It makes up around 60% of our bodies, 75% of our muscles and around 85% of our brains but surprisingly, most people don’t get anywhere near enough water. A study conducted in 2013 in America concluded that up to 75% of Americans could be dehydrated! Being so readily available, water is often overlooked and falls into the ‘out of sight out of mind’ category until you start to feel thirsty but by that time, chances are you are already dehydrated.

As we all know water is vital for keeping us alive and cooling us down on those hot summer days but the roles of water within the body are huge. They include;

• Moistening oxygen for breathing.
• Regulating your body temperature.
• Protecting and cushioning vital organs.
• Cushioning and lubricating joints.
• Helping to convert food into energy.
• Helping your body absorb nutrients.
• Removing waste and toxins from the body.
• Carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells in the body.

These are the main fundamental functions and when we look more at water’s roles elsewhere in the body, it’s hard to see why we would ever deprive our body of it.

• Keeps skin hydrated, youthful and reduces wrinkles by plumping the skin.
• Fat loss (water is a hunger suppressant).
• Helps repair, build and volumise muscle mass.
• Boosts brain power and focus (2-2.5L per day has been proven to boost brain power by up to 30% in some studies).

Dehydration

A lot of people, even those who undergo regular exercise, spend a large amount of their day in a dehydrated state due to insufficient water intake. This leads to suboptimal performance both inside and outside the gym. Key symptoms of dehydration include;

• Fatigue/ workouts feel extra tough.
• Dark urine.
• Headaches.
• Muscle cramps/ weakness.
• Increased heart rate.

More serious symptoms of dehydration can lead to feelings of dizziness, rapid breathing, sunken eyes and even fainting.

It can be easy to unknowingly settle into a lifestyle of poor hydration. The body is an expert at adaptation and where there is a lack of water, there is also a lack in bodily function.

How much water do you need?

Due to differences in body water content and body type, there are slightly different requirements as to water consumption for both men and women. Men on average have around 60% water and the recommended daily intake is around 3.7 litres. Women have a slightly lesser water content at around 55% water with a daily requirement of around 2.7 litres. These numbers may sound high for someone who isn’t used to consuming that much water daily but if we break it down, that’s roughly just over 450 ml of water every 2 hours during a 12-hour day for women and 600 ml for men. Not a lot at all!

Nutrition and Hydration

Though water is the main source of hydration we get throughout the day, food consumption accounts for around 20% of our daily intake. Some foods are better than others at helping towards this as they have higher water content. Although these foods won’t solely get you to optimal hydrating they are great for supporting a steady water intake.

Fruit

Fruit is generally a great option as a high-water content food packed with vitamins but should be eaten sparingly due to higher sugar levels. Here are some that are particularly high in water;

Watermelon, Strawberries (92% water)

Cantaloupe (90% water)

Pineapple, Raspberries, Oranges (87% water)

Vegetables

As for vegetables, its green veg that tops the list here with upwards of 96% water content! Along with this, they too have high levels of vitamins and antioxidants that are vital in a balanced diet;

Cucumber, Iceberg Lettuce (96% water)

Celery (95% water)

Green peppers, Spinach (92% water)

Electrolytes

Advertised in a lot of sports drinks, electrolytes are a key component to hydration and a big reason as to why, just water alone won’t help you achieve optimum hydration. The main electrolytes in the body are Sodium (salt), Potassium, Chloride, Calcium and Magnesium.

To get a little more scientific, electrolytes are a mixture of positively and negatively charged particles in the body that help regulate body fluid balance, nerve function, muscular contraction, heart health and digestion to name a few. Due to H20 (water) being negatively charged and sodium being positively charged, this pulls the water into the body thus hydrating rather than letting it pass through and be simply excreted before it is absorbed. Because of this, I will stress the importance of salt in your diet. 5g of salt (2g sodium) it the recommended amount for women and 6g (2.5g sodium) for men. This electrolyte gets a lot of bad press due to frequent excessive consumption. However, a study at the McMaster University in 2016 found that a low salt diet may actually increase risk the of cardiovascular disease/ death in comparison to an average salt diet.

Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance

A lot of health factors we put down as a result of stressful work and home lives, time commitments, stress etc but if you find yourself with some of the few I will mention, it might possibly be partly due to an imbalance/ lack of electrolytes;

  • Fatigue/ lethargy.
  • Muscle weakness/ cramping.
  • Irritability/ confusion.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.

Causes of electrolyte imbalance

Some of the common causes of electrolyte imbalance are due to fluid loss which can stem from the following situations including;

  • Sickness (vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, high fevers).
  • Poor diet low in nutrients from whole foods.
  • Malabsorption due to intestinal/ digestive issues.
  • Hormonal imbalances.
  • Certain medications treating cancer, heart disease.
  • Kidney damage or disease.
  • Hot climate.
  • High intensity exercise.

It is always important to consider your medical situation as if it is indeed causing an imbalance, then improving this will help to increase feelings of wellbeing, vitality and improvements in overall health leading to better recovery and quality of life.

Harrison is a Freelance trainer and certified corrective exercise and movement specialist.

Phone: 07811316247 Email: harrisongeept@gmail.com.