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Drinking more water isn’t just a weight-loss trick; chronic dehydration can have serious health effects.

Water is an essential nutrient for life. Pretty much anything (plants, animals, humans) could not survive without water. Water transports nutrients, provides cellular structure, lubricates joints, regulates temperature, and is a medium for chemical reactions in the body, among many other functions (Riebl & Davy, 2013).

Despite what we know about the importance of water, it continues to be difficult to assess water intake in population surveys, making it even more difficult to provide accurate recommendations for daily intake. Currently, water recommendations are based on adequate intakes, which is a value based on observational or experimentally determined approximations that is used when no RDA has been established and the value is thought to be adequate for everyone in a given population (Gandy, 2015). Although there is no clear recommendation on water intake, avoiding dehydration may be the foundation to living a healthy life and feeling your best on a daily basis.

We’ve probably all heard by now that drinking water is the key to weight loss, or at least it aids in weight loss. Ok, so drinking more water isn’t going to actually make you lose weight (sorry!), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider upping your intake on a daily basis. Often times when we feel hungry or think we might be hungry, your body may actually be thirsty or slightly dehydrated. Drinking water is a good way to make sure hunger pangs are driven by actual hunger and not hydration. In this way, water may be a key tool to your overall weight loss goals. The best way to keep track of your hydration status is to monitor the color of your urine. Light yellow to clear urine means you are well hydrated, and the darker your urine, the more dehydrated you are.

Dehydration can have serious immediate and long-term effects on the entire body (including your weight). There is much research to suggest that dehydration can impair cognitive functioning, and even a mild body water loss of 1–2% can have an effect (Riebl & Davy, 2013). Exercising outside or going for a long walk on a hot day is enough to cause such mild dehydration.

Especially in high-risk populations, severe dehydration can lead to death.

Even if you feel like you are drinking plenty of water, it is still possible for you to become dehydrated. Dehydration can be caused by a number of factors such as heavy exercise, sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, or certain diseases and conditions such as diabetes. For this reason, everyone’s water needs are different. Thirst is also not a mechanism your body uses to avoid dehydration. By the time you are thirsty, you have fallen behind on your water intake and your body is already slightly dehydrated (NIH, 2009).

References

Gandy, J. (2015, June). Water intake: Validity of population assessment and recommendations. European Journal of Nutrition, 54(Suppl 2), 11–16.

National Institutes of Health. (2009, July). Dont dry out: Make sure you drink enough water. News in Health. Retrieved from http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2009/July/feature2.htm

Riebl, S. K., & Davy, B. M. (2013, November). The hydration equation: Update on water balance and cognitive performance. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 17(6), 21–28.