Water is the single most critical nutrient for health, growth and development, it plays a vital role in balancing our bodies systems from digestion to respiration yet many people underestimate its importance.
The human body is composed mostly of water with our muscles consisting of 75% water and our brains 95%. (1) We are therefore very sensitive to dehydration. The immediate symptoms of dehydration include dry skin, constipation, fatigue and headaches. It is estimated that up to 75% of the population have mild to chronic dehydration. (2)
Symptoms of dehydration
When dehydration is chronic, histamine and other water regulating chemicals are constantly elevated which leads to symptoms of inflammation such as allergies, asthma, indigestion and chronic pain. Most mid afternoon slumps in energy can also be attributed to dehydration, and water makes a much healthier substitute to sugary snacks or caffine.
Hydration and fat loss
If fat loss is the goal then adequate hydration is even more important. When our bodies metabolise adipose tissue for energy it releases a great deal of toxicity therefore placing increases demands on our liver which in turn is very water dependent. As Paul Chek likes say ‘the solution to pollution is dilution’.
How to stay hydrated
In order to establish your hydration status don’t rely on thirst. Thirst is a delayed response and also easy to confuse for hunger. If you are on a calorie controlled diet it is better to take a drink every time you feel hungry between meals as the water will act as an appetite suppressant by distending the abdomen which sends the message of fullness to the brain.
A better barometer of hydration is the colour of the urine. For most healthy individuals, clear or light-coloured urine suggests adequate hydration, whereas a dark yellow or amber colour usually signals dehydration ( be aware that B-Vitamins in multis may cause the colour of the urine to change ). (3)
How much should you drink?
Good hydration is required for maintaining healthy blood flow, proper kidney function, correct sodium/potassium balance and proper digestive functions. Ideally you should be drinking at least 39ml per kg body weight everyday and more if you train. This equates to 2.3 litres for a 60kg female or 3.1 litres for an 80kg male.
If you are not used to handling this much water, titrate consumption up adding an extra ¼ litre a day. It may be that initially you retain water, especially if you’ve been skipping meals. However, this will normalise once the kidneys have had a chance to adapt.<.p>
You should consume clean filtered water, ideally room temperature the majority of the time. However cooled water works best during training as the heat gradient allows for rapid absorption.
Take home points
- Aim to drink 39 ml per kg of bodyweight everyday.
- Ideally drink filtered water, even in the south of England where water purity is amongst the best in the country the toxicity levels would still be classified unsafe in Denmark who have the best drinking water in the world. Brita filters do a great job of removing 99.9% of the toxicity. See http://www.brita.net/uk
- If you struggle with the taste of water, squeeze half a fresh lime or lemon into the water. This has the added benefit of helping to alkalise the body.
- If you find that you are constantly going to the toilet then try adding a pinch of sea salt to each bottle of water.