Drinking water is important, we all know that. However, there’s so much information out there about drinking water, that I can well imagine that you have questions about it. For example:
- Why is drinking water important?
- What are the dangers of not drinking enough water?
- What are the benefits of drinking water?
- How much water should you drink?
- When should you drink?
- What kind of water?
So I decided to dive into the subject (no pun intended) and provide you with some answers.
Why is drinking water important?
Our body is made up of 60 - 70% water. We lose water through respiration, transpiration and urination. This needs to be replenished to prevent dehydration. It’s as simple as that.
What are the dangers of not drinking enough water?
There are many disadvantages to not drinking enough water.
In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger. I don’t know what the global percentage is, but I guess it’s somewhere between 30 and 40%. The effect of mistaking thirst for hunger is that people eat while they aren’t hungry, which leads to unwanted weight gain.
Even mild dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%. This leads to digestive problems and, once again, gain weight.
Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on a computer screen.
75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This is probably true for the majority of the world population as well. Looking at the above information, that explains in part why obesity is on the rise, why so many people have digestive problems, and why many people are chronically fatigued and have trouble concentrating on their work.
What are the benefits of drinking water?
First of all, drinking enough water negates the above dangers (duh!). But there’s more.
Your brain contains 74% water. Therefore, keeping it hydrated will help you concentrate and think clearly. You will have more energy and be more efficient.
Water may be your best friend if you want to lose weight. A study conducted by the University of Washington showed that one glass of water shuts down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of dieters. Of course, this might simply be due to what was mentioned in the previous section. However, the bottom line is that drinking water helps in maintaining and reducing weight.
Drinking enough water helps flush out toxins through urine, thereby supporting your immune system and helping your overall health.
Drinking at least five glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, reduces the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.
Well hydrated skin looks so much better than dehydrated skin. Think plum versus prune and you get the idea.
Staying well hydrated at all times will greatly reduce your chances of developing kidney stones, headaches (even migraines) and of getting constipated. It is also good for your joints and muscles, because the hydrated body’s joints are all well lubricated and muscles are more elastic compared to those who consume less water.
How much water should you drink?
This of course is the key question. The amount of water you need for optimal hydration depends on many variables, including the climate you live in and how active you are. Generally, we are advised to drink 8 cups (2 litres) of water per day. However, if you engage in sports, live in a hot climate, or sweat a lot for some reason or another, you’ll need to drink more. And of course, the bigger you are, the more water you need.
If you live in a cold climate, you probably won’t be thirsty as often as a person living in a hot climate. Which makes sense, because you don’t sweat as much, so you need less water.
When should you drink?
Ayurveda has always advocated Ushapan (the practice of drinking water the very first thing in the morning). This habit has helped a lot of people naturally and healthfully detox. It flushes all the toxins that have accumulated during the night out of the system before the introduction of your daily meals.
Learn to listen to your body. It gives off subtle signs for thirst, starting with dry lips. This is your first clue. Try to be mindful of it and drink a little water. You don’t need to drink a lot of water, just a couple of sips is enough. Do this throughout the day and you will get your two litres.
Whether or not you should drink with your meals depends on your constitution. People with a dominant Vata-constitution* should drink water an hour after having food, as not to dilute their digestive juices and fire. The ones with a dominant Pitta-constitution* have a relatively concentrated digestion (more acidic juices are secreted). It is better to balance these acids with small sips of water while you are having your food. This may nullify the chances of acidity. People who have a dominant Kapha-constitution* tend to eat too much, which is why they should drink water before they start their meal to prevent them from overeating.
What kind of water should you drink?
Water for drinking should be pure, that’s most important. It also shouldn’t be (ice)cold, as that will extinguish your digestive fire, which functions best at 37 degrees Celsius.
The continuous use of cold water can eventually lead to constipation. Drinking water at room temperature, or even better: lukewarm, may not only safeguard you from the consequences of drinking cold water but also aid in maintaining cholesterol levels, minimising bloating issues, metabolism concerns, and weight issues. I know many of you are used to drinking ice cold water and it’s not easy to change that habit. However, give it a try. You will experience the benefits sooner than you think!
How about coffee, tea, other drinks and food?
The name of the game is hydration. The best source for that is water. However, plain water is not the only source of hydration. About 20% of the fluids you consume come from your food, especially fruits and vegetables. Aside from water, you can drink coffee, tea, juice, dairy products, soft drinks and/or alcohol. Beware though that alcohol is highly dehydrating, so with each glass of alcohol, drink a glass of water. Soft drinks aren’t advised because of their sugar and carbon dioxide content. Fruit juices can be high in sugar too. And coffee and tea contain caffeine.
Looking only at hydration and ignoring other ingredients, apart from alcohol, all these beverages hydrate your body.
Further reading: What Counts as Water? Stay Hydrated and Healthy (though I certainly do not recommend drinking sodas (soft drinks) instead of water, not even diluted.)