Water is arguably the second most important element after oxygen. Making up over 70% of the body, water is one of the foundations of life.
To get an idea of how influential water is on the human body, water makes up around 85% of the brain, 80% of blood and around 70% of lean muscle.
Role of Water
- Water transports vitamins, minerals and nutrients around the body. It enables macronutrients such as carbohydrates and proteins to be digested properly. It also helps transport waste out of the body.
- Water regulates the bodies cooling system, preventing you from over-heating whilst working out, especially after intense exercise.
- Water removes toxins from the body, especially from the digestive tract.
- Water suppresses your appetite naturally and helps the body metabolize fat (leading to weight loss).
- Water promotes heart health. Keeping your body hydrated, helping the heart pump blood through the blood vessels to your muscles.
How does water affect how I look?
- Water helps to maintain proper muscle tone - By preventing dehydration, water gives the muscles the ability to contract healthily.
- Helps rid the body of fat - Through increasing metabolic function, water plays a key role in ridding the body of fat. Similarly, when dehydrated, fat deposits increase causing your body to absorb more fat than required. Nevertheless, be cautious of over-hydration as it can lead to kidney damage.
- Healthier Skin – Being well hydrated can help prevent and decrease any wrinkles, whilst helping your body maintain a healthy, smooth look.
Effects of Dehydration
- Common causes of dehydration include; Diuretics (caffeine/alcohol), increased stress, hot environments and increased sweating (e.g. when exercising).
- Dehydration is one of the leading causes of common problems such as headaches, fatigue and joint pain.
- Lack of water is the leading cause of daytime fatigue. As little as a 2% drop in your bodies water levels can trigger a fuzzy short-term memory, as well as a variety of other symptoms associated with that spaced out feeling.
- Decreased performance. It is estimated that a 2% reduction in body fluids can result in performance decreases of up to 15-20% (Kleiner 1999).
- Slower recovery. If you don’t drink water immediately following exercise, your body won’t receive its replenishing nutrients as fast and your performance and recovery may be effected in the following days.
- The main reasons dehydration has adverse effects on performance are; the reduction of blood volume, decreased skin flow, decreased sweat rate, decreased heat dissipation and an increased core temperature.
How much water do you need?
Individuals recommended water intake varies depending on a variety of factors such as their diet (how many diuretics they drink), gender, geographic location, temperature and exercise regime.
As individual requirements can vary drastically, it’s not safe to specify a quantity suitable for everyone. However, as a guideline, it is generally accepted that women should drink around 2.2L and men should drink around 3L daily.
It is important to note that around 20% of an individual’s daily water intake generally comes from foods. It is imperative to hydrate both before, during and after exercise.
Kleiner, SM. (1999). Water: an essential but overlooked nutrient. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(4), 411.