Recovery 20

The importance of hydration

5 min read

Simon Körösi

Reviewed by: Joanna Elmes

Consuming sufficient water daily is paramount for a myriad of reasons, including the regulation of body temperature, lubrication of joints, prevention of infections, nutrient transportation to cells, and the proper function of organs. Maintaining good hydration also enhances the quality of sleep, cognition, and mood.

Specialists advocate for the average man to consume approximately 16 cups of water per day. Not all of these need to be sourced from plain water; they could also come from fruit-flavoured water, hydration supplements, or even coffee or tea.
Your body is composed of roughly 60% water, and while you can survive for weeks without food, dehydration could prove fatal within days or, in certain situations, hours, depending on environmental conditions and temperature. Dehydration is when more water is exiting your body's cells than entering them. However, it's not only water you're losing. Vital electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, integral to cell function and energy, are also expelled along with the water.
Throughout the day, via breathing, sweating, urination, and bowel movements, your body constantly loses water and electrolytes. Even mild dehydration can fatigue you and impact a multitude of your body's daily functions. If you're involved in physical exercise, it's apparent that a balanced diet — inclusive of sufficient hydration — is critical for peak performance. Ensuring your body is properly hydrated not only enhances performance but also helps prevent injuries and supports recovery.

Dehydration can often be misinterpreted as hunger, leading to potential weight gain as you attempt to fulfil your body's needs. However, fortuitously, the converse is also accurate when you're adequately hydrated. Drayer, an advocate for proper hydration, suggests that if you're aiming to lose weight, water can assist in your endeavour. Consuming a glass of water prior to a meal can satiate you somewhat, consequently helping you consume fewer calories during the meal.

For those afflicted with migraines, research indicates that insufficient hydration may readily trigger an episode. Additionally, if you're dehydrated, headaches are prone to persist for longer durations. Dehydration can also result in impaired concentration, transient memory difficulties, and feelings of moodiness and anxiety.

Douglas Casa, CEO of the University of Connecticut's Korey Stringer Institute, who conducts research on athletic performance, emphasised the multifaceted benefits of hydration, stating:
"When you're well-hydrated, your sleep quality is better, your cognition is better, you function better, your mood is better, the list goes on.”

Indeed, athletic performance is another area that substantially benefits from adequate fluid intake.


Further Factors Contributing to Dehydration


An insufficient fluid intake is not the sole cause of dehydration. Certain blood pressure and diuretic medications can escalate urination frequency, as can undiagnosed or poorly managed diabetes. An abrupt and severe bout of diarrhoea or vomiting can expel a significant amount of fluids in a short period. Combine this with a high fever, and the situation could quickly become serious.


The Importance of Increasing Fluid Intake


Sweating induced by hot, humid conditions or intense physical activity is another rapid route to dehydration. Individuals such as athletes or outdoor workers need to be particularly vigilant to evade heat-related injuries, including muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and seizures. Hypovolaemic shock, a condition in which low blood volume causes a drop in both oxygen levels and blood pressure, represents the most severe form of dehydration and can indeed be life-threatening.

The Perils of Dehydration


The effects of dehydration on your body vary depending on its severity. Mild symptoms, such as dark yellow urine or a headache, can typically be alleviated simply by increasing your water intake. More serious indicators of dehydration, such as dizziness and mental confusion, necessitate medical intervention. People exhibiting these severe symptoms often require hospital treatment with intravenous fluids.

Dehydration has a significant impact on brain function. It can impair cognitive performance, leading to difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making. Additionally, it can affect psychomotor skills, such as coordination and speed, while also decreasing muscle strength.

Dehydration also places undue strain on the heart, which must work harder when there's insufficient water in your blood. Moreover, it can have a severe effect on your kidneys. Extreme dehydration can lead to dire consequences, including kidney failure, seizures, heat exhaustion, stroke, coma, and in the worst cases, death.

Six Methods to Ward Off Dehydration


Dehydration is a common issue; research suggests that dehydration affects between 17% and 28% of older adults and is a frequent reason for hospital admission. Consequently, it is of utmost importance to adopt preventative measures against dehydration. Below are six strategies you can implement now to stave off dehydration:



1. Consistent Hydration Throughout the Day


Don't wait until you're parched to take a swig from your water bottle. Make a habit of drinking at regular intervals throughout the day, especially when spending time outdoors in the sun or engaging in intense physical activity. Keeping a record of your consumption can ensure that you don't inadvertently neglect to drink enough water. The most effective strategy for maintaining hydration is to set goals for daily water consumption.

2. Monitor Your Urine


Whilst it may seem a bit odd to scrutinise your urine, doing so can serve as an early warning system against dehydration. If your urine is clear, pale, or straw-coloured, this indicates that you're sufficiently hydrated. However, if it takes on a darker hue, this is a clear sign that you need to increase your fluid intake.


3. Take Precautions in the Sun


If you're outdoors during the peak heat of the day, seek out a shaded area and don protective items such as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Try to avoid remaining in direct sunlight for extended periods. Should you start feeling unwell after sun exposure, it's critical to find a cool environment and begin rehydrating. Consume plenty of fluids and seek out a cooler area, which can assist in lowering your body temperature. A cool shower or soak can also contribute to reducing your body's temperature.

4. Opt for Electrolyte Powders


If you're in circumstances that might lead to dehydration—such as exercising intensively, or having consumed alcohol the previous evening—you could benefit from electrolyte supplements. These usually come in the form of powders or tablets which can be added to plain water, enhancing its health benefits. They're often loaded with electrolytes, making it straightforward to mix a packet into your water bottle when you're on the move.



5. Steer Clear of Alcohol


Alcoholic beverages can exacerbate dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, leading to increased fluid removal from your bloodstream. If you do consume alcohol, it's important to balance it with a significant intake of water to help stave off dehydration.



6. Incorporate Hydrating Foods


Ingesting fluids isn't the only means of maintaining hydration. Many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, have high water content and can contribute towards meeting your daily hydration requirements. Fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, and strawberries have some of the highest water content. Other excellent choices include raspberries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, cucumbers, and grapes.

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