At our company, one of our work spaces is a long table where several of us sit. We do a lot of collaborative work and it’s a good arrangement for our work styles.
Josiah, who sits across from me, is (in my mind) the King of Hydration. He has a giant Yeti cup he keeps filled with water and within arm’s reach at just about all times.
Randomly, throughout the day, he will announce “Hydrate brah!” and we are all prompted to pick up our cups and take a drink.
The “brah” comes from his having lived in Hawaii. The reminder to hydrate comes from his personal trainer background and his knowledge of how important staying hydrated is good for your health.
Drinking enough fluids is crucial to maintaining the function of every system in your body. You can survive weeks without food. During India’s freedom movement, Mahatma Ghandi used fasting as a means to affect change and endured several 21 day fasts. Spending days, however, without water will make you not long for this world.
Water acts to lubricate our joints, carry nutrients to our cells, regulate our body temperature and flush out waste products. We are constantly losing water as we sweat, eliminate waste and simply breathe.
Not replacing this lost water means your volume of body fluids, including your blood volume will drop. Too little circulating blood means a fall in blood pressure and this can be fatal. When water loss is extreme, sweating stops and our body temperature rises which is dangerous for your brain, which is sensitive to temperature swings.
Extreme conditions like hot environments coupled with long bouts of sweating or exercise can create this kind of drop in fluid volume. Dehydration of more than 10% of your body weight is considered a medical emergency.
Cold environments are also tricky since they fool you into thinking you don’t need to hydrate as much but the lack of humidity pulls moisture from your skin and breath causing dehydration. That’s why your skin is drier in the winter.
Age and health can be a factor in your hydration status as well. According to Dr. Julian Seifter, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, “Older adults don’t sense thirst as much as they did when they are younger.” If you think you fall into this category, try to be mindful to consume water through the day. Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables is another way to hydrate gradually.
It is also possible to overhydrate and according to Dr. Seifter, certain health conditions (i.e. thyroid disease, kidney, liver or heart problems) require balanced water intake and if you are taking medications that make you retain water (NSAIDs, opiate pain medications or antidepressants), check with your doctor to make sure you are hydrating in the right amount.
The best way to hydrate is by drinking water.
You can sneak in additional hydration gradually throughout the day: if you are lucky enough to have a Josiah within ear shot – sip water when your co-worker calls it out, eat water-rich foods like fruits, vegetables or soups and consume other beverages like coffee, tea or milk to contribute to your hydration status. Just stay away from alcohol as a means of hydration. It is actually a diuretic and pulls water out of the body. Sorry. I’m just the messenger.
How do you know if you’re well hydrated?
There are lots of resources that note specific amounts of water to take in (you’ve probably heard the 8 glasses in a day about a million times) but these recommendations are pretty broad.
Hydration amounts should be specific to you and your lifestyle. If you are a roofer working in the blazing hot sun, your sweat rate and hydration requirements are going to be very different from those of an office worker.
Exposure to sun, sweat rates, food consumption, and sheer difference in biology will all impact the amount of water you need in a day. The best way to know if you are hydrated enough is to pay attention to your body. It will tell you if you need more water:
- This is a no brainer: are you thirsty? Yes? Hydrate brah!
- Try the pinch test – pinch the skin on the back of your hand and pull it upwards. If it doesn’t snap back and retains its pinched shape for multiple seconds before slowly dropping back, you may be dehydrated. Drink up!
- Not to get too personal but are you using the restroom regularly? The average human goes 6-7 times a day (more or less). If you only hit the restroom once or twice all day long (and you’re not on any medications that affect urination), you guessed it: you’re dehydrated.
- One more personal question: what color is your urine when you do go? If it’s dark yellow or brown, you are dehydrated. Try to drink enough water that your urine runs clear to pale yellow throughout the day. Stay away from the dark side. Pale sunshine yellow is the goal.
- Last one: how do you feel? If you have a headache, feel light-headed or tired, dehydration may be the culprit. It could be other issues like stress levels but a quick way to find out is to drink some water and see if your situation improves. Easy.
Still not convinced?
Here’s a fun Facebook video to inspire you to drink up: