We all know we’re supposed to drink water, however 60% of the population suffers from some level of dehydration. If you asked 100 people on the street how much water they should be drinking per day, you’re likely to hear “8 glasses” or “1/2 your body weight in ounces” from the majority. So why do only 40% of people actually adhere to this guideline?
Most people tend to neglect their hydration needs due to overly-committed days of business meetings, long car commutes, family obligations, etc. We don’t want to take the time to run to the bathroom or refill our water bottles.
The recommendation of 8 glasses of water per day exists only to stress the importance of water intake, however this recommendation is extremely vague, and individual hydration needs vary greatly from person to person.
Water intake must be sufficient to meet metabolic demands, which is influenced by body size, composition, and physical activity.
Why is water so important?
Our bodies are made up of 70% water, and our brains are made up of 80% water, so you can imagine how not consuming enough of it can impact cellular and cognitive function.
Water is essential for digestion, absorption, and excretion, and for keeping our bodies in balance. Lack of water, better known as dehydration, can lead to digestive issues, poor performance, low testosterone, poor cognitive function, increased hunger, and much more.
Dehydration and constipation:
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation. If you’re dehydrated, the large intestine will soak up water from food waste, creating hard stool that is difficult to pass. Constipation then creates toxicity in the body, leading to a whole host of problems in and of itself.
Personally, I suffer from chronic constipation due to my kidney disease. My body does not trigger thirst, and my kidneys pull water from the rest of my body to be able to do their job efficiently, leaving me dehydrated but with no trigger to drink water. I have to be extremely diligent about drinking water because of this.
Food should move through the body in a timely fashion, usually 18-24 hours in total. If this is not happening, then you may be dehydrated and/or lacking sufficient fiber.
Dehydration and physical performance:
Dehydration causes lack of performance in the gym, and increases your rate of perceived exertion. You are likely to tire quicker during your workouts if you are dehydrated, and fluid loss of just 2% can significantly decrease performance.
Dehydration can also hinder the muscle building process by lowering testosterone levels in the body. Immediately following exercise, cortisol (stress hormone) is naturally elevated. When cortisol is elevated, testosterone is suppressed. So if you’re already dehydrated before and during exercise, testosterone will be lowered even more, affecting the body’s ability to build muscle efficiently.
Dehydration and hunger:
Not consuming enough water can mislead our brains to thinking we are hungry, causing us to overeat, and typically we overeat the wrong foods.
The same part of our brain is responsible for hunger and thirst, which can lead to mixed signals. Knowing the difference between thirst and hunger is vitally important. Signs of hunger would be feeling weak, irritable, moody, stomach rumbling or empty feeling, and true hunger comes on gradually not suddenly. If it hasn’t been at least 3 hours since your last meal, chances are you’re thirsty, not hungry.