How have you faired today with your water consumption? Feeling thirsty? Do you think you’re dehydrated? Get ready—because this article is going to look at the topic of water consumption and mitigating dehydration. You would think this is a simple topic, but if you know me I tend to overthink things… but that means you don’t have to!
I’m sure most people out there would agree that drinking water and keeping the body hydrated is important. But just to give you a quick overview, here’s a few reasons why remaining hydrated throughout the day is key for optimal health…
Good for Weight Loss
In 2003, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism investigated whether drinking water helps boost metabolism. And surprise! They found it indeed does! After consuming one 500 ml glass of water, about the the volume two standard 8 oz. glasses of water, the subject’s metabolism increased 30% higher than their baseline metabolic measure (1).
There might even be a connection to thirst and unnecessary overconsumption of food. The next time you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water. Often you will find after 15 minutes your hunger vanishes. The theory behind this is that our brain can send false hunger signals when we are actually thirsty (2). So the next time you feel hungry, drink a glass of water. You might save yourself from eating that unnecessary cookie.
And finally, not only does thirst make us mistakenly eat more, but when we are adequately hydrated we eat less. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that when water is consumed before a meal there is a reduction in food calorie consumption (3).
Hydration = Healthy Skin, Joints, and Digestion
When you are more hydrated your skin is more elastic. Dry skin can cause wrinkles and speed the skin’s aging process. In addition, meeting your body’s hydration needs will keep your joints well lubricated, decreasing risk of injury and maximizing your strength output in the gym. Finally, a hydrated system will keep your digestive tract well-lubricated so it can function optimally.
Drinking More Water Will Make You Feel Happier and Smarter
The Journal of Nutrition published a study, observing a connection between hydration status and mood. Not only did the hydrated subjects report an increase in mood, but also more energy, less headaches and improved mental cognition (4).
The Solution to Pollution is Dilution
And let’s not forget maintaining proper hydration levels will allow your body to flush additional metabolic byproducts and other waste products out of the body.
I could go on and on about why water is important, but I wanted to highlight a few points above.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
I hope you now have a better idea about why maintaining optimal hydration levels is critical for optimal health, but how much water do we really need? For some time now the standard recommendation has been 8 glasses per day. This may be true for some people, but providing a one size fits all rule like this doesn’t make sense. We are all various shapes and sizes and engage in various levels of activity; therefore, it would only make sense that we would require varying amounts of hydration as well. As a rule, I like to use this basic equation to calculate daily water consumption:
lb. of body weight/2 = fl. oz. water consumed per day
That means if you weight 150 lbs. then you should be drinking 75 fl. oz. of water per day. And I like to think of this as a minimum. If you’re exercising you want to increase that amount even more! And it should go without saying, but make sure not to consume all that water at once. Drinking too much water at one time not only makes you pee a lot, but you will also be flushing out a lot of useful vitamins and minerals. To make sure you are not drinking too much water, make sure when you void, your urine is a light-yellow, straw color.
Drink Water When Thirsty Vs. Drink Water When You Remember
There’s also a debate whether you should drink water only when you’re thirsty or to preemptively strike dehydration and drink water before thirst hits. The “drink when thirsty” camp will argue that using thirst is a guide is the way to go. Their argument is influenced by the idea that when we are thirsty we are actually not dehydrated yet. And there’s some compelling research to back up this argument. Various studies have found we develop a thirst sensation before we are actually dehydrated. How researchers measure thirst is by looking at the concentration of sodium and creatinine levels in blood. If someone’s baseline blood concentration increases 5% higher than baseline, that would indicate dehydration. Interestingly, when we are thirsty, our blood concentration is generally around 2%, meaning we are thirsty before we are dehydrated (5).
This is a convincing argument for using thirst as a guide to mitigate dehydration, but I am still not convinced. My stance remains in the “preempt thirst” camp.
Using the hydration equation I mentioned above, as well as making sure I am not drinking too much water by checking my urine color, I have found that when I wait for thirst to alert me to drink water, I often do not hit my hydration goals for the day. Moreover, when I check my urine color, it is often much more yellow, indicating that I am more dehydrated.
I have also observed the less water I drink, the less thirsty I feel. It is as if my body becomes less sensitive to my thirst signaling.
My goal here is to teach others how to optimize their health. This is about having the body work at it’s maximum efficiency, not simply surviving and getting by. Sure we can use thirst as a guide to make sure we are adequately hydrated, but I’m not about mediocrity. I want my body to function at its best and from my personal experience it appears that we need to consume water—even before we are thirsty.
I hope you found all this information useful. Below I wanted to throw in some additional recommendations for optimizing your health using ideal water consumption practices…
- Don’t drink liquids right before and during meals – this will water down your stomach acid and decrease digestion efficiency
- If you’re a coffee or
tea drinker, make sure you consume a fair amount of water with your beverage of choice—caffeine can be a diuretic.
- When waking up in the morning, before you do anything, drink a couple glasses of water—this will decrease your cortisol from spiking in the morning and keep your thirst more balanced throughout the rest of the day
- Don’t like the taste of water? Add some lemon juice. It will increase palatability and improve digestion
- Having trouble meeting your hydration goals? Get a refillable bottle of water.
Until next time…
Stay healthy, my friends!