All About Hydration
by Nicole Wilkes
Photography courtesy of Noor Nasser
It’s springtime in Boston, and after a brutal winter, the weather is finally getting warmer. Many are spending more time outdoors in the sun, or maybe feeling extra motivated to make the trek to the gym. Factors like these, in addition to the changing temperature of the air, make it dangerously easy for dehydration to sneak up on you.
The average adult body is about 60 percent water. It’s so essential to our daily functions that humans can feel the effects of dehydration as soon as the amount of water in our system drop by 1 to 3 percent.
The benefits of proper hydration are extensive. The first is perhaps the most obvious: drinking enough waters helps regulate your body temperature and keep you from overheating. When you’re dehydrated, it’s harder for your body to carry outs its natural cooling mechanisms.
Drinking water is also good for your muscles and joints, and this is essential for everyone, not just athletes. Proper hydration ensures there is enough water inside and surrounding muscle cells, which is essential so muscles get the nutrients they need. H20 is also a key player in lubricating your joints, which is why people who suffer from joint stiffness or inflammation are often advised to drink a substantial amount of water daily.
You’ve probably already heard about how important hydration is for the skin. Many credit increased water consumption for playing a major role in clearing up breakouts and keeping the skin bright. Some even claim proper hydration can slow the development of or even prevent wrinkles, but there is no scientific backing to that claim. It is, however, widely accepted that H20 helps keep the skin supple and “elastic.” In fact, a common way to test for dehydration is to pinch the skin and observe how quickly it “bounces back” or returns to its original position. If it bounces back slowly, you are most likely at least slightly dehydrated.
The kidneys, which are responsible for cleansing the bloodstream of waste, need water to properly do their job. Dehydration can lead to a buildup of the toxins and waste the kidneys should have been able to dispel.
Proper hydration is also linked to weight loss and the ability to maintain a healthy weight. Often, we mistake thirst with hunger and therefore end up eating more than we actually need (up to 96 extra calories a day, according to some studies). To combat this, try drinking a cup of water when you feel hungry. Genuine hunger won’t be quelled by water alone, so if you suddenly feel satisfied, you know to hold off on that snack until the next feeling of hunger rolls around. Ice water is often noted as being even more effective for weight loss because the body expends energy bringing the liquid up to body temperature.
Want to make an effort to be better hydrated but don’t know how? Here are a few tried-and-true tricks that will make drinking enough water less of a pain.
Elena Bernstein (CAS ’20) says having water on-hand is a crucial part of staying hydrated.
“I carry my water bottle with me everywhere and try to drink some before class starts and as its ending,” she said. “Also, I almost always drink water at meals instead of soda or something else.”
If you have trouble drinking enough water because you don’t enjoy the taste, try putting a couple slices of fruit in your water bottle. This will make it less boring, and help you avoid flavored water alternatives that are high in sugar.
With that, remember that you can eat your water as well. Many fruits, such as watermelon, grapes and cantaloupe, are over 90 percent water. These fruits not only keep you hydrated, but also contain essential vitamins.
Briana Goldberg (COM ’19) opts to get a head start on her hydration early in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day.
“I always drink a whole cup of water first thing when I wake up.”
Everyone is built differently and has different activity levels that impact the amount of water they need to drink in order to stay healthy. However, it is essential to take an active role in your hydration, as it impacts so many aspects of your health.