We all know that we should drink “enough water” — but what are the benefits of drinking water exactly?
Staying hydrated is important for electrolyte balance, supports digestion, allows our bodies to disperse nutrients, and helps maintain normal functioning of our cardiovascular and immune systems. In fact, just about every organ and system in our bodies depends upon water to do its job.
If you’re guilty of needing to up your water intake, rest assured that drinking water is pretty simple once you make a few changes.
How much water should you drink a day? Find out below, along with tips for squeezing more water into your diet and routine to take advantage of the benefits of drinking water.
Benefits of Drinking Water
What happens to your body when you drink a lot of water? The human body is made up of between 55 percent and 75 percent water, depending on one’s age. (In infants, water accounts for a higher percentage of body weight compared to in older adults.)
Water is needed for some of the following essential functions:
- Electrolyte balance
- Nutrient and oxygen transportation
- Temperature regulation (although we need to drink plenty of water no matter the temperature outside)
- Normalization of blood pressure and stabilization of heartbeats
- Removal of waste and bacteria from the body
- Digestive processes, including forming stools and producing bowel movements
- Repairing muscles and cushioning joints
What are the benefits of drinking water? Here are some of the reasons it should be your main beverage of choice:
1. Prevents Dehydration
Drinking water is the No. 1 way to prevent and diminish dehydration symptoms — which can include poor concentration, fatigue, low energy during workouts, headaches, weakness, low blood pressure and dizziness (not to mention hangovers).
By consuming enough fluids, studies suggest you’ll help prevent mood swings, lack of focus and even problems memorizing new information. This has big payoffs when it comes to multiple facets or your life, including when you’re at work, the gym, school, etc.
Elderly adults need to be especially careful about avoiding dehydration, since many older people don’t have a strong sense of thirst — plus some may take medications that can increase fluid loss.
In addition to drinking water, aim to consumer other electrolytes too (magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium) by eating a healthy diet. If you’re an athlete or work out intensely, it’s even more critical to prevent fatigue and dizziness.
2. Supports Digestion and Detoxification
When it comes to digestive health, why is it good to drink water? Your kidneys and liver require water to clean your blood, produce urine and help your body to get rid of waste.
Increased water intake can also help prevent development of kidney stones.
You also need to be stay hydrated when sick in order to overcome the illness, since your body needs water to produce snot and phlegm, which are beneficial because they carry white blood cells and germs out of your diet.
When you drink water (and eat fiber), you’re less likely to deal with constipation and diarrhea, which can be worsened in some cases by dehydration. In addition to eating high-fiber foods, up your water intake in order to “keep things moving” and help you stay regular.
3. Keeps Calorie Intake in Check
One of the benefits of drinking water over soda, juices and other sugary drinks is that it’s one of the easiest ways to avoid consuming excess calories. Sugary drinks can increase your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer, so avoiding them should be one of the first steps you take in order to improve your health.
4. May Help Control Hunger and Support Weight Loss
One “mini review” published in the journal Frontiers found evidence from human and animal studies that “increased hydration leads to body weight loss, mainly through a decrease in feeding, and a loss of fat, through increased lipolysis.” In other words, your body may burn more calories when you drink lots of water due to the positive effects it has on your metabolism and possibly energy expenditure.
Water from beverages and foods also takes up room in your stomach and can make you feel fuller. Foods with a high water content tend to be low in calories and often high in volume and fiber. (Think melon, apples, tomatoes and most other fruits and veggies.)
5. Improves the Appearance of Your Skin, Eyes and Hair
To make your skin glow, your eyes look brighter and your hair shinier, drink up. Dehydration can lead to bloodshot eyes, dried and lackluster skin, and brittle/weak hair.
How Much You Should Drink
How much water should you drink a day? While “eight glasses per day” has been the standard recommendation for adults for some years, the actual amount that you need depends on factors like your body size, activity level, age, diet, and how much alcohol, coffee and other drinks you consume.
Because not everyone agrees about how much water you should drink each day, here are recommendations from a few major health authorities:
- The Institute of Medicine recommends between nine and 13 cups per day for adults.
- Harvard Medical School tells us that four to six cups is a standard recommendation for generally healthy people.
- Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health suggest between six and 10 cups per day is adequate.
Here are some tips for getting into the habit of drinking more water:
- Start your day with a big glass. Before having coffee or eating breakfast, down some water to get things moving. When you drink water in the morning you start off the right foot, giving your body H2O that it needs after a long night without anything to drink.
- Get into the habit of bringing a water bottle with you whenever you leave home, including in the car, to the office and gym, etc.
- Have a glass with each meal or afterward, as well as when you complete other tasks throughout your day, such as taking medicine or supplements. This association will help you remember to drink more water.
- All beverages containing water contribute toward your daily needs. To keep things interesting, mix it up with different types of water (see below), plus sneak more into your diet via hydrating fruits and veggies. In the U.S., it’s estimated that about 22 percent of adults’ water comes from their diets and likely even more in European countries. Some of the most water-rich foods include cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, cucumbers, squash, yogurt, apples, grapes, oranges and pears.
- When drinking alcohol, take it very slow and have a glass of water between drinks (or ideally stop at one drink).
- Drink more when exercising or when spending time in hot, humid climates that make you sweat.
- If you’re sick, recovering from an illness, pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to consume even more water since your needs will be higher.
Types of Water
There’s more than one way to drink more water and get the benefits of drinking water, which is good news if you don’t necessarily like sipping on plain, unflavored water all day.
Try these variations on plain water. They can help you to meet your daily H2O needs and enjoy the benefits of drinking water:
- Lemon water — Add a slice or two of lemon or lime to your water to increase its flavor and also make it more alkaline.
- Sparkling water — This is water combined with carbon dioxide, which makes it bubbly but doesn’t add calories or salt.
- Fruit-infused water — For added flavor but minimal calories, try water infused with fruits like watermelon, berries, oranges or even herbs like mint or lavender.
- Other hydrating beverages that offer some benefits include cold-pressed juices (made with no added sugar), herbal teas, unsweetened coconut water, bone broth and unsweetened almond/coconut/nut milks.
- Raw water is a form of water that has not been filtered, processed or treated in any way. The idea is that unprocessed water preserves many of the beneficial minerals and compounds found in H20 sourced from natural streams.
- Alkaline water is produced through a process called electrolysis, which splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen to increase the pH of the final product. It typically clocks in with a pH level around 8 or 9 while the pH of water is usually closer to 7.0 or less. Since it’s most alkaline than regular tap water, it can help offset a highly acidic diet that many people in developed nations are prone to eating today, potentially offering benefits like improved mineral status.
Wondering if it’s safe to drink good old-fashioned tap water? Although many people prefer the taste of bottled water over tap water, it’s generally considered safe in most areas of the United States to drink from household taps.
Still, tap water may contain more fluoride than filtered or bottled water as well as certain chemicals and compounds that could be dangerous in high amounts. A good way to benefit from tap water while limiting risk is to install a water filter that can help decrease heavy metals and chemicals.
Risks and Side Effects
Is drinking only water healthy? In other words, should you drink other things too, such as juice or tea?
Disadvantages of drinking water only can include missing out on other electrolytes, including sodium/salt, and antioxidants found in drinks like tea, coffee and some juices. Overall, while water should be your main source of fluids, it’s not a bad idea to mix things up with other anti-inflammatory drinks too — just be sure to avoid sugary drinks, which are linked to obesity and other health concerns.
Can you drink too much water? Yes, it’s called water intoxication.
People who have thyroid disease or kidney, liver or heart problems need to be careful about balancing the amount of water they consume.
If you take daily medications (such as diuretics, thyroid medication, NSAIDs, opiate pain medications and some antidepressants) to help manage a chronic health condition, make sure you understand how this affects your water needs. Talk to your doctor about whether or not your meds may make you retain water or if they may increase your urine output.
- Some of the effects that drinking water has include regulating your body temperature, digestion, electrolyte balance, blood pressure, heartbeat and muscle function.
- Other benefits of drinking water include healthier digestion, detoxification, circulation, concentration, energy and appetite control.
- How much water should you drink a day to obtain the benefits of drinking water? This depends on your body size, activity level, age, diet, and how much alcohol, coffee and other drinks you consume. Needs can vary widely but usually fall between six and 11 cups for most adults.