We all hear about the importance of hydration and most people can tell you that "you're supposed to drink 8 8oz glasses of water a day" because we've been programmed to believe that's all it takes. It's not. But why is hydration so important? What IS hydration?
According to 'The Free Dictionary.com' Hydration is defined as: 1. The process of providing an adequate amount of liquid to bodily tissues, or 2. To supply water to (a person, for example) in order to restore or maintain fluid balance
I think that spells it out plainly enough so lets move on to what could be considered the bigger question: Why is hydration so important?
Your body depends on water for survival. Did you know that water makes up roughly 60% of the human body's weight with the brain being nearly 70% water alone? Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. If the body is placed in a condition where water is not in adequate supply it effects every process in the body. Water is critical to the balance of all the body's systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and muscles.
How important is this balance? A 2% drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping and slow muscular response. In other words, even at a 2% drop our bodies begin to shut down, fail. Nothing works as efficiently and we begin to display the early symptoms of dehydration, or a lack of water.Signs of mild dehydration are:
- Dry Mouth
- Dark colored urine
- Sleepiness or fatigue
Mild dehydration is also one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue. How common a problem is this in the US? Estimates are that seventy-five percent of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration. This is alarming since proper hydration is required for maintaining healthy blood flow, proper kidney function, proper sodium/potassium /electrolyte balance and proper digestive functions.Some more serious signs are:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Extreme thirst
- lack of tears while crying
- Muscular aches/cramping
Many people attribute darker colored urine to the supplements and pills they take. Each of these substances require water to break them down and carry them to the body. The more you take the more water they draw away from the body. With each supplemenet or pill introduced to the body water intake much increase in kind. A great rule of thumb is one extra glass a day for each pill or product taken.
When faced with prolonged periods of mild dehydration the body, much as it does when its been deprived of enough food, will slip into "Survival Mode" and begin to store water in the bodies tissues. It is perfectly common for an individual to carry 20+ pounds of stored water due to poor hydration habits. Drinking proper levels of water will result in the body releasing or "flushing" the stored water and when coupled with moderate exercise its quite possible to flush several pounds of water in a week. Proper hydration can also aid in fat loss as it increases the bodies metabolism by up to 30%*
Spring is on its way and we all want to look our best, shedding some of that winter blubber so we can fit back into our favorite shorts. If water isnt number one on the list of weight loss tools for you, you're doing it wrong.
*Metabolic increase noted after individuals consumed one 16oz glass of water and is predominantly related to the body warming water to body temperature