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Your Body and Hydration

Your Body Needs Fluids to Survive – Here’s everything you need to know about hydration.

Your Body and Hydration

So much attention is devoted to what we eat, and because of this, it's easy sometimes to forget the importance of what we drink as well. I'm talking hydration! The body is about 60% water; in fact, every organ is comprised of a large percentage of water. Keeping the body hydrated is essential for body temperature regulation, joint health, protection of the spinal cord, and ridding the body of waste by-products.

How much water should you drink every day?

Studies show that the amount of water necessary is based on factors such as activity level, environment, age, and body composition. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends, on average, that women consume 11.5 cups per day and men consume about 15.5 cups per day. The total amount may come from water and fluids from food and other beverages. Foods with high hydration include spinach, melon, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, lettuce, zucchini, and celery. In addition to these foods, soups, milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt also have high hydration content as well.

Can you drink too much water?

Staying well-hydrated without being over hydrated is critical. Hyponatremia is a condition defined by excessive dilution of blood plasma levels. When water intake is extreme, it can dilute the sodium in the body, leading to a potentially deadly electrolyte imbalance. Though rare, hyponatremia is sometimes seen in athletes, for example. A 2015 study assessing the risk of hyponatremia in athletes suggests only consuming water when feeling thirsty (in addition to consuming electrolyte beverages during competition) rather than just drinking water at specific intervals throughout the competition. Ultimately over hydration leading to hyponatremia is relatively rare, with dehydration being more common than over hydration.

You’re more at risk for dehydration if you chronically don’t drink enough fluids (especially water), are sick with a condition that causes vomiting or diarrhea, or have a chronic condition such as alcoholism, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. According to the Cleveland Clinic, dehydration may lead to:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • High heart rate / low blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • In hot environments, there is an increased risk of heat stroke.

In addition to reducing the risks of dehydration, maintaining proper hydration can lead to various benefits.

A 2023 study found that individuals who maintained good hydration status were less likely to develop chronic conditions such as heart disease, lived longer, and were generally more healthy than individuals who did not appear to consume adequate fluids.

Multiple studies have linked proper hydration levels with a reduced risk of heart failure.

Adequate hydration (but not over hydration) has been linked to improved athletic performance.

Staying adequately hydrated has been found in a 2013 study to positively impact mood and cognitive performance.

A 2016 study found that individuals who increased their water consumption by 1-3 cups daily reduced their calorie, saturated fat, and sodium consumption. This study demonstrated that adding more water to the diet could lead to reductions in other areas of the diet that potentially impact weight. The concept of adding more water to the diet to help in weight loss efforts has been shown in other studies, including a 2015 study demonstrating that having 500ml of water ½ hour before a meal had benefits to weight loss goals.

Often, urine color may be a good indicator of hydration levels. A 2020 study assessed the role of urine output and color in determining hydration levels. Urine color has also been demonstrated in studies as a good barometer for hydration in children as well. In these studies, the darker the urine, the more likely the individual is dehydrated. A faint yellow is often the best indication that hydration levels are healthy. Clear urine may indicate over hydration.

Consuming hydrating liquids (such as water) is one of many ways to ensure proper hydration; however, many foods contain high amounts of water that can also contribute to better hydration. These include watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, cantaloupe, carrots, avocado, spinach, and lettuces as well as soups, smoothies, tea, coffee, milk yogurt, and cottage cheese.

How to ensure you are adequately hydrated throughout the day

  • If you’ll be out of the house for a prolonged period, carry water in a reusable water bottle.
  • Choose water over sugary beverages and juices to remain hydrated while reducing sugar intake.
  • Spruce up your water if you find water boring with fresh lemon, lime, cucumber, or berries.
  • Recognize that water needs will change based on activity level and temperature.
  • Pay attention to how often you are urinating – if bathroom trips occur only a couple of times during the day, you may not be drinking enough.
Water is essential to healthy living - no mammal can survive without water. Your fluid consumption (and hydration status) will impact your energy, health, and weight. Give it as much importance as you do your diet.