Health

The Benefits Of Drinking Water – How Much Should You Drink And Why?

Benefits of Water
Written by Amy

We all know that we should drink plenty of water. We hear it all the time, but the benefits of drinking water aren't always made clear. Everyone makes an effort every so often to do it more, but do you know specifically why?

Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Through the day, this water is used up and lost in general bodily functions like sweating, digestion and respiration, so it needs to be replaced. It makes up various bodily fluids that transport nutrients and electrolytes around your body, regulate your temperature and aid digestion by creating saliva and helping the body absorb nutrients from the gut. It's mega important for almost everything your body does and drinking water is mega important for making sure your body functions optimally.

Drinking Water Helps Your Organs Function

Kidneys

The chemical processes that happen in our cells often create toxins. The cells release these toxins into the body and the blood carries them to the kidneys. Urea is the main toxin in our blood stream. It's made during the breakdown of protein in the liver and passes through the kidneys into our urine. If it's not removed, it leads to an increase of toxic nitrogen in our blood. Urea is water soluble, so drinking plenty of water helps the kidneys pass it out.

If we are dehydrated, then the kidneys keep the water to prioritise other bodily functions, leading to an increased concentration of urea being stored until the bladder is full. This can cause kidney stones and increased risk of infection. If you are chronically severely dehydrated, it can eventually cause kidney failure.

Heart

If the level of fluid in your body is low, then the volume of blood is also low. The means that your heart has to pump harder to get enough blood and oxygen around your body. Since I got my Up activity tracker, I've been able to track my resting heart rate each day and I've noticed a consistent correlation between the amount of water I drank in a day and how low my resting heart rate was the next morning.

Intestines

Water moves things along in the digestion tract. If there isn't enough water, the gut will pull it back from your stool, resulting in constipation. Water also helps the nutrients from your food pass through your gut wall and into your blood stream, feeding the rest of your body.

Skin

When your skin builds up an excess of toxins, it can cause spots, acne, dryness and a wrinkles appearance. Drinking water will help flush out those toxins and clear your skin up, leaving it soft and smooth and healthy.

Drinking Water Helps Your Muscles

When your muscles are dehydrated, they shrink. This results in poor performance and fatigue. So if you're exercising, make sure you get plenty of water to get through that last set.

Often times, aching joints can be due to a lack of lubrication. Drinking plenty of water means that there is enough for all the major bodily functions that keep us alive as well as the less critical, but still important ones, like lubricating our joints.

Drinking Water Helps Weight Loss

You've probably heard this a lot as a "quick tip to weight loss". Normally these fad tips are small amounts of science and large amounts of urban myth, but there is some truth to this one. Mostly because drinking more water makes you healthier and weight loss is a side effect of being healthy, rather than drinking water having a direct effect on your weight.

You're Probably Not Hungry

Often times, when we think we're hungry, we're actually dehydrated. Our bodies are telling us that they need something and we're not so good at deciphering exactly what that is, so we just feed it randomly. We end up eating when we don't need to, taking in extra calories instead of drinking water. If you're not sure that you really want to eat, try having a drink first while you think about it. You might just find that this was all you wanted.

Better Digestion

Water also fills up your stomach and helps your intestines digest food, as we said. This means that if you have some water before or with your meal, you won't feel the need to eat so much and your body will get more nutrients from your food. You then won't need as much food overall to fulfil your body's requirements.

Drinking Water to Lose Water

If you're one of those people who steps on the scales quite regularly and it ruins your day when you see that you put on 2lbs or a kilo or 2 since just a few days ago, even though you've been extra good, try looking at your water intake. As we talked about above, your organs need a lot of water to function well. If you don't drink enough, your kidneys start hoarding what you do have and you put on water weight. It sounds counterintuitive, but the way to get rid of water retention is to drink more water. Your body will realise that it is getting enough and the excess will be removed by your kidneys. Not only will the scales tell you a happier number, but you'll look and feel much less bloated.

So as you can see, water is super important. The benefits of drinking water are astounding when you see them in action

How Much Water Are You Supposed To Drink In A Day?

Something I've been trying to do since forever is drink enough water. I've pretty bad at for a long time, especially considering I've been trying for about 10 years! If I don't make a conscious effort, I can go two days without taking a drink or I'll pour myself a litre with the best of intentions and still be drinking that same litre 3 days later. But the thing is, do you even know how much water to drink?

When I first started making an active effort to drink more water, it was recommended to drink 1 litre a day. Then I remember hearing that it went up to 2 litres and just the other day I read that women should drink 2-2.5 litres and men should drink 3 litres. I can't quite keep up!

I think everyone knows the whole "drink 8 cups of water a day" thing as well, but I always found this stupid. Cups come in different sizes, how is that helpful? If I drink one pint glass of water and then one small tumbler of water is that 2 cups?

How Much Is A Cup When Drinking Water?

Recommendations Are Usually Averages

Then I got thinking one day that what if water recommendations are like calorie recommendations? Women are recommended to eat 2,000 calories a day. However, when I started thinking about this, I realised that I am not an average woman. In the UK, the average woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 11 stone. This is quite a bit taller and heavier than me, so for me to consume 2,000 calories would be excessive. I worked it out one day that my maintenance calorie intake is actually only 1,200. This was not a great realisation. I love food and this severely limited the amount I could get away with eating in a day. One pizza is probably about my entire daily allowance.

Anyway! I started wondering if water intake recommendations were the same. Was there a more specific amount that I could find suited for my body? I have always struggled to drink 2 litres of water in any day and whenever I have managed it I tended to feel bloated and full rather than healthy and hydrated. So I got my researching hat on and I found something that makes way more sense.

A Specific Measurement

You drink 30ml per kg of body weight. There are a few other equations out there, but they're a bit more complicated and involve dividing your body weight in lbs and multiplying by ounces. We have different fluid ounces in the UK, it's actually a totally different volume, so this wasn't incredibly helpful. It also still gives you a final answer in cups and you now know how I feel about cups. So there you go; 30ml per kg of body weight. For me that's 1650ml (and that gives away my weight), which sounds about right and is pretty manageable, though I still spend a lot of time peeing when I drink that much water in a day.

How to Drink That Much Water

Add Some Flavour

There's no denying that water is boring. It's the only thing that has no smell and no taste and no calories. This makes it hard to enjoy drinking so much of it. I've found that I get through a lot more water if I add just a hint of flavour to it. Not enough to make it taste like something else, but just enough to make it interesting. My favourites are lemon, mint and cucumber, in varying combinations. These things can also provide their own health benefits

Lemon

Benefits of Drinking Water with Lemon

I'm sure you've heard of having lemon water in the morning, but do you know why? It's because lemon juice contains detoxifying ingredients that basically make you pee. So when you drink it first thing, it starts your day by flushing out your system and peeing out impurities and then you can get on with the rest of your day already healthier than when you woke up.

Mint

Mint is one of my favourite things to add to water. It soothes upset stomaches and helps aid digestion, so having mint water with a meal helps your body process it. Even just the smell of mint can activate the salivary glands and digestion enzymes. The mint scent is also an appetite suppressant, so having mint after a meal, or even lighting a mint candle, can get rid of that craving for dessert.

Infused Water

You can also buy special cups that have little cages for you to add fruit, like raspberries or strawberries that infuse your water without getting into it. Whatever you find that works for you, do that. The benefits of drinking enough water everyday are great enough to justify the effort. Teas, juice and food also contain water and contribute around 20% of our daily requirement, depending on what we eat of course.

Make It A Habit

Forming habits requires triggers and rewards. The rewards from the benefits of drinking water are everything I've listed above, but it's hard to get emotionally invested in those things. I don't have "Lower Resting Heart Rate" on my vision board to get excited about every time I look at it. So to drink more water, I've opted for triggers as my main habit forming tool. I now carry my water bottle in my hand (this is important) when I walk to and from work and every time I cross a road, I take a drink. In a day, I need to drink 3 of my water flasks to get enough water and this technique gets me one full bottle before I even start work for the day. I then get another one on the way home and only have to fit in one more somewhere in the middle.

The only draw back with this is that on weekends, drinking water seems like much more of a chore as I don't have these same triggers. I haven't yet come up with an alternative for the days I don't walk in to work so I often miss my target on those days. I'm working on it though and I do find now that I drink much more than I used to without as much effort as I used to put into it.

So have I convinced you on the benefits of water? Is it something you already are aware or and actively track or do you tend to find that you drink plenty of water without too much effort? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Amy

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