It’s an old adage that you can survive without food for a couple of weeks, but you can only survive without water for 3 days, and why? Because the majority of our body is made of water – up to 60% in fact. And if we don’t keep that water level topped up, our cells don’t do what they should do, and our bodily functions suffer.
But why are we always told that we should drink more water, to improve our health and if we want to lose weight?
What does drinking water do for me?
1 – Water flushes out toxins – Water can flush out toxins in our body through sweat and urine. It can also help our kidneys and reduces kidney stones by diluting salts and materials in our urine that cause stones.
2 – Temperature regulation – Water allows heat from the body to be released when sweat evaporates from the skin surface. It also has thermal properties and helps keep joints and muscles lubricated which reduces cramps and things like sprains.
3 – Digestion and constipation – Drinking sufficient water improves the metabolism and helps the body break down food more effectively. Warm water is particular good for digestion. If the body doesn’t have enough water then it pulls it from the stools and therefore makes them harder and difficult to pass.
4 – Reduction in headaches and migraines – These are often caused by dehydration, and research in the European Journal of Neurology found that increasing the amount of water you drink can reduce the total number of hours and intensity of headaches.
5 -Weight loss and appetite suppression – A clinical trial found that if we drink two glasses of water prior to a meal then it fills the stomach and can suppress our appetite resulting in us eating less. Water also increases the rate that the body burns fat and helps with the breakdown and elimination of fat cells.
6 – Healthier skin – Capillary blood flow is improved when we are hydrated and this helps with healthier skin. Water also replenishes skin tissue, moisturises skin and improves its elasticity.
7 – Relieves tiredness – When there’s less water in our body then our blood volume drops which means the heart has to work harder to pump oxygenated blood around the bloodstream.
8 – Faster recovery from hangovers – Alcohol is a diuretic and makes us go to the toilet more which results in dehydration. Rehydrating helps the body as highlighted above and we recover more quickly. Making sure you are fully hydrated before you start drinking alcohol, will reduce the urge to down drinks to quench your thirst. If you also drink water throughout your night and before you go to bed, you are topping up what you have lost throughout the night, hopefully keeping the hangover at bay, the following morning.
9 – Reduction of bad breath – Water keeps our mouth moist which washes away bacteria and food particles, diluting the bacteria compounds that cause bad smells.
10 – Improves mood – Some research suggests that if we’re mildly dehydrated by even 1 or 2 percent then it can negatively affect our mood and our ability to think.
How Does Water Help Weight Loss?
There are a number of theories out there amongst the scientists, some of which are solidly backed up by the research, others which are more hypothetical.
These seem to be the most likely explanations:
Feeling Fuller – Test meal studies have shown that drinking water prior to and during meals increases satiety and changes in feelings of satiety are associated with a lower overall calorie intake which, in turn, leads to weight loss.
Increasing Metabolic Rate – Water drinking may provide thermogenic increases metabolic rate. A faster metabolism burns more calories.
Mobilising Fat Stores – Water is essential for metabolising stored fat into energy, so much so, that the body’s metabolism could be slowed down by even fairly mild levels of dehydration. The slower your metabolism, the harder it is to lose weight.
Drinking Less Calories – The more water you drink, the less need you have for drinks that contain calories. The fewer calories you consume, the more weight you’ll lose.
Does it always have to be plain old water?
It doesn’t, but make good choices. Zero calorie soft drinks or cordials are a good way to get hydrated without the additional calories. Fruit juices, smoothies and regular soft drinks are really high in sugar, and therefore calories.
And remember, caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, colas, or alcoholic drinks are actually a diuretic. This means they actually reduce the amount of water in your body, by causing your cells to release more fluid than they should. So if you have a caffeinated drink or an alcoholic drink, make sure you top up your fluids with water or zero calorie drinks.
Making sure we are hydrated is just about the simplest thing that we can do to help us on our way with our lifestyle change. The only down side is that we might need to pay a visit to the loo a bit more frequently, but that will improve as we get used to it.
Try upping your water intake this week, and see if it helps with any of the things we mention above. If you are interested in making it a habit, download our Hydration program to help.