Bellingham Athletic Club

Drink Your Water!

…the benefits of staying hydrated

by Jeri Winterburn, Group Exercise Director

I hear it so often — “I know I just don’t drink enough water!”

The average adult body is made up of about 60% water, so it makes sense that drinking fluids is a crucial element to the proper functioning of many different systems. Besides maintaining the health of the heart, brain, and muscles, fluids help transport nutrients to the cells while also flushing bacteria. However, it is relatively easy to become dehydrated throughout the day and various activities. Dehydration can occur by not drinking enough water, through excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting or exercise. When this happens, it is common to feel faint, have a headache, experience crampy muscles or to feel tired.

Fortunately, restoring water balance in the body not only relieves these uncomfortable symptoms but has many additional benefits as well. Almost everyone is familiar with the “8 by 8” rule, which is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. 8 x 8 is just easy to remember, as The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume about 2 liters daily, and men to consume about 3 liters. Adjust accordingly per activity level and for any factors causing more rapid dehydration.

Drinking enough water and staying properly hydrated can:

1. Flush toxins & prevent illness

While the kidneys naturally filter waste from the body, they require adequate water intake to function properly, according to WebMD. When the body is dehydrated, the elimination of wastes is diminished. Conversely, when the body is hydrated, healthier functioning and transportation of nutrients are restored. Some medical experts believe proper hydration can help prevent joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis since water reduces inflammation and promotes cartilage health. Proper water consumption can also protect against kidney stones, constipation and urinary tract infections, according to the Nutrition Reviews journal.

2. Promote weight loss

According to several studies published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Obesity, dieters who increased water consumption lost more weight than groups who did not. This may be due to the fact that thirst is often disguised as hunger.

3. Improve skin complexion

Skin cells, like all cells, are made up of water. Therefore, if the skin is not receiving adequate hydration, it will appear dry, tight and flaky, and fine wrinkles will be more pronounced, according to The American Academy of Dermatology. Whether or not it’s true, many celebrities claim that water is the secret to their glowing, radiant skin.

4. Increase energy levels

After vigorous exercise and perspiration, it is especially important to rehydrate to replace lost fluids as well as to reduce soreness. According to the Journal of Athletic Training and Nutrition, studies have found that staying hydrated before, during and after exercise can not only reduce fatigue but also improve endurance. For those who feel too tired to work out, research published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that regular, low-intensity exercise reduced fatigue by as much as 65% and increased energy by 20%. Combined with proper hydration, energy levels can significantly rise with even just a little effort.

5. Lower the risk of heart attacks

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, according to the NIH. When the arteries become narrowed and blocked with cholesterol and plaque, the risk for a heart attack increases. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that drinking more water has been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

6. Boost cognitive functioning

Instead of reaching for a sugary snack in the late afternoon to get a little mental boost to finish up a task, try having a glass of water instead. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that drinking water may enhance brainpower. Study participants performed better and faster on a series of cognitive tasks after drinking water versus those subjects who did not.

7. Improve mood

Dehydration is known to cause headaches, which might explain why it’s common to get cranky when one strikes. Research supports this theory, as a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration had a negative effect on mood. Therefore, a glass of water might work double duty in helping prevent headaches as well as promote a sense of refreshment that naturally enhances mood, as well.

Now we know “why” we need to make proper hydration a part of our daily lives – here is the one habit that has helped me the most:

Every morning when I get up – I get out a large glass (always the same one) – and fill it with water and a few ice cubes. Giving myself about 30 minutes to finish it, I immediately fill it again – if I am at work, it’s my favorite water bottle – when the last drop is gone – I fill it again. If you aren’t one to guzzle water – keep sipping away at it and be sure it stays on your counter, desk or in your sight the entire day. I swear that over time, it will become an easy habit. When your bottle is empty – fill it up again.

Summer heat, exercise, and sweating will take a toll on how you feel. This is an easy way to stay hydrated, and feeling your best through the next few, hot months. Give it a try!