Alongside eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, drinking enough fluids is essential for our overall health. Our bodies are made up of around 60 percent water, and our cells and organs need it to function properly. Water regulates our temperature, lubricates joints, delivers oxygen around the body, and helps us digest food and get rid of waste.
We can only survive a few days without water, but as we’re constantly losing it through our sweat, breath and urine, we need to take on fluids to keep us topped up. How much water we need for optimum health though, is up for debate. Fluid requirements vary between individuals with age, weight, genetics, activity levels and other factors all playing a part.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine [ii] suggests that the appropriate daily fluid intake to replace those losses is 15.5 cups (or 3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women.
Water is one of the best and healthiest sources of hydration as it has no sugar or calories. In conditions where you lose salts in sweat, an electrolyte replacement drink like SOS Hydration is also very effective. But your body also takes fluid from other drinks including milk, coffee, sodas and juice – although caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, so it isn’t as hydrating. Our bodies also get around 20 percent of their fluid from food. Soups, broths, and fruit and veg with a high water content such as cucumber, celery, salad, melon and strawberries are all good sources.
If we don’t take on enough fluids then we begin to suffer from dehydration with symptoms ranging from the mild – dizziness, headaches and fatigue – to the more severe, including a rapid heartbeat, fainting, rapid breathing and, in extreme cases, death. You can spot the warning signs of dehydration by checking your pee – it should be a pale straw colour – and drinking more when you feel thirsty or in warmer weather.
Want more benefits of drinking up? Here are 9 reasons why hydration is so important for your health:
1. It boosts your physical performance
Want to ace your next run or gym session? Hydration could be the answer.
You can lose up to 6-10% of your body weight through sweat when you exercise, so it’s important to hydrate before, during, and after your workout.
Losing just 2% of your body’s water content can have a detrimental effect on your athletic performance, reducing your endurance, increasing fatigue, lowering motivation and even increasing your rate of perceived exertion, so your workout seems much tougher than it actually is. Muscle cramps can be another unwanted side effect, too.
It’s not just water that’s lost in sweat either. We also lose vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium. Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals and compounds that are important for bodily functions like regulating blood pressure, helping muscles – including the heart – contract, and controlling your fluid balance. If our electrolytes are out of whack, it can result in similar side effects to dehydration including muscle spasms, fatigue and an irregular heartbeat.
If you’re working hard add one or two scoops of SOS Hydration to 500ml of water for optimal hydration and balance of electrolytes for recovery.
2. It can lift your mood
Hydration isn’t just important for your physical health, it has an impact on your mood, energy levels and mental function as well. Research from the University of Connecticut shows that even mild dehydration can leave us feeling irritable, tense or anxious.
In tests conducted at the university’s Human Performance Laboratory, women reported feeling fatigued and having difficulty concentrating when they were just 1.5% dehydrated. Men reported feeling fatigue alongside tension, anxiety and trouble with their memory. Overall, it seemed women were more affected by dehydration than men, with the study finding they were more likely to suffer adverse symptoms and effects on their mood.
3. It keeps things moving
Water is a vital ingredient for keeping your digestive system healthy. Fluids keep food moving through the intestines and help ward off constipation and painful bowel movements. When you haven’t got enough water in your body, the colon makes up for it by soaking up water from your food waste, resulting in stools that are hard and difficult to pass. So, if you want to stay regular, drink regularly.
4. It reduces bloating and helps you maintain a healthy weight
It might sound counter intuitive, but if you’re suffering from uncomfortable water retention, drinking water can help.
When we don’t drink enough, our body compensates by holding onto fluids, resulting in bloating and discomfort. So drinking more could actually banish that bloat.
Staying hydrated can help you maintain a healthy weight, too. Many of us confuse thirst with hunger but taking on more fluids helps us feel fuller for longer. In one study, 50 overweight women were asked to drink 500ml of water half an hour before each meal. After eight weeks they all experienced weight loss and a reduction in body fat, and reported that the water had acted as an appetite suppressant, meaning they ate less at meal times, too.
5. It can help you tackle viruses
If you’re sick with a cold, flu or virus, it’s important to drink enough fluids. While there’s not much evidence to show that water boosts your immune system, it will stop you becoming dehydrated, a common side effect of illness. Fevers, vomiting and diarrhea all contribute to dehydration, which can leave you feeling much worse with side effects including dizziness and fatigue.
Dehydration can also make you more prone to infection. Colds and flus can enter the body through your eyes, nose and mouth. “Those conduits of entry, which are called the mucosal surfaces of the body, have to be rich in fluids,” Philip Tierno, a professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU School of Medicine noted in an interview with Vice. “They need to be moist to have optimal operation to protect you from getting ill.”
Adding or oral rehydration solutions, like SOS, in order to replenish electrolytes will help you rehydrate too.
6. It can fight off bladder infections
Good news if you suffer from bladder infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs), staying hydrated could cut your chance of reinfection by almost half. A US study of women with a history of bladder infections found that drinking an extra 1.5 litres of water a day, reduced the number of repeat infections they suffered by 48%. It’s a similar story for UTIs like cystitis, with another trial finding reductions of 47%.
7. It wards off kidney stones
Good hydration can help you ward off kidney stones, a build up of crystals formed by waste products in the blood.
Stones are formed when your urine is too concentrated, usually owing to dehydration. Your body will try to pass these out when you pee, which can cause severe discomfort. Drinking more fluids helps dilute the crystal-forming substances, including calcium and minerals, so stones are much less likely to form.
8. It helps with headaches and hangovers
We all get headaches from time to time, but before you reach for the painkillers, try drinking some H2O. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches and drinking fluids can help relieve the symptoms and intensity.
Water might help banish hangovers, too. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you urinate more when you drink it. Many of the symptoms of a hangover, like a dry mouth, thirst and headache, are actually caused by dehydration. While taking on fluids isn’t going to eliminate your hangover completely (sorry), it can help alleviate some of those unwanted side effects.
Keep some SOS Hydration in a glass of water next to your bed so you can rehydrate, replace electrolytes and tackle that dry mouth as soon as you wake up.
9. It can stop you feeling lethargic in the morning
If you struggle to sleep and feel rubbish the next day, something as simple as upping your water intake could help you through the day.
A recent study by Penn State University in Pennsylvania monitored the sleeping habits of more than 20,000 people. It found those who slept for only six hours a night were more dehydrated than those who slept for the recommended eight hours.
Scientists linked this to a hormone called vasopressin, which helps regulate the body's hydration status. If you only sleep for six hours, you may miss the point in the sleep cycle when more of the hormone is released, so you wake up dehydrated with all the symptoms that entails like feeling drowsy, irritable and having trouble concentrating.
The study’s lead author Asher Rosinger has a simple solution to combat fatigue. “If you’re not getting enough sleep, and you feel bad or tired the next day, drink extra water,” he says.