Harrowing tales of being lost at sea have always captured our imaginations. Who can forget Tom Hank's portrayal of a shipwreck survivor in the movie Castaway? In all these tales, finding water is a vital, primal need that makes the difference between life and death. In fact, water is more important than food in a survival situation. Your body is unable to function long without it.
The human body is 65% water. Your brain is around 70% water, and your lungs are nearly 90% water. For proper body function, you need to replace about 2.5 quarts each day by consuming food and liquids.
Hopefully, most of us will avoid the dire emergency of being lost at sea. However, many people aren't getting the required amount of water that their body needs to function well. Inadequate water intake can lead to dehydration, an unhealthy state your body enters when you haven’t hydrated properly. Staying hydrated is an essential part of maintaining good health.
Water: It Does a Body Good
Every system in your body uses water to function properly. Hydration is even beneficial for your mental health. Next time you quench your thirst, you'll also be:
- Flushing out toxins from organs
- Regulating body temperature
- Controlling blood pressure and heart rate
- Carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Lubricating joints
- Keeping tissue moist
- Protecting and cushioning the spinal cord
- Producing saliva which aids in digestion
- Maintaining healthy levels of electrolytes for normal cell function
- Aiding in weight loss by maintaining a healthy metabolism
- Fighting fatigue and improving mental clarity
- Leveling out mood swings
- Preventing headaches
Drink Up for Good Health
The most common hydration guideline is: Drink 8 glasses of water each day. It's easy to remember but not necessarily the final word on hydration. For instance, The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends around 13 cups of water a day for men and 9 cups of water a day for women.
Most researchers agree that people in good health usually get enough water by drinking when they're thirsty, and having at least one beverage with every meal. If you're an athlete or exposed to hot temperatures, you'll need to hydrate more often and in larger quantities. In addition to intake guidelines, the color of your urine is a great indicator of your hydration level. Your urine should be a pale straw color or a transparent yellow. If your urine is dark, you need to hydrate!
Water, Water Everywhere
It's important to remember that hydration refers to your total daily liquid intake. You can achieve your hydration goals by getting water from a variety of foods and beverages. For instance, meat can contain up to 60% water. Good sources of water include:
- Chicken, especially chicken breast
- Coconut water
- Red cabbage
A note about caffeine: There is a debate about what impact caffeine has on hydration. Caffeine acts a diuretic which flushes salt and water from your body at a higher rate. Some say this negates the hydration benefits of caffeinated drinks like coffee. A more balanced approach simply advises to include non-caffeinated sources of water into your daily mix.
Small Steps, Big Rewards
Hydrating is an easy and effective way to maintain good health. The easier you make it, the more likely you are to stick with it. Incorporating these strategies can keep you go the distance with good health:
- Drink a glass of water after going to the restroom
- Start your morning with a full glass of water
- Drink a hydrating beverage with each meal
- Track your water intake and set reminders with an app like Hydro Coach
- Use a straw to make it easier to drink more
Hydration is an essential component of good health. Make it a daily habit like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Find easy ways to increase your water intake, so you'll be more likely to stick with it. In fact, why don't you go get a glass of water right now? Cheers!