If you’re mindful of your health, then staying hydrated is probably (hopefully?) one of your top priorities. After all, your body is made up mostly of water and water plays a role in every single body function, from regulating body temperature and metabolizing food to helping flush out waste. “When you are adequately hydrated, your cellular machinery functions more optimally, producing adequate energy and eliminating waste efficiently,” explains Jill Carnahan, M.D., functional medicine physician and author of Unexpected: Finding Resilience through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith. Without adequate water intake, your body simply can’t function optimally.
As much as 47 percent of Americans don’t drink their fair share of water each day, according to new data from research company Civic Science. Hydration needs also change based on several factors, including activity level, perspiration, taking certain medications, pregnancy, and more, notes functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. “These factors can make it challenging to get enough water, as can the influx of beverages on the market that are not as hydrating as water,” she explains. “For many people, it is more palatable and tempting to drink a soda, a glass of juice, or an energy drink, but the sugar and caffeine in many of these alternative drinks make them dehydrating.”
The Perks Of Staying Hydrated
Well, folks, if you need a little extra motivation to stay properly hydrated as consistently as possible, we asked the experts to share some of the significant benefits of getting lots of H2O—and they had plenty to rattle off.
1. Increased cognitive and athletic performance
Whether you’re exercising or sitting at your desk, ensuring your body and mind are in mint condition for output is a must—and ample hydration supports that. “Even a one to two percent loss of hydration can lead to measurable changes in cognition and performance,” warns Dana Cohen, M.D., an integrative medical doctor based in Manhattan. In fact, when you’re in need of H2O, you might reduced motivation and even fatigue, which can make daily functioning more difficult.
Instead, when you’ve got plenty of water in the tank you’ll have more energy, a clearer train of thought, and will feel better in your body as you move or churn out work projects. Everything from crunching numbers to carrying your kids up and down the stairs feels easier when you’re properly hydrated.
2. Fewer headaches
Headaches are a well-known side effect of being dehydrated. While a lack of water is not always the culprit behind a panging headache, hydrating is pretty much always an excellent first step in addressing one. Research, including one study published in the journal BMC Public Health, shows that a lack of hydration can trigger headaches in those prone to migraines. “Especially if you’ve been drinking or spending a lot of time sweating or in the sun, you might notice a headache due to dehydration,” says naturopath Kiera Lane, N.M.D., MSAc, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., director of Arizona Natural Medicine.
Read More: 8 Natural Ways To Prevent Headaches
What’s actually happening to your brain when you’re dehydrated is that the tissue starts to shrink (think of a raisin in the sun). This can place pressure on your nerves and cause some pain and discomfort. Doesn’t sound so fun, right? All the more reason to re-up your hydration!
3. Improved skin quality
Ready for a skin-care paradigm shift? “No cream or topical product can do what being truly hydrated can do for your skin,” says Cohen. “It plumps, cleanses, helps your skin hold onto moisture better, and allows whatever products you use to do their job better.” Drinking enough water on a daily basis is one of the best things you can do to keep your skin hydrated, prevent signs of premature aging, and maintain that desired “glow.”
4. Reduced joint pain
If you have sore or inflamed joints, dehydration could be to blame, according to Rodgers. “Synovial fluid, the liquid found in between your joints, is made of primarily water,” she says. “When the synovial fluid is plentiful in your joints, they experience less friction and are able to move more freely, which supports greater joint health overall.” Of course, other factors contribute to joint health, but keeping your joints properly lubricated is an easy must-do for more comfortable movement.
5. Better overall organ function
Your cells and your organs need oxygen to stay alive. When you drink water, it’s absorbed into the intestines and then mixed in with your blood and other body fluids, explains Rodgers. “As it circulates throughout your body, it delivers oxygen (and nutrients) to your various organ systems and the cells within them,” she says. “Without this circulation, your body would not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to properly function.” When your cells and organs can hum along optimally, you’ll experience everything from improved energy levels to more efficient wound healing.
6. Lower risk of Cardiovascular issues
When you are dehydrated, your blood begins to thicken, explains restorative physician, Sherri Greene, D.P.M. “This thickened blood makes it more challenging for your heart to draw up clean blood from the liver and, over time, this continuous exertion can prematurely wear out the heart,” she says. By making it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body, this situation can set you up for chronic cardiovascular health issues, among other things.
How to stay hydrated around the clock
Want to reap all of those juicy health benefits? Follow these expert tips to make sure you’re properly hydrated throughout the day.
1. Pour a glass of water first thing in the morning
After sleeping overnight, most people wake up in need of hydration but often wind up going straight for coffee, which can actually be dehydrating, according to Rodgers. As a general rule of guidance, she recommends drinking a 16-ounce glass of water before doing anything else upon waking. “Not only does this begin to rehydrate you, but it also helps to jump-start your digestion and your mental clarity,” she says.
In addition to helping deliver nutrients throughout your body and brain, water simultaneously helps remove toxins and reduce inflammation, all of which support improved brain health and function. H2O also helps to bulk up any stool in your system, getting you onto the toilet more regularly.
2. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces
Since so many factors can influence hydration levels, there’s no single recommended amount of water that every person should drink daily. Instead, Thompson generally recommends that her patients try to drink half their body weight in ounces of water per day. “So, if you weigh 150 pounds, 75 ounces of water (just over half a gallon) throughout the day should maintain normal body function,” she says. That comes out to about a glass of water every couple of hours, which shouldn’t be too hard to keep up with.
Read More: Can You Drink Too Much Water?
That said, “if you exercise or spend time outdoors sweating, one additional glass of water per hour of exercise is helpful,” Thompson adds. “And, if you drink coffee, one additional glass of water per cup of coffee makes up for any water loss it may cause.”
3. Add flavor to Boost Appeal
Water is tasteless, so unless you’re super-thirsty (and already dehydrated), you may not actually “crave” a glass of it. This is where electrolyte-boosting drink mixes can come into play. “Not only are many of them flavorful, but they often have some level of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and a pinch of sweetener,” says Thompson. “The salt and sugar in these mixes help our cells take up minerals and our bodies maintain better water balance.”
4. Eat water-dense foods
You don’t have to rely solely on water to achieve adequate hydration. In fact, you can boost your hydration by eating foods that are water-dense, like fruits, vegetables, and even soups. A few water-dense foods that Rodgers recommends include cucumber, tomatoes, apples, celery, lettuce, and watermelon. Incorporate these into your diet regularly and you won’t have to worry about sipping down so many glasses of H2O.