Staying hydrated is much more than simply quenching your thirst, it is a means for survival.
While some water loss is inevitable as we breathe, sweat and use the bathroom, a loss of just 4% of total body water leads to dehydration, according to a Harvard Medical School article about the biological importance of water.
If warning signs are ignored such as dizziness and fatigue, dehydration can progress from mild to severe and result in serious complications, including low blood volume shock, seizures, urinary and kidney problems and heatstroke.
But you can prevent dehydration if you replenish lost fluids throughout the day, said Elliot Reimers, certified nutrition coach at the National Academy of Sports Medicine in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
“Drink water even when you’re not thirsty,” Reimers said. Don’t forget to drink water before, during and after exercise as well as with and between each meal.
“It will ensure that you’re hydrated, and your body temperature is regulated. When you’re well-hydrated, your body absorbs enough nutrients, your organs function properly, and you’re in a good mood,” he said.
According to Mayo Clinic, drinking water not only regulates body temperature and keeps your organs functioning properly, but it also removes waste, keeps joints lubricated, aids digestion, delivers nutrients to cells and prevents infection.
Although, water isn’t the only option for achieving such health benefits and staying hydrated, says Eva Gamallo, MD.
“I often encounter patients saying that they are tired of drinking plain water, so when you want to switch it up unsweetened coconut water, nonfat milk and water infused with lemon or mint are great alternatives,” Dr. Gamallo said. “Also, there are many easy-to-access foods that are loaded with high water content, including watermelon and strawberries.”
Between food and water, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women to stay hydrated. For those with certain health conditions, such as liver, kidney, heart or thyroid disease or are taking medications that cause water retention, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opiate pain medications and some antidepressants, it is recommended that they consult their doctor first to determine the appropriate amount of water consumption.
Still unsure of how much water you should be drinking and find it hard to keep track? Dr. Petar Bajic explains that the color of your urine can tell a lot about your health, especially hydration.
“When you’re healthy and hydrated, your urine should fall somewhere between colorless and the color of light straw and honey,” wrote Dr. Bajic in an article for Cleveland Clinic. “When you don’t consume enough fluids, your urine becomes more concentrated and turns a darker yellow or amber color.”
Click here to learn what’s normal and what’s not.