The Importance of Drinking Water

Everyone knows the importance of drinking water, but a recent survey found that nearly 80 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Are you getting enough water during the day? 

We hear the advice so often about how we all need to drink more, that it’s tempting to think the importance of proper hydration is overblown.

It’s not.

Every organ in your body relies on water to function. Losing just a pound or two of body weight to dehydration (which is much easier than you think,) leads to diminished cognitive ability, memory, reaction time, learning ability, and athletic performance. Dehydration can also cause headaches, fatigue, and mood disturbance.

So, why is it so hard to drink enough water? Hydration can be difficult because we are always working from a deficit. Digestion, respiration and just about every other bodily process taps into your stores of water. Your personal hydration tank will never actually be full. It’s like trying to fill a canteen with a leak in it. 

To make your hydration obligation just a little easier, we have created a series of H2O Facts. Let the Drinking Games begin!

Fact: No universally agreed-upon quantity of water that must be consumed daily. 

The advice to drink eight glasses a day has no basis in science. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. The advice from the American College of Sports Medicine is the best. They claim that there is so much variability in individual sweat rates and electrolyte loss, that everyone needs their own personal hydration plan. They recommend weighing yourself before and after exercise to determine if you are a super-sweater or not. (We are pretty sure your friends have let you know by now.) 

Fact: Water isn’t your only option for hydration. 

Plain water is often the best choice, since it contains zero calories or chemicals, but not always. A British study found that several different libations were just as good as water at replenishing your fluids, and some beverages, such as milk or sports drinks, are more effective for rehydration because of their mineral content. In fact, too much unembellished water can be dangerous. When you sweat, you lose minerals and electrolytes in your perspiration (mostly sodium, but also magnesium, potassium, chloride, and calcium). If you rehydrate with only plain water without replacing these nutrients, you can experience a dangerous sodium imbalance called hyponatremia which can lead to vomiting, muscle weakness, and even seizures and death.

Fact: Coffee and tea will hydrate you. 

It has long been thought that caffeinated beverages will draw water out of you, but a recent study showed that fluid loss is nominal compared to the amount of fluid you consume from these beverages. That being said, if you become dehydrated from excessive exercise, coffee and tea are not the best choices for rehydration. But drinking them daily does not mean you need extra water to offset them.   

Fact: You cannot rely on thirst as an indicator of your current hydration level. 

Studies show that your thirst mechanism lags far behind your hydration levels. In other words, by the time you feel like cracking a bottle of water, you may already be diminished from fluid loss. A recent study on runners found that they were unable to accurately estimate their fluid loss, leading experts to recommend that athletes follow a predetermined hydration regimen, such as drinking eight to 12 ounces every 30 minutes regardless of thirst.