Do you only think about hydration when you are feeling parched in the summertime heat? Or, is hydration something you consciously think of as a part of your healthy lifestyle?
Either way, you should know that how well you hydrate your body is as important as the foods you eat. Your body contains something akin to primordial life, in that half of our body weight is made up of a briny fluid that gives us life. This briny fluid bathes, cushions, and lubricates cells, tissues and organs. It is what gives our cells their shape, and provides their substance. It forms the internal watery highway that transports nutrients, wastes, hormones, and other substances throughout the body. Your hydration is kind of important to your health and wellness.
Hydration Equals Life!
Early on in our school years, we learn the importance of hydrating our bodies. We learn that if we become too dehydrated, that we will die. Just staving off dehydration is not enough, you need to take in enough water to carry out a variety of metabolic tasks in your body such as making enough urine to carry away toxic by-products of digestion and metabolism. Good hydration also maintains proper blood volume, prevents body salts from becoming too concentrated, and replenishes whatever water we lose through the course of the day.
How Much Water Do We Need?
The average person requires about a milliliter of fluid for every calorie they burn. This equals approximately eight 8 ounce glasses of water for a 2000 calorie a day diet for maintenance of weight. However, the amount of water you need is also individual to your needs. Those needs are largely dependent on your diet, environment, and your activity level.
- Diet. If you are one who eats lots of fruits and vegetables, which contain a good amount of water, you might not need to drink as much water as someone who does not eat these foods.
- Environment/Weather. When the temperatures are comfortable, we might only lose about 4 pints of water in a day. We lose this water through our skin when we perspire, through the moist air we exhale, and of course through our urine output. Of course, when we are uncomfortably hot, we lose a lot more water. Conversely, we also lose a lot of water during the cold months of winter when the relative humidity drops and the dry air draws water from us.
- Activity. And of course, the more we move our bodies, the more water we lose from it. As your muscles burn glucose, they generate heat. This extra heat must be dealt with or we risk cooking the temperature sensitive proteins that make you be you. Sweating is our natural cooling mechanism that lowers the extra heat we generate when we are moving our bodies. As it forms on your skin and evaporates, it carries heat away.
When we are very active with a workout, or just work in general, we can lose up to a quart of fluid per hour. Because we do not always realize when we are becoming dehydrated, we should drink when we are thirsty. Drink before we become thirsty. And drink enough to keep your urine consistently clear or yellow rather than bright or dark yellow.
Our thirst is not always a good guide to rely on to gauge our level of hydration. By the time we feel thirsty, we might already be dehydrated. This is a problem when we are working or playing hard in the summertime heat. We often do not realize that our hydration is running on empty. The older we get, the bigger problem this becomes as older folks do often become dehydrated while never realizing it.
The Consequences of Dehydration
The consequences of becoming dehydrated range from life threatening to mildly irritating. Extreme dehydration can be deadly, and occurs mostly in children and older people during very hot weather. This is also a problem with endurance athletes. Minor dehydration can simply make us grumpy and tired. It also can make it hard to concentrate. And lastly, chronic dehydration can be a cause of constipation, and may lead to kidney stones and bladder cancer. The bottom line is it is imperative that we always keep our bodies well hydrated for a plethora of reasons.