Did you know that the human body is over 60% water? While you have probably heard about the importance of staying hydrated and drinking water throughout the day, few people get the recommended daily amount. Your body depends on water for so much, from keeping your organs functioning properly to maximizing your physical performance. Water is like fuel for your body, and you need to always keep your tank half full to avoid the detrimental effects of dehydration. In fact, getting enough water can also help with injury prevention for a number of reasons. Drinking water before, during, and after physical activity helps deliver vital nutrients and oxygen to your cells, regulate your body temperature, and remove waste. Here is everything you need to know about the importance of staying hydrated and how it can help you prevent injuries on and off the playing field.
Benefits of Staying Hydrated
You need water to survive and keep your brain, bones, muscles, organs, and other structures working properly. When you sweat, you lose some of your body’s water content. If you don’t replenish that water, it can lead to several different issues. Keeping enough water in your body throughout the day helps improve your blood circulation. Especially when you engage in physical activity or exercise, you want to get your heart pumping and reap the benefits of that cardio. Improve your circulation when you drink plenty of water and let oxygen-rich blood bring vital nutrients where they are most needed in the body. Staying hydrated also promotes proper digestion and helps your body flush out toxins through the kidney, bladder, and gut. You have probably seen commercials for moisturizers and lotions that keep your skin looking radiant. In fact, the best way to moisturize your skin is by getting enough water to drink. This helps keep your skin from drying up, tightening, and developing wrinkles. Drinking enough water throughout the day can also aid in weight management, control cholesterol levels, and support weight loss efforts. With so many benefits, you can see how staying hydrated keeps you healthy from head to toe.
Symptoms & Side Effects of Dehydration
So, what happens to your body when you don’t get enough to drink? You have probably heard of dehydration. You may not realize just how easy it can be to get dehydrated. Spending a long period of time outdoors on a hot and humid day can cause you to sweat, and if you don’t replenish with enough water, you can become dehydrated. Athletes of all skill levels can also become dehydrated if they don’t get enough to drink while engaging in high-intensity sports and activities. Here are common symptoms and side effects to watch out for with dehydration.
The first sign of dehydration is that you will start to feel thirsty. Thirst is your body’s first signal that you need to refill your fluid levels. This is the equivalent of noticing your car’s gas gauge has reached the halfway point and you start counting down the days until you will need to head to the gas station. When you start to experience thirst, this is a good indication that you need a glass of water or two to start replenishing.
When you are dehydrated, you will likely start to notice your energy levels start to drop. You might experience more apathy toward an activity or feel sluggish on your feet. When you don’t have enough water in your body, your blood volume actually decreases, which results in low blood pressure. This means you have less blood pumping to your heart and makes it harder to get oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. So, you may start to feel tired or fatigued easier because your body is conserving energy to focus on meeting vital needs.
Dehydration can also affect your urination. If you haven’t had enough water to drink throughout the day, you might notice your urine becomes a darker yellow color and may have more of an odor to it. As you become more dehydrated, you might also notice that you urinate less frequently. Dehydration can also lead to inflammation of the bladder, so you might also notice pelvic pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
When you become dehydrated, your brain will receive signals from various nerves in the body that can impact how your brain regulates your mood. Researchers have found an increase in irritability, tension, confusion, and depression among people who do not get enough water to drink on a daily basis. As your body becomes more sluggish with dehydration and your energy levels drop, you may become less interested in activities or have difficulty concentrating.
If you don’t get enough water or lose too much fluid without replenishing, you could faint. Fainting, also known as syncope, occurs when your blood pressure drops too low and your nervous system responds with a syncopal episode. Dehydration might cause you to feel woozy or lightheaded, and if you are standing upright or moving around, that requires more energy. Syncope could be one way your body tries to get you to slow down so it can conserve energy.
If your body becomes overheated, you could develop what is known as heat exhaustion. You might start to sweat heavily, and your pulse starts to race. Heat stroke can occur if you spend a lot of time in high temperatures, especially with high humidity and while engaging in strenuous activity. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include cool, moist skin, goose bumps, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, headache, and nausea. Untreated dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion that can develop into a life-threatening condition like heat stroke if your body doesn’t get enough fluids.
When your body temperature gets too high and your body’s mechanisms for cooling off fail, then you could develop heat stroke. This is the most serious type of heat injury and commonly occurs in the summer, especially during strenuous outdoor activities. Along with a high body temperature, heat stroke can lead to an altered mental state, and you may become nauseous or vomit. Heat stroke can also lead to rapid, shallow breathing and a racing heart rate while your body tries hard to cool off. If you don’t replenish lost fluids from sweating and strenuous activity, you can put yourself at risk for a serious condition like heat stroke.
How Dehydration Can Affect Your Muscles & Joints
Staying hydrated involves more than just water. Your body also needs electrolytes, which include sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, to support healthy muscles and joints. When you hear about how your body needs fluids, this refers to a combination of water and electrolytes that support healthy functioning throughout the body. Otherwise, dehydration can affect your muscles and joints in the following ways.
When you lose fluids and electrolytes like sodium, your muscles can start to spasm or contract, causing cramps. Muscle cramps can be incredibly painful, but they can also put you at risk for injury. Whether you overexert yourself during a workout or don’t get enough fluids before and after an activity, muscle cramps can feel like you have a stitch in your side that makes deep breathing uncomfortable, or a charley horse in your leg that feels like a thick knot that makes movement uncomfortable.
Wear and Tear
Your muscles and joints depend on you staying hydrated to help prevent wear and tear on the body. As you age, tissues and cartilage start to wear down and lose their elasticity and flexibility. Getting plenty of water to drink helps keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to these areas and can help prevent too much wear and tear on the body. Fluids also deliver essential nutrients to help your body heal itself and generate new cells.
Cartilage in your joints depends on fluids to keep everything moving smoothly. Collagen, proteins, synovial fluid, and water allow your bones to move across cartilage without rubbing against one another without grinding. If you get dehydrated, your cartilage can lose its cushioning and support, making your joints feel stiff and achy.
How to Stay Hydrated Each Day
Whether you are a professional athlete or a casual jogger, you want to practice healthy habits that keep you hydrated throughout your day. Pay attention to your daily water intake and make sure you keep your body full of the nutrients it needs to function at its best. Always plan to hydrate when you exercise, which includes getting enough fluids beforehand and making sure you replenish afterward. While water offers the best way to stay hydrated, you can also consider other hydrating drinks with added electrolytes for a boost. Water offers a sugar-free and calorie-free way to replenish your fluids, while sports drinks can have a lot of sugar and sodium that reduces its effects. However, you might also consider coconut water or adding fruits like lemon or cucumber to a glass of water.