I didn’t really think much about my water drinking habits until I started suffering with headaches. That was when I became a mum, fully breastfeeding and lucky to get 4 hours sleep per night.
At first it started just randomly, from time to time. Then it got worse and when my boy was 2 years old I had terrible migraines every month. I was living on paracetamols.
Everything changed when I started studying Personal Training. I’ve learnt to drink water consistently, much more than is recommended. The headaches suddenly disappeared…
And not just that. All my other problems like dizziness, difficulty to focus, lack of energy, joint pain and the feelings of hunger were gone too.
I wanted to know more about the effects of water on our body so when I was offered a CPD in Hydration I didn’t hesitate to add it to my professional qualifications. Here is what I’ve learnt…
Water in our body
60 – 70% of our body weight is water (or should be). Human brain and heart is composed of 73% water, lungs are made out of 83%, skin 64% and bones 31% (H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158).
That explains a lot about why we are lacking focus and have a ‘foggy mind’ when we are not hydrated properly.
What exactly does water do in our body?
- it’s the building material of every cell
- regulates body temperature by respiration and sweating
- food which is metabolised is transported in our bloodstream by water
- assisting in flushing waste and toxins
- protects our brain and spinal cord
- aids joint lubrication
- aids digestion
Dehydration has its own complications but if you are dehydrated when you are ill then you are extending the time of your recovery. Your body relies on fluid to get rid of toxins in your system.
Poor hydration can cause:
- increased risk of urinary infection
- kidney stones
- poor oral health
- low blood pressure
Dehydration also causes headaches and muscle cramps. A person might think that they just have a headache and treat it with paracetamol. Unfortunately, they will place themselves at risk of becoming severally dehydrated if they don’t start consistently increasing their water intake.
Severe dehydration symptoms include very dry or cracked skin, not peeing or having a dark brown urine, feeling dizzy, rapid heartbeat, sunken eyes, lack of energy or confusion and fainting.
How to check your hydration levels?
Your urine colour is a great indicator. The lighter the colour, the more hydrated your body is. It should a be very light yellow colour, almost making you wonder whether you can see a yellow tint in it or if it looks like a pure water.
In the morning your urine will be yellow because you didn’t drink throughout the night for many hours. It should be getting lighter throughout the day as you get hydrated again. Beware that certain medications and Vitamins can colour the urine, in which case this is not the accurate way to check your hydration levels.
How much water should we drink daily for our body to thrive and not just survive?
The recommendation in the UK is 2l for women and 2.5l for men. However that is just a recommendation and not a scientifically proven amount.
It is individual as every body is different and needs a different amount of water. There is a way how it can be calculated but it is very complicated.
From my personal experience and from talking to other women and men my recommendation is minimum of 3l of water for women and 4l for men per day consistently to experience the benefits of hydration.
Women still report the symptoms of dehydration even when they drink 2l of water a day, especially if they have an active lifestyle. I used to suffer with headaches with 2.5l a day and it was only after reaching 3-3.5l per day consistently that I felt free of headaches and joint pain.
There is so many benefits in full hydration we don’t even realise. However, it makes so much sense since water makes 60-70% of our body. It is more important than food and should be the main focus in our healthy diet.
Tips to increase your water intake and stay consistent
- get into the habit of drinking a pint of water the first thing in the morning
- keep a full glass of water where you spend the most of your time – work desk, bedside table, by the kettle/coffee machine, where you watch tv
- get a nice water bottle to take everywhere with you
- if you are hungry or get cravings drink a glass of water first (make it into your trigger)
The more you drink the more often you feel thirsty as your body learns to send you the right signals instead of the hunger or the sugar craving.
The quality of the tap water in the UK is outstanding so it doesn’t have to cost you anything to improve the quality of your life by giving your body the most important thing it needs to function properly and thrive. You’ll be surprised how much difference it makes in your daily life and in the regulation of healthy weight.
Here is to the power of hydration – cheers!
References and resources:
- Horswill & Janas 2011
- Popkin, B., D’Anci, K., Rosenberg, I., (2010), Water, Hydration and Health, Nutritional Revisions, 68, (8), 439 – 458
- Naschitz JE (2019) Dehydration Prevention and Diagnosis: A Study in Long-Term Geriatric and Palliative Care. J Geriatr Med Gerontol 5:070. doi.org/10.23937/2469-5858/1510070
- Urine colour change as an indicator of change in daily water intake: a quantitative analysis