We tend to think of our bodies as a collection of muscle, tissue and bones, but like the earth’s surface, we’re mostly made up of water. Water accounts for approximately 70% of your body weight. And it serves several vital bodily functions, carrying nutrients to your cells, aiding in digestion, flushing the body of wastes, and keeping your kidneys healthy. Water keeps your moisture-rich organs (skin, eyes, mouth, and nose) functioning well, it lubricates your muscles and cushions your joints, and it regulates your body temperature and metabolism.
Even being slightly dehydrated will affect the way your mind and body functions. How do you know if you are dehydrated? It’s difficult to say. It may sound like a paradox, but it’s generally not a good idea to wait until you’re really thirsty to drink water. By the time you become thirsty, you can already be dehydrated. Generally speaking, if you aren’t taking a swig of water every 30 minutes throughout your day, you are probably slightly dehydrated.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the coffee, tea or soda you drink counts toward your water intake! Caffeine acts as a slight diuretic to your system, drawing water out of the body. Alcohol is even worse. Some studies refute these claims but anyone who’s suffered a hangover (a side effect of dehydration) understands the effect. If you are drinking caffeine or alcohol, make sure you’re balancing those drinks with plenty of water.
Two liters of water per day is still a good rule of thumb for keeping well hydrated—but don’t get stuck on that amount. Its not about drinking a certain number of glasses of water per day, its about how you feel and how much hydration you need to function at your best. If you’re in a cool workplace and don’t move much during the day, a couple of liters should be fine. If your job has you working outside, in the heat, you need more. Although not a replacement for regular H2O, don’t be afraid to add some type of sports drink to your water if you are exercising for more than an hour. This will help replenish minerals lost through heavy sweat.
Bottom line: be prepared. Keep a bottle of water at work and fill it often. Keep a bottle of water in your car and drink it on your way to your destination. Remember the 30-minute rule- a swig of water every half hour. Hydrated = healthy.