By Natalie Foote
It tastes like nothing, but a specific flavor of nothing. You can’t go more than three days without it, and you’re made of between 55-75% of this. What is it? Water! This beverage is often overlooked as flashier drinks like diet soda, smoothies, and sports drinks flood the market with their “health” benefits. These are loaded with sugar and end up dehydrating you more than if you were to drink nothing at all. Water plays a key role in staying hydrated, allowing people to do everyday things as simple as walking or thinking.
When people think of being thirsty, it is often linked to exercise. In fact, during exercise, athletes can lose 6-10% of body weight in sweat loss according to a report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). This can cause significant detriments to athletes if they do not effectively replenish the fluids they lose. If an athlete exercises while dehydrated—even as little as 2% dehydrated—they will see decrements in endurance, quicker fatigue, and reduced motivation while putting in an increased perceived effort.
Even if you aren’t an athlete, other benefits come with staying hydrated, such as improved cognitive function. Even mild dehydration can cause disruptions in mood, with moderate dehydration prompting short-term memory impairments, lack of arithmetic ability, and slower visual tracking skills, to name a few.
Athletic performance and cognitive ability are important, but water affects us on a crucial level by affecting the body’s ability to control its temperature. When our body overheats, sweat is produced to cool us down. This is why we sweat while exercising. One study shows that loss of water through sweat can range from 0.3 liters per hour to 2.0 liters per hour, depending on conditions and rigor level of exercise. Sweat is released to cool our body temperature, but if not compensated for by fluid intake, not as much sweat is released. Eventually, this causes a dangerously high rise in body temperature with no natural means of cooling off.
Being overheated for long periods of time can lead to drastic health effects, but being dehydrated has an even worse impact on your kidneys. The kidneys’ main job is to remove waste from the blood and excrete it in the form of urine. Water keeps blood vessels open, allowing blood to travel to your kidneys and deliver them nutrients. The National Kidney Foundation says that staying hydrated can reduce the risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections. But how much water does it take to stay hydrated?
There are so many factors at play that a single number won’t do it. Age, height, weight, activity level, other health conditions, medications being taken, and the amount of water consumed through food or other beverages impact the amount of liquid water that someone should consume daily. A reliable—yet imperfect—calculator based on data from the US Institute of Medicine can be found here. But this is a suggestion, and if you feel energized drinking more water or if your doctor recommends more, do so.
Water is the most important substance on Earth. It keeps plants, animals, and humans alive. Without it, we would die within a few days. Without enough of it, health effects begin to appear. So, everyone should make an effort to stay hydrated to the best of their abilities. It can be a tough habit to get into, but there are countless reminder apps that can aid in getting used to drinking water consistently throughout the day. So, get up and drink a cup of water to start your journey towards hydration!
A woman drinks water out of a glass. Image from Pexels.