8 February 2019
It might be hard to comprehend, but our bodies are made up of 60% water. So, why is drinking water important if we have so much of it?
We need water for our cells, organs and tissues so that our body functions properly and maintains a regular body temperature. Every day, we lose water through various means such as sweat and urination – you lose around half a litre of water through perspiration from your feet alone! This is especially true of our cadets when they’re on an intense exercise that demands a lot of physical activity. Because of this, it’s important to keep their water levels topped up.
You may hear different opinions about how much water to drink and it depends on many factors, including your lifestyle, age, sex, the climate you live in and how active you are. Learn more about the benefits of drinking water, how much you should be aiming for a day, the implications of not drinking enough water and what happens if you drink too much.
Recommended water intake
As mentioned, everyone may need to drink a slightly different amount of water depending on their lifestyle. It’s also important to remember that this water can be obtained from food and other drinks like tea, low fat milk and juices too.
The standard recommended daily water intake is:
- Men: 3.7 litres
- Women: 2.7 litres
- 5 to 8-year olds: 1 litre
- 9 to 12-year olds: 1.5 litres
- 13+ years: 2 litres For every 30 minutes of exercise per day, you should add another 300ml to this amount. If you live in a hot climate, you might need even more.
The benefits of drinking water
There have been several reports on the positive health effects of drinking lots of water:
- Improves skin quality: Dehydration can cause dry, flaky skin that becomes more prone to wrinkling. Water flushes out the toxins in our pores, removing bacteria and reducing the risk of acne and other skin problems.
- Helps with energy, brain power and fatigue: Drinking water helps keep our energy levels high and can prevent us getting tired easily. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism conveyed that it only took 1.59% of fluid loss to increase fatigue and anxiety and impair the memory of young men.
- Increases metabolism: A different study in the journal stated that water temporarily boosted metabolism – for every 500ml drank, participants would burn an extra 24 calories. That’s almost 100 calories after only two litres a day! This increase may come from the work the body has to do to heat the water to reach body temperature. Flushes out toxins and boosts immune system: A build-up of toxins in the body can cause undesirable heath problems. Drinking water flushes out toxins and waste from the body and transports nutrients to where the body needs them most, resulting in properly functioning systems.
- Prevents aches: It is a well-known fact that dehydration causes headaches. Did you know that it can also cause backache and cramping? Bones of the vertebrae in our backs are supported by discs where the central nucleus of each disk is made of water. Dehydration can weaken this, leading to back pain. Water is a natural lubricant for muscles and joints, so being hydrated means you’ll be more flexible, and be less likely to experience a sprain, cramp, or soreness after your next workout.
- Increases your happiness levels: Our bodies work better when properly hydrated. Because water also stimulates the flow of certain nutrients and hormones, it allows our feel-good hormones to be released more often – meaning you’re more likely to be in a better mood. If that’s not a good enough reason to drink water, then we don’t know what is.
- Plays a huge part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle: Finally, drinking water plays an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle when combined with a balanced diet and exercise. Find out how joining the Army Cadet Force as a cadet or an adult volunteer can help you keep fit as well as boost your confidence.
Effects of not drinking enough water
Whether our body is losing water through exercise, dehydration or sickness, lack of water can stop us feeling 100%, and can also have some serious effects on our bodies. Research from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine shows that just 1% of dehydration can negatively affect your mood, attention, memory and motor coordination.
Dehydration ranges from mild to severe, depending on how much water is missing from your body. Different symptoms accompany each level of dehydration. The effects listed below are just a few dehydration symptoms – if you feel like you could be seriously dehydrated, then ring a doctor as soon as possible.
- Constipation: Lack of water means a build-up of toxins which makes going to the bathroom difficult as your faeces is dry and hard to pass.
- Dry mouth: Your body will start to tell you when it’s been thirsty for a while through a dry and sticky mouth. This is one of the first symptoms of dehydration.
- Breathing and heart rate increase: Not drinking enough water means your body must borrow from other available resources, such as blood. This makes the heart work harder to pump blood around your body, leaving you short of breath and with a faster heart rate.
- Increased risk of kidney stones: Our kidneys rely on water to work properly. Without it, they’re forced to work a lot harder and this can be tiring – potentially causing kidney stones. Leaving kidney stones untreated can have dangerous effects, especially if infection occurs.
- Dizziness and fainting: Feeling faint – due to decreased blood flow to the brain – is a sign that you could be dangerously dehydrated.
Can you drink too much water?
While we have medical professionals telling us it’s crucial to drink lots of water, it’s actually dangerous to drink too much. Overhydration is equally as dangerous as dehydration, and in rare cases can result in death.
If your kidneys can’t eliminate any excess water, the sodium content in your blood becomes diluted. This is called hyponatremia and can be life-threatening. Athletes, in particular, are more susceptible to hyponatremia, especially those who take part in long workouts or events, such as a marathon.
Symptoms of drinking too much water can be like dehydration and so sometimes can cause a false diagnosis. Symptoms range from headaches and confusion to muscle spasms and seizures.
What to remember
Water has a ton of advantages if you aim to drink the daily recommended amount. As well as positive physical effects on your body, your brain will thank you too!
If you think that you’ve drunk too much water and may be suffering from hyponatremia then seek medical advice immediately. Likewise, if you start to feel dehydrated, then drink water to prevent constipation, fatigue and light-headiness. Be sensible and enjoy the positive effects of one of the Earth’s most valuable resources.