The importance of staying hydrated
Water is essential for life and it is the most important component of our bodies and diets (1). It participates in every function of the body, such as regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients in the cells and wasting products out of the cells (2).
Additionally, it helps in the maintenance of a good hydration status and a balanced body weight, while it improves digestion (2). The body of a healthy adult woman consists of 45 to 60% water and the body of a healthy adult man of 50 to 65% of water.
Not drinking enough can lead to dehydration and some of the most common side effects of dehydration are bad headaches, fainting, increased fatigue, loss of consciousness, reduced energy levels, difficulty in concentration and overall, many negative health effects (3, 4, 5). It’s important to maintain good hydration levels during the whole year, but especially during summer or when you are in a hot environment as the body needs more water and fluids to stay hydrated.
Do you know which are the best ways to check your hydration levels, increase water consumption daily and sustain it as a healthy habit?
#1: Use an app.
An app can help you control better the amount of water you consume daily. It will help you to keep a track during the week, while it will remind you when to drink. Especially for those of you who work long hours and are constantly in meetings, it’s very important that you have “a pal” with you who reminds you when to drink. Using an app will definitely help you improve your water consumption daily and improve your hydration status in the long term.
#2: Buy a water bottle and take it with you anywhere!
Having a water bottle with you the whole time when you are out or when you are at work, is very important too. This way you will remember to drink more often, while it will help you to better calculate the amount of water you drink. You can also add berries, lemon, lime, lemon or lime zest, mint, peppermint to change a bit the flavour. This way, -by changing a bit the water taste- you will most possibly like it more and you will manage to drink even more. Keep also in mind that sugary drinks and alcohol, do not count as water consumption! 😉
#3: Top up with fruits and vegetables daily.
Fruits and vegetables are high in water content and they can contribute to your daily water consumption (1). Add a fruit to any of your snacks during the day (midday and afternoon snack) and add salad or vegetables with any of your meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Fruits, vegetables and salads are high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They will make you feel full for longer, while they will provide you with many different nutrients, necessary for the body to function well and to boost immunity. Aim for seasonally fruits and vegetables and for a variety of different colours. By doing this you will manage to increase water consumption daily and at the same time to maintain good nutrition habits while improving satiety and receiving a good amount of all the required nutrients daily.
#4: Check your urine colour!
An online urine colour chart will help you with this. You will realise that you are already dehydrated when the urine colour is dark yellow and the volume is small and you will realise that you are well hydrated when the urine colour is light yellow and the volume is large. You can check the online scale with the different colours and understand in what stage of hydration you are on a daily basis. By doing this you will be able to check the improvement you make by drinking more water and adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
#5: Drink more when you exercise…
Of course, it’s much easier to get dehydrated when you train especially for long hours and in warm environments. An athlete’s performance can easily be decreased if he/she doesn’t start training or competing well hydrated or if he/she doesn’t keep well hydrated during the training or competition. Athletes may reach up to 6 or 10% loss of body weight through sweating, and even a 2% reduction of the body weight, seems to be detrimental for the athlete’s performance (1, 6). Thus, there are specific fluid replacement strategies for the athletes, which need to be followed, in order to avoid dehydration, boost performance and maintain vitality and health. The advice of a specialist in this case is very important as more individualised guidelines depending on the sport, the individual and the training environment need to be followed. Replacing electrolytes as well while training, is also very important in order to keep the body’s water balance. We have a written another handy article on how much water to drink during exercise.
Keep in mind that good hydration strategies are required to a. improve energy levels, b. reduce headaches, c. improve both mental and body performance, d. reduce anxiety, e. relieve constipation, f. improve weight loss, and g. sustain life (1-6). These are reasons -good enough- to keep an eye on the above “rules-habits”, so you manage to improve your daily water, fruit and vegetable consumption. Remember that an average healthy woman should drink around 2 litre's of water per day and an average healthy man about 2.5 litre's of water per day.
Anna-Maria is a registered sports nutritionist, (SENr, INDI), with 8 years of experience. Anna-Maria trained at Oxford Brookes University and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. She is also a sports scientist and a Yoga
Teacher. Book your free 15 minute discovery call if you would like to see how personalised nutrition advice can help you.
1. Popkin, B. M, D’Anci, K. E., and Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews, 68, 8, 439-458.
2. Hark, L. and Deen, D. (2005). Nutrition for life. The definitive guide to eating well for good health. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley.
3. Armstrong, L. E. , Ganio, M. S., Casa, D. J., Lee, E. C., McDermott, B. P., Klau J. F., Jimenez, L., Le Bellego, L., Chevilotte, E. and Lieberman, H. R. (2012). Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. The Journal of Nutrition, 142, 2, 382-388.
4. Cheuvront, S. and Kenefick, R. W. (2014). Dehydration: Physiology, Assessment, and Performance effects. Comprehensive Physiology, 4, 1, 257-285.
5. Ganio, M. S., Armstrong, L. E., Casa, D. J., McDermott, B. P., Lee, E. C., Yamamoto, L. M., Marzano, S., Lopez, R. M., Jimenez, L., Le Bellego, L., Chevillotte, E. and Lieberman, H. R. (2011). Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. British Journal of Nutrition, 106, 10, 1535-1543.
6. Murray, B. (2007). Hydration and physical performance. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26, 5, 542–548.