Summer’s coming. Do you know where your water bottle is? During a rainy spring, people may have neglected hydration, not feeling as thirsty, but even when you aren’t thirsty, it’s important to keep drinking water for many reasons. Now that sweaty summer is hot on our heels (so to speak), it may be time to recommit to drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Why so important?
Here’s what the science says:
- Water may help with weight loss. Fact: Water has no calories. Most other beverages do have calories, as well as sugars or microbiome-damaging artificial sweeteners, and few nutritional benefits. It just makes sense that replacing sugary beverages with water could help with weight loss, but the effect seems to go beyond that. Drinking more water helps the body burn fat more efficiently, as well as increasing how quickly people feel full when eating, and one study showed that even when controlling for how much people ate and how much they exercised, overweight women who drank more water still lost more weight than those who drank less.
- Water helps your body regulate its temperature. When you are overheated, you sweat, which brings temperature back down, but also gets rid of water that must be replaced to avoid dehydration. Sweating also flushes out salt, which can disrupt electrolyte balance and cause the stress hormone cortisol to rise. Without replenishing, sweating can eventually stop working, core body temperature can rise, and the body can go into a state that makes it temporarily more susceptible to having a heart attack or stroke. Yes, dehydration can be that serious! If you keep drinking water, sweating will continue to work, so you can keep working (or working out, as the case may be).
- Hydration improves performance. If you are an athlete or have to physically perform in some other way, you will be hindered by dehydration but helped by proper hydration. Studies show that hot weather hinders physical performance more than cold weather. Exercising without hydrating is more likely to result in heat stroke, hindered heart function, a drop in blood pressure, and reduced blood flow to muscles, which, as you can probably surmise, will result in less strength and speed. If you are in any sort of athletic competition, whether it’s something formal or just a competition with yourself to improve, hydration is extremely important. Your body just can’t work as well without enough water.
- Dehydration slows your brain. It’s been observed and validated that people who are dehydrated, even mildly, are more likely to have a disrupted mood and have reduced cognitive function. Specifically, the ability to concentrate, be alert, remember things, notice differences between similar things, track things visually, and even do simple math, are all impaired under conditions of dehydration, especially in children and older adults (healthy young people have compensating mechanisms to account for the impact of mild dehydration, but are also cognitively impaired when dehydration becomes more severe).
- Hydrated people have better digestion and detoxification. Dehydration can contribute to constipation and slows down the digestive process. Water eases the digestive process and helps fiber work better to keep things moving. It also helps the kidneys do their job better.
- Dehydration can cause migraines. Multiple studies have demonstrated that dehydration can be a migraine trigger. There is also another kind of headache called a water-deprivation headache, which I personally would prefer not to experience.
- Water makes your skin look better. Although there isn’t a lot of science directly linking water consumption to “beauty,” we know that the skin is about 1/3 water and that water in the skin contributes to plumping, as well as to the elasticity and resiliency, or barrier function, of skin. Studies do show that people who are dehydrated can have sagging skin and that drinking water after being dehydrated does plump up skin. My point of view is that water makes all the systems of the body work better, and when the systems of the body work better, health improves, and when health improves, skin looks better.
How do you get all these benefits, and avoid all these less desirable consequences? Just make water your drink of choice. Drink a glass as soon as you wake up in the morning, and sip it all day long. Even if half your body weight in ounces seems like too much, just start drinking a little more than you drink now, and work your way up. You may find you need to run to the bathroom more often at first, but as your body adjusts to your new, more healthful hydration status, that will slow down and you’ll start noticing the many beautiful benefits of a fully hydrated body.