The Role Of Hydration

Category: Health  

While you’ve likely reached for a coffee, tea, energy drink, soda, or sports drink in the last few hours, when was the last time you filled a glass or water bottle with plain old h20?

The benefits of water.

Although water remains the number one consumed beverage in the world (it is free, after all), water consumption has indubitably dwindled in recent decades thanks to the influx of beverage options available in the consumer marketplace.

It’s important to note, however, that water plays an irreplaceable role in the human diet: we depend on water for tissue integrity, temperature regulation, organ function, oxygenation, and digestion.

Unlike many of the aforementioned beverages, water contains zero Calories, and is free of artificial dyes, sugar, sodium, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.

Water and human health

Nutritional content aside, studies have shown that water consumption plays a marked role in human health, improving organ function, attention and cognition, athletic performance, and promoting weight management.

Studies have consistently shown that a diet high in water content (from water and foods high in water, such as fruits and vegetables) is associated with greater weight control. While many consumers believe that consuming more water increases metabolism, the metabolic increase associated with fluid consumption is relatively mild and not likely to promote weight loss to any large degree.

Water content in fruits and vegetables

The high-water content found in fruits and vegetables comes with a lower Caloric content per unit of volume. In other words, portion sizes for fruits and vegetables are larger- and contain fewer Calories- than foods with lower water content, like grains, proteins, and fats. While all of these foods are components of a healthy, balanced diet, few of us truly consume a sufficient amount of fruit and vegetables each day- less than 10%, in fact.

Other studies have shown that consuming water before and during meals is associated with greater satiety and an overall reduction in Caloric intake, thereby promoting weight loss or maintenance.

Fluid needs are very individual, and depend on age, weight, height, geography, disease status, gender, and physical activity.

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How much water should I drink?

While 64 oz or 8 glasses a day is a commonly touted hydration benchmark, these recommendations are not largely rooted in science. In reality, most adult men and women require more that this relatively random recommendation. The average, moderately active man typically requires about 16 cups of water each day, while the average, moderately active woman requires about 12.  Examining your urine is often a good benchmark of personal hydration: urine should never be darker than a pale yellow. Any darker, and you may be dehydrated.  Common symptoms of dehydration include (but are not limited to): fatigue, inability to concentrate, diminished exercise performance, headache, dark urine, low urine output, lack of sweat response, and dizziness.

Remember that hydration needs vary throughout the year, and even throughout the week. Hot or humid temperatures, increased physical activity, and increased sodium consumption may all require a higher degree of water consumption. Even if you are not actively sweating, water is lost in the evaporation response to heat, so remain vigilant for signs of dehydration when temperatures climb or during physical activity.