6 essential reasons you need to up your hydration game - now!
6 min read
So, today we’re talking all things hydration. I know, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, but water is essential for every bodily process. In this article, we discuss the most important reasons you need to drink enough water, and we’ll share some helpful tips and apps to help you up your hydration game, starting today!
How much water should you drink a day?
You should aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day if you’re a woman and 12 if you’re a man. Although this is the general recommendation, requirements may increase if you tick one or more of the below boxes:
- If you drink more than 2-3 cups of caffeinated beverages per day, as caffeine is a diuretic.
- If you regularly drink alcohol.
- If you regularly exercise (particularly in the heat!) for more than 1 hour per day.
- If you live in hot or humid weather conditions.
- If you’re breastfeeding.
- If you eat lots of salty foods.
- If you are ill, particularly if you’re experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting.
But proper hydration isn’t just all about drinking water, thankfully eating certain foods can count towards your daily hydration goals too.
5 water-rich foods that will help you stay hydrated
Cucumber - 95% water
Broccoli - 91% water
Strawberries - 92% water
Watermelon - 92% water
Yoghurt - 88% water
What about fruit juices?
More often than not, fruit juices are packed with sugar, meaning they will negatively impact your hydration. Vegetable juices are better for hydration than fruit juices because the natural sugars present in fruits may inhibit hydration. If you are used to drinking fruit juices, try replacing it with iced water and natural mint leaves, cinnamon sticks or strawberry slices for extra hydration without the sugar.
A false belief is that water alone is enough to hydrate you. It’s possible to consume water and still be dehydrated because your body additionally needs minerals and salts, known as electrolytes.
The relationship between electrolytes and hydration
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge when dissolved in water; these include sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate and magnesium. Electrolytes are essential for controlling your fluid balance through osmosis. Osmosis is a process where water moves through a cell membrane wall from a dilute solution (more water and fewer electrolytes) toward a more concentrated solution (less water and more electrolytes). The osmosis process helps ensure that the correct amount of water is continuously present within each cell in our body.
Hydration and cognitive function
Although it is well known that water is essential for human homeostasis and survival, only recently have we begun to understand its role in the maintenance of brain function. The available research in this area indicates that decrements in physical, visual, physical movement and cognitive performance can occur when 2% or more of body weight is lost due to water restriction, heat, and/or physical exertion.¹
More recently a study has shown that
Even mild dehydration – a body water loss of 1–2% - can impair cognitive abilities.
A total of 26 men were subjected to exercise-induced dehydration, and the results showed impaired visual vigilance and impaired visual working memory response with mild dehydration.²
Hydration and circulation
The amount of blood circulating through your body, or blood volume, decreases when you’re dehydrated. One particular area where circulation and hydration are closely interlinked is to exercise performance. Skeletal muscles require increased blood flow during exercise. One study in athletes carrying out resistance exercises found that dehydration decreased resistance exercise performance significantly compared to hydrated individuals.³
Hydration and energy levels
Mild dehydration affects not only cognitive performance but also physical performance. Firstly, our body temperature tends to rise as we become more dehydrated, which can increase the perceived effort needed to complete a physically demanding task. Secondly, staying hydrated helps ensure nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles, reducing physical fatigue.⁴
If you are not sufficiently hydrated while you exercise, you may find that you feel weak, dizzy or faint. Also, you will find that your heart rate is elevated above the normal range.
Hydration and digestion
A hydration benefit that is often overlooked is that water is critical for digestion. Water is required to dissolve nutrients so that they may be absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the cells.
Water is vital to keep food moving down through your intestines. If the body is dehydrated, the large intestine (colon) will soak up whatever water it can from the food you consumed, making it too hard to pass, often causing pain and constipation.
One study assessing 3835 Japanese women found that a low water intake from foods is associated with increased functional constipation.⁵
Hydration and weight loss
Did you know that people can often confuse hunger and thirst cues? Studies also show an increase in fat oxidation with increased hydration indicating and, by inference, an increase in metabolism.⁶ Alongside a calorie deficit, it is essential to drink enough water throughout the day for optimal weight loss results.
5 signs and symptoms of dehydration
- Thirst: As soon as you start feeling thirsty, this is an indication that you are already mildly dehydrated. You should always regularly consume water throughout the day before the thirst sets in.
- Dark urine colour: Use the NHS urine chart to check if you are dehydrated or not.
- Fatigue: Lack of water in your body means circulation will be adversely affected and thus less oxygen and nutrients will reach your organs, leading to fatigue.
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Headache: A dehydration headache can feel like a dull headache or an intense migraine.
So we know we need to drink water throughout the day and we know how much to drink but keeping track of it is another matter entirely. We found it’s best to turn it into a game. As with all routines, the only way to measure success is to track and monitor how you’re feeling due to the new habit you’re forming.
Here are some tech and non-tech savvy ways to track that daily hydration.
Apps to track your hydration
My Water Balance: Calculate your daily water intake and get notifications using My Water Balance App.
Water Reminder: Drink water reminder is an application to help keep track of water intake and with fun reminders to remind you to keep on track of your water intake. Users only need to select a gender and enter a weight number, it will help you calculate how much water you should drink per day. You can also track water history, reach your daily goal to open the respective achievements, and many other useful functions.
Plant Nanny: Make meeting those daily water goals more fun with the Plant Nanny app. This app gamifies your water consumption. Keep your cute little plant happy and thriving by ‘watering’ it regularly — just log your water consumption to watch your plant grow.
Waterlogged: Fitbit or Apple Watch users can get notifications on their wrist, reminding them to drink without looking at their phone. Once you sip, you can log your intake using photos of your cups or water bottles.
And while not an app, we thought we’d recommend water measurement bottles to help you make keeping hydrated a bit more fun. With hours marked on the bottle, they let you track how much you’ve drunk against the clock throughout the day. There’s nothing like competing against yourself to up your hydration game!
Staying hydrated is essential for optimal health, but it doesn’t have to be boring. We hope you’ve found some fun ways to keep yourself hydrated.