You know you need water to survive, and you feel better when you drink it regularly. But what’s really at play in the body when you sip H2O?
In short, a lot. Believe it or not, your body weight is about 60 percent water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water.
The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, according to the Mayo Clinic: The climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems all affect recommended intake.
Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints
Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it keeps the tissues in your body moist, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and brain, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition, water helps protect your spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.
Water Helps Your Kidneys Function
Drinking water is crucial for maintaining healthy kidney function. Our kidneys filter waste and toxins from our blood, and drinking enough water helps our kidneys perform this essential function. Dehydration can lead to kidney damage and even kidney stones. By drinking more water, you can keep your kidneys healthy and functioning properly.
Water Can Help Control Calories
For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher calorie beverages can certainly help.
“What works with weight loss is if you choose water or a non-caloric beverage over a caloric beverage and/or eat a diet higher in water-rich foods that are healthier, more filling, and help you trim calorie intake,” says Penn State researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan.
Food with high water content tends to look larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.
Water Helps Energize Muscles
Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. “When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer,” says Guest.
Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
Immune System Function
Getting enough water may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of immunity. It should. Higher water losses can occur when we are sick (e.g., diarrhea) fighting a bug, so pay close attention to fluids when you’re under the weather.
Hydration1 is involved in lubrication of mucous membrane barriers in our mouth and nose (our first defense against most pathogens), lymphatic draining, clearance of cellular waste, and transporting nutrients (I see you, vitamin D), antibodies, and much more. And 2020 research indicates that less-than-optimal hydration may even be a risk factor for COVID-19 severity and death.