Hydration! Hydration! Hydration!

We have all heard the saying, drink 8 glasses of water a day to keep yourself hydrated. Why is it so important? Well.. water is a critical nutrient that is essential in many of the functions we need for life! We know that without water we will not survive, but how much is enough and how can we tell if we need more?

When individuals are dehydrated, they can experience dry mouth/tongue, thirst, headache, lethargy, fatigue, dry skin, muscle weakness, light-headedness, dizziness and a lack of focus (Shaheen et al., 2018). It can result in the risk of developing “urinary tract infections, renal stones, dental caries, and constipation increases due to dehydration” (Shaheen et al., 2018). According to the Current Hypertension Report, enlargement of the stomach called gastric distension can also be caused by dehydration.

The key is to listen to your body and get into the routine of having a drink of water regularly throughout the day so you can avoid getting dehydrated in the first place. Perhaps place a glass in the washroom as a reminder to have a drink anytime you are in there, or look to add mint, cucumber or other tasty flavors to your water to entice you to reach for water instead of another beverage.

On the flip side, there are some risks of having too much water, particularly for those diagnosed with heart failure. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, people with heart problems such a heart failure should not drink “more than 1.5-2 L of fluid a day” which translates to 6-8 cups a day. The reason why, is that adding too much fluid to our body can overload a weak heart pump. In this case we need to be mindful of how much fluid we are taking in. Make sure to weigh yourself daily and if your weight goes up by more than 4lbs in 2 days or 5lbs in a week, you need to talk to your doctor. Remember this is more than just water, this includes coffee, tea, soup, and even water rich foods. As stated by Nutrition Reviews, water can come from a variety of places such as fruits (watermelon, strawberries, grapes, etc.), and veggies (spinach, celery, carrots, etc.). If you do have heart failure, make sure you listen to the recommendations provided by your doctor.

At the end of the day, water is our most essential nutrient… and as an added bonus it has Zero calories for those with weight management goals. Striving to remember to have water regularly throughout the day, paying attention to our body’s signals and adjusting our intake accordingly will help us to keep our body functioning optimally!

Sharnjot Purba (UBCO Kinesiology Student) & Shawna Cook (Clinical Exercise Physiologist)