We keep hearing it over and over again: It is important to drink water. But why is it THAT important?
The body contains a considerable amount of water, 50 to 70 % of a body's weight is water. Water is used in the body for regenerating purposes and is as such a vital building block.
Water has incredibly many vital functions in the human body and forms part of all biochemical processes. It transports nutrition to all cells and waste products away from the cells, it produces digestive fluids for the stomach and the intestines and contributes in general to the shape and structure of the body.
Water is essential to an efficient and healthy digestion. For a body to benefit at an optimum from dietary fibres, it needs water to break them down so that they can pass through the intestines. Some fibres are insoluble but do absorb water on their way through the large intestine. If we do not drink enough water we risk being constipated, accumulating a lot of waste products.
A loss of just 1% of a body's fluid content will reduce the body's strength by approx. 10%, something you can decidedly feel. When a body lacks water, it automatically adopts a "saving mode", focusing on protecting vital organs and therefore absorbing water from less important areas. Some of the many symptoms indicating a lack of fluid are pain in the joints, accumulation of fluid, dry skin, cracking nails, reduced energy level, hypertension and increased appetite. If you are physically active it is important to drink even more water because your body secretes some fluid as sweat. Thirst sensors are inhibited during physical activities, making you feel less thirsty, and you therefore easily get dehydrated. Moreover, water is essential to develop firm and attractive muscles. Many people think that muscles primarily contain proteins but they do in fact primarily contain water. If you exercise heavily for long periods at a time, it may also be advisable to add a little salt to the water you drink because your body also loses a lot of salt when sweating.
It is important, though, to drink plenty of water not only when it is hot but also when it is very cold. Cold and dry air will absorb moisture from your lungs, making you lose even more fluid when exhaling and without your noticing it very much.
A lack of fluid is often also the cause of headaches and/or fatigue. Dehydration alarmingly blunts essential functions such as ability of concentration, coordination and reaction and results in a general apathy or inactivity. Water is essential to the brain. If you take painkillers, it is even more important to drink abundant amounts of water because such pills are often hard on the mucous membranes of the stomach. – Headaches that often occur after a night on the town are almost always caused by dehydration, which is not obvious because precisely on such nights we drink lots of fluid. However, it is important to stress that alcohol is diuretic so you can easily lose considerable amounts of essential water during a night on the town.
On a diet?
If you are working to achieve a weight loss, it is a very good idea to drink plenty of water. In addition to filling your stomach, water also has a satisfying effect with no calorie content. Indeed, we often feel hungry without actually being hungry, precisely because our bodies need water, so it pays to always try drinking a glass of water if you feel hungry. As previously mentioned, water is also essential to a healthy digestion which again is a very important thing if you want to lose some excess weight.
Likewise, one's appearance generally depends on having ample supplies of fluid to make it look nice and healthy. Your skin, hair and nails need nutrition from within through fluid, just as they are cared for from without through the application of cream and body lotion. Your skin will feel soft and smooth when constantly supplied with fluid from within, and your hair and nails will be strengthened and look shiny.
You need to drink about 1/3 of your body weight measured as decilitres a day (which means that if you weigh 60 kg, you should drink 20 decilitres = 2 litres a day). Remember that we talk about pure water: syrups, soft drinks, juice, milk, coffee etc. do not count. It is also important to know that coffee, tea and alcohol are diuretic so it is advisable to drink an extra glass of water for every cup of coffee you drink - then you are sure to keep a proper fluid balance. Soft drinks, syrups and other drinks containing large amounts of sugar have to be digested in your stomach before entering your intestines.
There is a limit, though - it is unwise to be fanatic and exaggerate your consumption of fluid. Many athletes have a habit of filling themselves to a bursting point, trying to accumulate water for instance before a competition. Human beings, however, cannot accumulate this fluid, and you risk losing essential minerals and salts by exposing your body's fluid regulating system to such a challenge.