Did you know that it could only take one percent of dehydration to slow your cognitive function (1)? If you think you’re drinking enough water, you may have to think again.
Your cells need water to function, so even slight deprivation takes a toll on your body. It’s simple — staying hydrated is non-negotiable for your health. That’s why we’re exploring the benefits of water in depth.
Are you ready to dive into the deep end? Here’s everything you need to know about drinking water, and why you probably need more of it.
Risks of Dehydration
If you’ve ever felt thirsty on a hot day, you’ve likely been dehydrated. Dehydration is a more common issue than many of us know.
A Cornell University survey showed that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated (2).
But what’s so bad about dehydration?
- Dehydration impairs your mental function: While experts aren’t sure how, research shows that dehydration affects our mental performance. According to a study from Loughborough University, dehydrated drivers are twice as likely to make mistakes while driving (3).
- Increased chances of kidney stones: Drinking water regularly reduces the body’s salt content — and the likelihood of kidney stones. So when we’re dehydrated, the reverse is the case. Research shows that 19 percent of kidney stone diagnoses are due to chronic dehydration (4).
- Fatigue and metabolism: Dehydration typically means that your blood volume has dropped. Experts say that thirst often indicates that you’ve lost 2 to 3 percent of blood volume (5). Unsurprisingly, not drinking enough water can make you tired and slow your metabolism.
- Heat injury: Over 9000 heatstroke deaths were documented in the US between 1979 and 2013 alone (6). This is ridiculously high figure for an easily preventable health issue. The best way to prevent heat injury? Hydration. The CDC recommends drinking 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes while working outdoors (7).
- Seizures: Seizures — not necessarily epileptic — can result from dehydration. Water helps to keep our body’s electrolytes in balance. As such, when we’re dehydrated, this can lead to abnormal electrolyte levels and cause seizures (8).
- Shock: In rare cases, severe dehydration can cause a drop in blood volume and pressure. This may lead to reduced blood oxygen content, resulting in what doctors call hypovolemic shock (9). Shock can easily be fatal if body fluids are not replaced quickly enough.
- Death: While no one can say for sure how long humans can survive without drinking water, it doesn’t look good. Depending on weather conditions and an individual’s general health, it could be anywhere from hours to a couple of weeks (10).
Who’s at Risk?
20 Benefits of Water
Staying hydrated is essential for well-being and health, yet nearly 80% of working Americans say they don’t drink enough water.
Experts agree that even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on productivity, energy level, and alertness.
But that’s not all. Here are 20 impressive benefits that water can benefit you.
1. Maintains the Body’s Water Balance
A body’s water balance means that the water you consume daily equals the amount of water you excrete. When this is at an optimal level, and ingested water compensates for water loss, it’s called water homeostasis (11). To put it simply, when your body’s water is balanced, you are neither dehydrated nor carry excess fluids.
It’s easier for your body to shed excess water than it is to conserve water when in a deficit. In the former, the body regulates sodium and other minerals in the body to release excess water in urine. But in the latter, not enough water is present to sufficiently supply your cells, causing dehydration.
When you drink enough water, your sodium levels and fluids work in harmony to keep your cells and biological processes running smoothly.
2. Necessary for Optimal Brain Function
Water fuels all of your cells, and your brain, being made of cells, relies on water for its structure and function. Hydration is so important to your central nervous system that if your brain is deprived of it, it might shrink (12).
Though evidence is mixed, some studies find that dehydration reduces both the size and performance of your brain. What’s worse is that if you have a water deficiency, your brain attempts to compensate for it. This means that it works harder with less power, and it’s suspected that this is the primary cause of dehydration headaches (13).
3. Weight Loss
Water is not a miracle weight loss solution, and attempting water fasts to lose weight could have severe consequences. It should never be used as a replacement for a healthy diet.
That said, here are five healthy ways that drinking more water supports weight loss:
- Appetite suppression: It’s not an old wive’s tale. Drinking water before or during meals tricks your body into eating less. This has the greatest effect on middle-aged adults and is noted as a catalyst for weight loss (14).
- Supports fat burning: Weight loss occurs when your body functions with a calorie deficit, or in layman’s terms when you burn more calories than you consume. Water is essential for the functioning of your metabolism, and so helps you burn energy when in a caloric deficit.
- Reduced calorie intake: Sodas, milkshakes, and some alcohols might quench your thirst, but they contain calories. Replacing them with water instead is much healthier.
- Improved performance: Water is essential for removing waste products from your cells, so if you’re getting enough of it, your body will be able to work harder during exercise as well as recover more quickly. Plus, you’ll replace water lost by sweating.
- Energy Boost: Drinking water prevents fatigue and lethargy — two more symptoms of dehydration. The more energy you have, the easier it is to get motivated to exercise.
4. Energizes Muscles
Dehydration physically weakens your muscles. Without water, circulation to your muscles is decreased, so they don’t get enough energy or oxygen. This is because a water deficiency starves your muscles of electrolytes. In turn, this impacts the form and function of muscles (15). It puts you at a greater risk of injury and can also affect your weight.
5. Rejuvenates Skin
There is little to no evidence to support the claim that water can moisturize your skin. But there is an important difference between moisturization and hydration, and if you have dry skin, you should focus on both (16).
Hydration refers to what happens inside your cells. If your body gets enough water, your skin gets what it needs to stay strong. Hydrated skin becomes elastic and soft because the cells are plump with water.
6. Good for Your Kidneys
Your kidneys are an important part of your urinary system because they filter out and remove waste from your body through water.
Urine — the product of their hard work — is a good indicator of dehydration too. If you’re not getting enough fluids, your kidneys will retain water, which concentrates the waste in your body. The darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you are.
Hydrated kidneys are also less likely to develop crystals, which, if left to settle, become kidney stones. Water also prevents and treats urinary tract infections (17).
7. Helps with Waste and Toxin Removal
Water keeps everything running smoothly in your bowels, too. It prevents a number of digestive disorders, including flare-ups in irritable bowel syndrome (18). Toxins in your body are also transported and disposed of with water.
There isn’t a complicated science behind this. Your digestive system, like your urinary tract, uses water to flush out impurities in your body. If you’re dehydrated, there won’t be enough water to carry toxins away, so they’ll settle and negatively impact your health (19).
8. Aids Digestion
Your gut needs water to break down food, and without it, your body won’t be able to absorb vitamins, nutrients or minerals (20). So, it doesn’t matter how healthy your diet is; if you lack water, you won’t benefit fully from all those good nutrients.
Water may also relieve symptoms of acid reflux, as it temporarily balances stomach acid (21). The difference is small, but regular hydration could lessen indigestion.
9. Facilitates Bowel Movements
Dehydration is a major cause of constipation. Your large intestine supplies water to other parts of your body, which take preference if there is a water shortage. Rather than keeping your stools soft, the large intestine pulls water away from your colon (22). As waste hardens through dehydration, bowel movements become difficult and painful.
Dehydration worsens constipation on a dietary level, too. Since you need water to break down nutrients, if you’re constipated, it could be that those nutrients aren’t being absorbed sufficiently.
10. Joint Lubrication
Water helps manage conditions like arthritis and gout. Water prevents inflammation and flushes out uric acid — a substance that can crystallize and settle in your blood.
Synovial fluid — the lubricant in your joints — consists of mostly water. It prevents friction between your joints and enables easier and smoother mobility, so a deficiency can be painful and debilitating.
11. Prevents Hangovers
Excessive alcohol consumption will lead to dehydration. Drinking water can combat that awful hungover feeling.
Alcohol inhibits your body’s production of the antidiuretic hormone, so you won’t be able to reabsorb fluids. This increases urine production, so you lose more water than you can replace (23). If you far exceed your body’s alcohol tolerance level, it induces vomiting, which causes further dehydration.
It might mean more frequent trips to the bathroom, but staying hydrated while drinking alcohol aids in warding off the unpleasant after-effects of alcohol.
12. Supports the Immune System
There are two ways that water keeps you healthy. The first is its role in waste removal as it flushes out waste products and cleanses your body. The second is that it’s vital in maintaining your immune system.
Your blood is made up of 55 percent plasma and 45 percent cells. Blood plasma is mostly water (more than 90 percent), which means that most of your blood is water too (24). Additionally, white blood cells — your body’s most important defense — rely on water to thrive.
13. Good for Hair
There are two ways water helps your hair. Washing it with water keeps it clean and strong, along with hair care products.
Bear in mind that the type of water has an impact too. Hard water contains minerals that can prevent beauty products from taking full effect. It also makes it difficult to rinse products out, and can dry out your scalp. Soft water is healthier in this regard as it’s gentler on your hair.
The second important factor is the amount of water you drink. Your hair, like everything else in your body, is hydrated from the inside. Dehydration could dry out your hair, halt hair growth and, in extreme cases, even cause hair loss.
14. Transports Oxygen Around Your Body
Your blood isn’t just made of water, it transports it too — or at the very least, the oxygen contained in it.
Oxygen molecules are carried to your tissues by your red blood cells. If you have a water deficiency, your blood won’t be able to carry the oxygen to where it needs to be. The result is low blood pressure. Depending on the severity, this could be life-threatening (25).
15. Cushions Tissues and Organs
Water acts as a lubricant to keep your organs and tissues moist. It also serves as a protective cushion around organs, especially increasing the stability and strength of the spinal cord and brain.
Think of this as you would a sponge. When it’s filled with water, you can twist or drop it, and it’ll bounce back. If you leave it to dry out, it’ll crumble or break. It’s the same for your organs — they require moisture to maintain elasticity and resilience.
16. Regulates Body Temperature
There’s nothing like a glass of water on a hot day. Although you can feel it cooling you down, its function in temperature control goes much further.
Sweat is your body’s way of keeping cool — which is why we sweat more in warm weather. This is a useful process, but it comes with two drawbacks.
The first is that sweating itself can dehydrate you; you become thirsty when you sweat a lot because your body needs to replace the lost water.
The second is that when you’re dehydrated, your body can’t sweat (26). You’ll be at risk of overheating, which worsens the effects of dehydration and increases the chance of heatstroke.
17. Maintains Blood Pressure
The less water you have in your body, the more concentrated the sodium in your cells becomes. Sodium is a problem for blood pressure as it prevents your kidneys from removing excess fluids and waste, and the extra strain of that fluid raises your blood pressure (27).
When you’re dehydrated, some of your blood vessels shut down. This means that your blood volume stays the same, but now has less space, which also increases blood pressure (28).
Drinking water maintains the balance of sodium and fluid in your body. This prevents an excess of salt, resulting in a healthier heart and arteries.
18. Prevents Bad Breath
Water on its own can freshen your breath. Just as it rinses toothpaste out of your mouth, water washes away bacteria and bits of old food that start to decay and cause bad odors.
19. Stress Relief
There’s a reason why you’re advised to drink water when shocked, frightened, anxious or wound up. Staying hydrated fights off the physical symptoms of stress.
Stress places an immense amount of pressure on your organs, so they have to work harder. Keeping your body hydrated means that your organs will strain less to meet the demand. Remember that water also regulates your blood pressure and temperature; two things that tend to skyrocket when you’re stressed.
Dehydration can cause stress too. Some research notes that even if you’re only half a liter dehydrated, cortisol — the stress hormone — rises (29). Just being around water is calming; the sound of waves crashing on the shore, soaking in a bath or taking a soothing shower have incredible healing effects.
20. Good for Your Teeth
Despite much controversy surrounding fluoride, it’s added to drinking water in the USA. Fluoride, which is an active ingredient in toothpaste, is known to protect your tooth enamel. It prevents cavities and preserves the condition of your teeth (30).
If you drink hard water, which has a high mineral content, your teeth will benefit since it contains calcium. Calcium is known to assist in the strengthening of the bones and teeth.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
This question has lead to much confusion. Some believe that eight glasses a day will cut it, but a 2002 review found that there is little to no evidence to support this claim (32).
The problem with sticking to a set amount of water every day is that it doesn’t take most hydration factors into account.
Your body displaces water regularly, so if you’re losing more than you take in, the liters you drink won’t count. Weight, height, lifestyle, and age factor in as well.
It’s ludicrous to assume that a heavyweight male boxer and a petite young lady require the same amount of fluid to function.
Your location makes a difference, too, because the climate you live in will affect how much you sweat.
Another important factor is that we don’t only take in water by drinking it straight from the bottle (or faucet). We acquire water through most things we ingest, be it food or drinks. Drinking eight glasses of water on top of that could push your intake into excess.
Your body knows when it needs water, so pay attention. Hydrate when you’re thirsty, and make an effort to replace water that you lose. Drink water regularly, listen to your body, and you’ll be just fine.
Other Water Sources In Our Diet
We’re big fans of water, but some people genuinely don’t enjoy drinking it. Don’t worry if you’re not much of a water drinker; we’re here to help you.
You might be surprised at how easy water is to find and consume without running to the faucet every time you feel thirsty.
- Citrus fruits: A healthy choice because they’re rich in vitamins. They provide both nutrients and the fluid required to absorb them. Other fruits that are high in water content are strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, cucumber, and tomatoes.
- Juice and soda: Fruit juice, though it might contain additives, will retain the hydrating properties of fresh fruit. Soda, on the other hand, is high in sugar but is still 90 percent water (33).
- Broths and soups: Broths and soups are a great way to take water in at dinner. It goes without saying that since water is the foundation of these foods, consuming them will have a hydrating effect. They’re an excellent source of water when it’s cold out, and you need something hydrating and warm.
- Vegetables: Just like fruit, vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, so consuming them has many benefits. Some vegetables, like lettuce, zucchini, and celery, can be as high as 90 percent water. Other veggies that have high water content include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and eggplant.
- Warm drinks: What would a cup of coffee be without water? Research shows that coffee is a mild diuretic, but contrary to popular belief does not cause dehydration (34). Tea and cocoa are tasty ways to drink water, too; just mind your sugar and caffeine intake.
- Soy Milk: According to the USDA, soy milk contains 88.5 percent water (35).
Ways to Drink More Water
Though you take a lot of water in through food, the best way to get it is to drink it.
Here are 20 ideas for keeping up your water intake.
1. Add Flavors
Try infusing different herbs in your water. It’s easy to do, and mint is a favorite to start with. All you have to do is add some fresh herbs to plain water and leave it to stand. The water draws flavor from the leaves, a little like tea.
You can also add drops or slices of other fruits. If you’re drinking warm water, try adding some honey. Sweeteners and small amounts of sugar will work too.
2. Use Your Phone
Apps are available for you to track how much water you drink or consume. You don’t even have to download anything; your phone’s calendar, planner or note app will work in a fix.
Try setting alarms or reminders throughout the day so that you won’t forget to hydrate.
3. Drink While You Wait
There are many opportunities to get some water in without going out of your way to drink it. Train yourself to sip water while you’re idle. Why not drink a glass while your computer starts up, or while you wait for your coffee to brew.
4. Use a Water Bottle
A good quality water bottle will go a long way and will help with drinking on the fly. Keep it next to your lunch or keys so that you won’t forget to take it with you.
Nothing is stopping you from using more than one. Stash a bottle in your car, leave one at work, or keep one next to your bed.
5. Eat More Salt
Salt dehydrates you, so if you add some extra to your diet, you’ll be thirstier and will drink more water. If you’re going to try this, do so responsibly. We’re not endorsing a high salt diet, and we recommend consulting a doctor or nutritionist to be safe.
6. Work Out
You should be working out anyway, but if you want to get more water in, try working up a sweat. Due to the dehydration, you’ll have no choice but to replenish the lost water.
Exercise will also raise your temperature, and you’ll want to drink water to cool down.
7. Try Different Water
Not many people consider this, but there are different types of water. If you don’t enjoy drinking it, perhaps you haven’t found the right one. You can choose between tap water, bottled, distilled, spring or sparkling.
You can also invest in a water filter. It will change the quality, and perhaps even the taste, of the water you drink.
8. Add Ice
If you prefer to get your fluids through juice or soda, add ice to it. Ice blocks will chill your drink and add more water to it.
You can easily make flavored ice blocks by adding fruit pieces to the water prior to freezing. This way, your drink won’t be as diluted when the ice melts, and you’ll get even more water from the fruit itself.
9. Take Vitamins
Taking a daily vitamin supplement is a good idea already, but it can promote more water intake. Choose a vitamin that is effervescent. You’ll have no choice but to take it with water.
If you can’t, or don’t want to find an effervescent vitamin, train yourself to take your supplement with a glass of water.
10. Time Your Hydration
Sometimes, a little discipline is all you need. Designate certain times of the day to drink a glass or two of water. We recommend drinking water first thing in the morning, but you can choose what works best for you.
Ideas to help you include drinking a glass before you start work, with every meal or during your lunch break. Our phone tip above — to use alarms or reminders — will keep you on track.
11. Refill Immediately
Whenever you drink your fill of water, refill your bottle, glass or water jug up again right afterward. We don’t want to admit it, but sometimes we’re just too lazy to drink water. Stay prepared so you won’t ever have a reason to go thirsty.
12. Replenish ASAP
Likewise, whenever you know you’ve lost water, make an effort to replenish it immediately. If you’ve been out in the sun, exercised or secreted a lot of sweat, drink water right away. The same applies if you’ve just been to the bathroom.
If you’re sick and are vomiting or have diarrhea, this is also important. You want to keep your water levels up, so replace what you lose as soon as you can.
13. Drink Concentrates
If you’re a fan of juice, a way to get the best of both worlds is to drink juice concentrates. You have to add water to them, so they’re a tasty way to stay hydrated. They last longer and are cheaper than fresh fruit juices.
14. Start Slow
Don’t pressure yourself. You don’t have to jump right in by drinking more than you can handle. Ease into it; it’s healthier, and you’re more likely to stick to it.
Commit to drinking water every day, no matter the amount. If half a glass is all that you can manage, you’re still doing a good job. As time goes on, you’ll adjust to drinking more water, more frequently.
15. Drink While You Groom
Add drinking a glass of water to your skincare routine. Taking care of your skin starts with hydrating on the inside. Think of this as another step in your beauty routine.
Remember that if you stay hydrated, your skincare products will have a greater effect as well.
16. Enlist a Buddy
If you’re not disciplined, involve someone else who can hold you accountable. Ask a friend to remind you to drink water, or to set up penalties if you don’t reach your hydrating goals.
You may even inspire others to drink more water, too. Challenge each other to see who hydrates the best. Involve your colleagues, family or friends.
17. Use Straws
Invest in a reusable straw and regularly drinking water won’t be a problem. Most people assume that hydrating involves rapidly gulping down immense volumes of water. Using a straw means you can sip throughout the day so it won’t be overwhelming.
18. Keep a Stash Around the House
Keep water bottles, dispensers or water jugs in as many areas of your home as possible. The goal is always to have water within reach, even if you’re not near a faucet. Keep them in a cool spot so they won’t warm up too quickly in summer.
19. Try Warm Water
Drinking warm water has benefits that cold doesn’t, including improving circulation and digestion and clearing your sinuses. It’s also gentler on your teeth, detoxes your body, and functions as a painkiller (36).
20. Reward Yourself
The oldest trick in the book applies to drinking water too. If you have a goal, reward yourself when you reach it. It’ll motivate you to commit, and you won’t feel like your efforts are for nothing.
Your goal and reward can be as mild or extravagant as you like. As an example, if you drink a glass of water every day for a month, treat yourself to a chocolate bar.
Staying hydrated is easier said than done, even though you know that water is good for you and you literally can’t live without it.
Even the smallest degree of dehydration can take a nasty toll on your body and mind.
Do yourself a favor and invest in an easy-to-carry water bottle. This will reduce the amount of effort it takes to keep drinking water.
How much do you drink each day? Could you do better? Let us know your habits in the comments section below.
Do you know someone who should be drinking more water? Be a good friend and share this article with them!