We all know that drinking water is important to your health. And we all have heard that we should drink at least 8 glasses a water a day, but most of us do not know why water is so important or exactly how much we should be ingesting for optimal health. In this article we will answer those questions as well as many more.

The Basics

Your body is made up of 60% water, which is essential for cellular homeostasis and a wide variety of biological processes including

  • Fueling the body with oxygen delivery
  • Regulating temperature
  • Lubricating joints
  • Gastrointestinal health

It has been found that humans are capable of surviving without food for 2 weeks but cannot survive without water for only 2 days. Water has been referred to as the “elixir of life” as it is the cornerstone that allows human existence and survival.

Water is a major constituent of various body parts and is present in the following amounts:

  • Brain and heart – 73% water
  • Lungs – 83% water
  • Skin – 64% water
  • Muscles and kidneys – 79% water
  • Bones – 31% water

At birth, babies are composed of 78% water and this decreases to 65% by age 1.

Adult men and women contain slightly different amounts of water due to differences in body composition. Women tend to carry more fat, which contains less water than lean tissue.

Thus, bodies of adult women are composed of 55% water, whereas bodies of adult men are composed of 60% water.

Why is water important to the body?

Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, including the climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems.

Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints

Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it also keeps the tissues in your body moist. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and the brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.

Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste

Adequate water intake enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. The kidneys and liver use it to help flush out waste, as do your intestines. Water can also keep you from getting constipated by softening your stools and helping move the food you’ve eaten through your intestinal tract. However, it should be noted that there is no evidence to prove that increasing your fluid intake will cure constipation.

Water Aids in Digestion

Digestion starts with saliva, the basis of which is water. Digestion relies on enzymes that are found in saliva to help break down food and liquid and to dissolve minerals and other nutrients. Proper digestion makes minerals and nutrients more accessible to the body. Water is also necessary to help you digest soluble fiber. With the help of water, this fiber dissolves easily and benefits your bowel health by making well-formed, soft stools that are easy to pass.

Water Prevents You From Becoming Dehydrated

Your body loses fluids when you engage in vigorous exercise, sweat in high heat, or come down with a fever or contract an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. If you’re losing fluids for any of these reasons, it’s important to increase your fluid intake so that you can restore your body’s natural hydration levels. Your doctor may also recommend that you drink more fluids to help treat other health conditions, like bladder infections and urinary tract stones.

How much water should you drink daily?

There are many different opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day.

Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.

However, some health gurus believe that you need to sip on water constantly throughout the day, even when you’re not thirsty.

As with most things, this depends on the individual. Many factors (both internal and external) ultimately affect your need for water.

The Mayo Clinic took up this question and answered exactly how much fluid the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate needs.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.

What about the advice to drink 8 glasses a day?

You’ve probably heard the advice, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” That’s easy to remember, and it’s a reasonable goal.

Most healthy people can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty. For some people, fewer than eight glasses a day might be enough. But other people might need more.

Factors that influence water needs

You might need to modify your total fluid intake based on several factors:

  • Exercise. If you do any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to cover the fluid loss. It’s important to drink water before, during and after a workout. If exercise is intense and lasts more than an hour, a sports drink can replace minerals in your blood (electrolytes) lost through sweat.
  • Environment. Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional fluid intake. Dehydration also can occur at high altitudes.
  • Overall health. Your body loses fluids when you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Drink more water or follow a doctor’s recommendation to drink oral rehydration solutions. Other conditions that might require increased fluid intake include bladder infections and urinary tract stones.

Beyond the tap: Other sources of water

You don’t need to rely only on what you drink to meet your fluid needs. What you eat also provides a significant portion. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are almost 100 percent water by weight.

In addition, beverages such as milk, juice and herbal teas are composed mostly of water. Even caffeinated drinks — such as coffee and soda — can contribute to your daily water intake. But water is your best bet because it’s calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.

Sports drinks should be used only when you’re exercising intensely for more than an hour. These drinks help replace electrolytes lost through perspiration and sugar needed for energy during longer bouts of exercise.

Energy drinks are different from sports drinks. Energy drinks generally aren’t formulated to replace electrolytes. Energy drinks also usually contain large amounts of caffeine or other stimulants, sugar, and other additives.

What happens if you don’t drink enough water

Once you start to feel thirsty, dehydration has already begun.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dark-yellow and concentrated urine
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth, lips, and eyes

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • confusion
  • having an intense sense of thirst
  • lack of sweating even in warm climates
  • low blood pressure
  • producing little to no urine
  • a fast heart rate

If you experience such symptoms, drink fluids. You may need to consult a medical professional for IV fluids to rehydrate.

  1. Keep a gallon jug nearby

Exercising

Gay men love to exercise but we don’t talk enough about how much water we need to perform effectively and efficiently. We went to Mens Health Magazine to get some answers.

70%. Of all the fluids Americans drink every day, that’s how much isn’t water, according to the most recent U.S. National Health Nutrition Examination Survey. Although the study reveals that most men reach their target for total fluid intake, only 30% of that is made up of water. Which isn’t doing their health any favours, particularly if they’re exercising regularly.

Why? A humble glass of H2O may not be the most popular pre-workout tipple for Americans, but it’s certainly the most essential. A study published in the journal Sports Medicine found dehydration “consistently attenuates strength (by 2%), power (by 3%) and high-intensity endurance (by 10%).”

As a rule of thumb, drink a 250ml glass of water 30 minutes before you hit the gym to ensure your muscles are firing on all cylinders. Then follow that up with 500ml within 30 minutes of finishing. Deciding how much to sip mid-session is more subjective. “Around 500ml of water during the course of a one-hour workout is sensible,” says nutritional therapist Jo Scott-Dalgleish.

After 90 minutes moderate exercise, water is no longer enough. At this point, your glycogen stores are mere fumes and it’s time to start sipping electrolyte-rich sports drinks. For endurance athletes, managing minerals is exceptionally important and, although the concept of drinking too much water may seem strange, it can be dangerous.

Downing litres of water without replacing electrolytes can cause a condition called hyponatremia, which may lead to seizures, organ failure and even death. If you’re tackling long distance runs, ensure you have a tried-and-tested hydration strategy in place.

Tips to help drink more water

Even in the age where plastic bottles filled with cold water are almost everywhere, some people still have a hard time getting in the necessary amount of their daily water requirements. Here are a few hacks to help you out.

  1. Add flavor to your pitcher
  2. Drink a glass after every bathroom break
  3. Sip before every meal
  4. Use an app to track your cups
  5. Or take it a step further and get a high-tech water bottle
  6. Dilute sugary drinks with water and ice
  7. Keep a gallon jug nearby

Final note

Of all of the basic things you can do to increase your health, drinking water is one of the easiest. Some studies have linked drinking water to increased sexual drive, a possible cure for erectile dysfunction and even a huge booster to your immune system. It is well known to increase skin complexion and elasticity as well as hair and nail growth.

In short, we need water to live a long and healthy life!

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