We all know hydration is important. It’s been drilled into most of us by doctors, coaches and parents for years. Your Mom wants you to drink more water for good skin. Your yoga instructor tells you to hydrate. Your doctor checks your urine color. Even the meteorologist at the local TV station reminds you to drink up when the mercury rises.
We all know staying hydrated is important, yet an estimated 75 percent of the North American population is said to be chronically dehydrated. I’m no exception. I’ve been known to grab a guilty-pleasure ice blended vanilla or diet soda instead of bottled water from time to time. But as a newly appointed Essentia® Water Hydration Specialist, I’ve been reminded of the physiologic importance of hydration.
The body is made up of roughly 80 percent water. It only takes a 1 percent to 2 percent drop in body fluid to experience mild signs of dehydration. Some signs of dehydration include dry mouth, little to no tears when crying; decreased urine or very dark-colored urine; dry, cold skin; and dizziness. Severe dehydration may cause fainting, unconsciousness and can eventually cause death if left untreated. That’s a scary notion. But aside from the all-important “water is life,” what are some of the other reasons for hydrating?
- Good Skin. Drinking water helps increase fluid levels throughout all of your cells – skin included. Our skin has many layers that function as a protective barrier to help prevent fluid loss. Drinking water can’t erase wrinkles or fine lines (sorry), but it can prevent your skin from drying out. This reduces the appearance of wrinkles, resulting in a healthy glow.
- Bye Bye Bloat. Proper hydration supports ideal pH in the body, balancing the digestive tract and protecting the stomach lining, which in turn reduces bloat. It may feel contradictory to drink more water when you feel bloated, but the opposite is actually true. When we feel bloated, our body is retaining fluid because it is fearful it will not be hydrated enough and in a timely manner. So the opposite happens when we drink less water. We hold on to that much more than if we are purposefully hydrating ourselves, which sends a signal to our body that it’s okay to release the fluid. Through proper hydration, you can help reduce unwanted “belly bloat,” resulting in flatter abs and more comfortable fitting clothes.
- Weight If you’re trying to lose weight or just want to regulate your “calories in, calories out,” staying hydrated is a great place to start. I recommend drinking a big glass of water to start the day, as well as hourly and before each workout. I also advise having a glass of water before each meal and prior to diving into that snack. Many times your body mistakes thirst for hunger. By satiating your thirst, you reduce your chance of overeating or binge eating.
- Improved Athletic Performance. Dehydration compromises the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating during exercise. At a minimum this can reduce your body’s ability to build muscle and cause muscle cramps. On a more serious note, it can lead to heat exhaustion and in extreme cases a potentially life-threatening heat stroke. Today’s health-conscious consumers are pushing themselves to new limits with everything from hot yoga and hybrid workouts (yoga & cycle) to year-round cycling and running. I advise my instructors and students to hydrate before, during and after each workout. I recommend functional, alkaline water because studies like one by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found alkaline water slows fluid loss, and results in more energy during workouts and faster recovery of athletes.
- Heart Health. If you’re dehydrated, your blood can get thicker, compromising your heart’s ability to deliver oxygen to your cells and organs. In fact, a pilot study conducted on firefighters found that just 30 minutes of stringent exercise from a mock fire drill led to as much as a 17.2 percent increase in blood viscosity (i.e. thickness and stickiness of blood). Firefighters were used for the study because heart attack, which is often triggered by dehydration, is the leading cause of death among on-duty firefighters. But proper hydration isn’t just for firefighters. Everyone can help improve their health by making smart decisions about what to drink and how often to do so.
These are just a few of the many reasons hydration should be a top priority in any wellness experience. Proper hydration can also help reduce headaches, keep your energy up and your mind clear from fog throughout the day. And we can all use a little more clarity in our lives.