Why is proper hydration so important?
The temperatures are inching higher here in Belgium, and during these warmer months, hydration, while always important to good health, becomes even more crucial.
Why is it so important?
Our body mass is 55-60% water and it makes up most of our cell volume and bodily fluids. Water has many important roles in our body, it:
helps us flush toxins and eliminate waste from the body
helps us maintain a stable body temperature
acts as a shock absorber cushioning our organs, bones, and joints
improves oxygen delivery to our cells and keeps our cells properly hydrated
aids in our cell-to-cell communication and their electrical properties
transports nutrients around our body
aids our body’s healing process
We can only fulfill about 8% of our body’s daily water needs through our own production, so the remaining 92% needs to be consumed either through drinking fluids or eating water-rich foods. We can’t store water (it’s all being used in one way or another), so proper daily intake is crucial.
Dehydration can happen with as little as a 2% drop in your body’s water content and this can already cause fatigue or other signs of early dehydration. Did you know that the “dry-mouth” or thirsty feeling is actually one of the later signs that you need to drink more? Up to a 10% drop in water content in the body can cause significant health issues, and more than 10% can result in death. This is why you may have heard you can survive weeks without food, but only days without water!
Early signs of dehydration could manifest as fatigue, anxiety or irritability, depression, cravings, cramps, or headaches. Some of the more mature signs could be joint or back pain, migraines, heart burn, or constipation.
Diuretics are substances that actually deplete your body of more water than they are contributing to it. So drinking a large quantity of these beverages could be causing your dehydration without you even realizing it! Diuretic beverages include:
Some herbal teas, such as peppermint
Sugary drinks including processed fruit juice
This is not to say that you have to cut all the above out of your life (although I would generally advocate for cutting out soft drinks or sugary drinks!), but you do need to be aware of how they might be affecting your body. For example, while you can up your water intake to offset your morning cup of coffee, if you are drinking 5 – 6 cups a day, just increasing your water on top of this probably won’t be a sustainable option.
How much do you need?
As with everything, you need to find the right balance for your body. The amount of water you need per day can differ depending on various factors like your climate, activity level, water-rich food intake, or current health.
But as a general rule, you can use the following rough formulas (up to a daily maximum of 100oz / 3L):
weight (kg) x 30 = # of mL per day
and if you consume diuretic beverages:
[weight (kg) x 30] + [mL of diuretics x 1.5] = # of mL per day
Of course your needs are going to be unique to you and could differ based on your daily activity and exercise, temperature/climate, and even based on what you are eating that day.
Generally this should be to a maximum of 3000mL / 3L per day.
(Visual in video is correct, but I incorrectly said “300mL” – sorry!)
So if you are 60kg (132lbs) you would need approximately 2L (66oz) of water or other hydrating beverages per day, without any diuretic intake.
Electrolytes are key for your body to use water properly. They are minerals that when dissolved into water become able to conduct electricity – which allows the water to preform all its necessary functions in the body.
Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate are all important electrolytes.
If you are drinking your daily water requirement or more, but are still feeling thirsty, it could be because you are lacking in electrolytes to properly use the water. In general, if you are eating a real food, nutrient-dense diet, you should be getting the electrolytes you need. For example, using a quality sea salt when cooking!
However, if you do think electrolyte supplementation is needed, it can be as easy as adding some quality sea salt to your water! Try experimenting with sea salts of different origins as they will have varying mineral contents. A little bit of sea salt should not be detected when added to your water.
Or pick up an electrolyte powder from a pharmacy and make your own sports drink (the ones on the market are generally so full of sugar that they aren’t really going to help you hydrate!):
1L liquid (water, herbal tea, coconut water)
⅛ – ¼ tsp sea salt
¼ – ½ tsp electrolyte powder
¼ cup juice (best is to use freshly pressed grape, apple, lemon, lime, or pineapple)
1 – 2 tbsp sweetener like honey or stevia (skip if using coconut water)
This drink is great to replenish electrolytes, especially after a longer period of intense exercise or when in hot climates as we lose a lot of electrolytes when sweating.
Or if you’ve been sick with vomiting and/or diarrhea, you may want to look into taking some electrolyte supplements.