We hear the term “hydrated” used alot, but it’s always seemed kind of vague, hasn’t it? It conjures up images of cucumbers or lemonade, but other than that, it doesn’t always make sense.
Experts can’t seem to agree on how hydration is supposed to be done, either. Some articles will tell you that you need 8 glasses of water a day, some say less, while other continue to debate on how much water is in those glasses.
So it seems that while everyone agrees on how important it is to stay hydrated, we need to learn a little more about the specifics. To save you the trouble and further impress upon you the importance of getting enough fluids in your system (just in case you need convincing) we put together reliable sources of information and came up with a handy, easy to remember list of things you need to know about hydration.
What is hydration and why is it so important?
Hydration is the act of ingesting fluids so that your cells can have enough fluid to function optimally. Ideally, you’ll be drinking water, but realistically, this includes all the fluid you take into your system, including the juices of the plants you eat, soups, coffee, tea, and yes, even soda.
Why is it so important to remember to hydrate? Because water is essential to our body. Nearly every system in our body relies on it for the transport of nutrients, elimination of waste, the protection of organs, and maintaining the balance of electrolytes. If we don’t get enough fluids into our system, our cells would literally shrivel up and die out.
The average human body is composed of 50-75% water, although this amount is much higher in infants, who are around 75-78% water until they are around a year old. By the time they reach that milestone, babies have gained a bit more mass and would be made of roughly 65% water.
When your water level dips below acceptable levels, you’ll feel it. And even before you do, you may exhibit signs of dehydration, such as thirst, cotton mouth, lethargy, irritability, dizziness, and inexplicable mood swings.
However, if you’re in the habit of not taking in enough fluids, and dehydration has become a common state, it begins to manifest in your body. It can lead to halitosis, constipation, gastroenteritis, kidney stones, and urinary tract infections. Extreme cases of dehydration can lead to organ failure and death.
How can I stay hydrated through the day?
Keeping your water levels up through the day can be a challenge. Sometimes you get too busy or distracted, and an entire afternoon goes by without you reaching for a single glass of water.
Keep these following hydration tips and facts in mind, and you’ll find it’s easy to be happy, hydrated, and healthy.
Choose water when you can
Water is still the best for your body. It goes without saying that the healthiest thing you can take for your hydration levels is water. Zero calories and almost instantly available for your system through your digestive tract, clean water has no side-effects and should contain no harmful chemicals.
That is not to say that you can’t supplement it with anything else. At the end of the day, fluid is still fluid, although most doctors and health practitioners would advise against taking too much sugary juices and soda. If you need to up your water intake but don’t feel like chugging away, snack on some fruits and fresh veggies during the day.
Hydration is not just for exercise
You may not always feel it, but your body is constantly making use of the fluid you have in store. Your liver, blood, and kidneys are always working to carry in useable fluid and carry away waste from cells, even if you aren’t breaking a sweat.
When working out, remember that hydrating before and after is just as important as drinking during your session
Making sure that your body has enough liquid to lose when you hit the gym is essential to a good workout. Having enough fluid in your system lubricates your joints, allows your body to sweat freely, and gives you the chance to get the most out of your workout session.
To achieve ideal levels of hydration, sip water generously throughout the day, making sure that you’ve at least downed two cups a couple of hours before gym time. This ensures that your kidneys have had the time to process the liquid and distribute it throughout your body.
However, be aware that you should not be drinking whole glasses of water during the workout session, as these could give you cramps. After you cool down, drink to quench your thirst, and then drink a little more, to ensure that you’re properly hydrated..
Different people need different amounts of water
The problem with saying that everyone needs to be drinking 8 cups of water a day is that we don’t all have the same hydration needs. Obviously, people who are more active during the day need more water, but so do people on certain medicines, as well as children and those who are older, pregnant, or even stressed.
So how much water do you really need? To know that, you need to monitor your body and be aware of how you’re feeling. Check your urine. If it’s a light, pale straw color, then you’re properly hydrated. If it’s almost clear, hang back on the intake, because you’ve too much liquid in your system. If it’s dark yellow, you may want to fill your tank as that signifies that you’re in danger of being dehydrated.
If you’re feeling lightheaded, or hungry when it isn’t anywhere near mealtime, it may be a sign that your body is craving more water than you’re giving it. Drink a glass of water and see if the feeling goes away before giving in to the munchies.
If you’re busy, make it easier for you to get a drink
If you’re working, studying, or doing any activity that commands your complete attention, you may forget to drink for hours. Bring a container of water to your desk to make sure you have a visual clue to sip every now and then. If you have a tendency to become so engrossed in what you’re doing, set an alarm until it becomes a habit to stop and drink after every hour.
Take it with you
Invest in a good water bottle, one that you feel comfortable carrying around in your bag or in your hand. It’s a cost-effective way to stay hydrated while shopping, walking, or just traveling from one place to another.
Hydration isn’t rocket science, but it does get a little tricky sometimes. However, as long as you keep these tips in mind, you can easily maintain your body’s optimal fluid levels with no trouble at all. Happy hydrating!
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