an uncomfortable backlog. This will only be dislodged by rehydrating as soon as possible to smooth the digestion journey.
3. Helps blood circulation
Over half your blood consists of a substance called plasma. It carries blood cells around your body to where they’re needed, helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and keeps your body temperature under control.
In short, it’s pretty important.
Plasma is around 90% water, so it can’t do its job properly if you’re dehydrated. Without enough water, your blood will become thicker and more concentrated. This means your heart has to work that little bit harder to pump it around your body.
4. Keeps your joints moving
Whenever your joints feel a bit stiff or achy, ask yourself if you’re drinking enough water.
They’re surrounded by cartilage that allows each bone to move freely alongside the others. It can be up to 85% water, which helps to create the spongy texture your joints need to avoid grating and rubbing together.
When you’re dehydrated, your body draws as much water as it can towards the organs needed to keep you alive. Sadly for your cartilage, it doesn’t fall into this category, so it has to surrender its water.
This lost moisture creates friction between bones, which explains why they might feel a little creaky until you’ve topped up your fluids.
5. Increases athletic performance
Dehydration has a terrible impact on your muscles. Without water, they can’t contract properly and you won’t be able to perform to the level you’d like, while your muscles will struggle to repair themselves after a workout.
You also need to bear in mind that exercise causes you to lose water through sweat. This means you’ll need to rehydrate regularly in order to keep your muscles working, regulate your body temperature and get your blood circulating as it should.
Exercise is also mentally harder if you don’t stay hydrated, so your bottle of water will be your best friend when the going gets tough.
You do need to be aware that when you sweat, you’re losing nutrients as well as water. If you’re exercising very intensively for a long time, such as a marathon, drinking only water may mean the nutrient levels in your blood become too diluted. This can lead to a potentially dangerous condition known as hyponatraemia.
For this sort of exercise, consider a sports drink instead to ensure you’re replenishing your electrolytes as well as your fluids.
6. Affects focus and concentration
Your brain needs water as much as any other organ. Studies have even suggested that dehydration can cause your brain cells to shrink slightly, leaving it less effective than it would normally be.
This translates to difficulty concentrating, and taking a little longer to solve problems that you could normally do in your sleep. The extra brain strain can also make you irritable, so a glass of water even has the potential to improve your mood.
7. Beats tiredness
If you feel tired during the day, it’s not necessarily a lack of sleep that’s to blame. Doctors are increasingly finding that many patients who come to them complaining of fatigue are in fact failing to hydrate themselves properly during the day.
While plain water will do this job just fine, many people choose sugary drinks that cause an energy crash later in the day.
8. Encourages you to eat less
You may have heard the claim that drinking water will help you lose weight. Sadly, this isn’t quite accurate. Look at this way. If you have a poor diet, a few glasses of water here and there isn’t going to stop you from piling on the pounds.
What water can do is help you change your eating habits. Drinking water before a meal will fill you up a little and, provided you eat at a moderate pace and allow your brain time to catch up with your stomach, you may eat less as a result. This, in turn, could help you lose some weight.
9. Protects against disease
Studies have shown that poor hydration could be a contributing factor in potentially life-threatening health problems with your heart, lung, kidneys and bladder.
Then there’s heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can occur if you don’t drink enough water on a hot day, or while exercising.
If prevention is better than cure, then water is definitely the best medicine!
10. Prevents dry skin
We’ve already looked at how dehydration can leave your blood a little thicker than it would normally be. One of the ways it regains some of the water it needs is by drawing moisture from your skin. This can leave it dry and speed up the appearance of wrinkles.
It’s important to note that you’d have to be very careless with your hydration for this process to start. Drinking more water than normal won’t make your skin firmer, either.
If you’re suffering from dry skin and don’t think your water intake is to blame, you should investigate other possible causes, such as sun damage.
11. Gets rid of your hangover
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you wee a lot more than you normally would. In other words, you’re pumping too much water out of your body, which will leave you feeling dehydrated when you wake up.
The best way to help your hangover is to alternate alcoholic drinks with water the night before to lessen its effects. However, if you fail to do this, drinking plenty of water after you wake up will help shake off your thumping headache and get rid of dry mouth.
Read more: How to get rid of a hangover
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