Water is vitally important to our health. Our bodies are composed of between 55-75% water depending on age and body composition. Yet, there seems to be more debate and confusion over water intake than nutrition. The main reason for this confusion is the lack of a clear definition of what optimum hydration means. What is known is that water is second only to oxygen for survival. You can only go about 8 days without water; however even small amounts of dehydration can have large effects on your body.
- 2% dehydration starts to decrease athletic performance.
- 2-3% can begin to decrease short term memory, math skills, and other brain functions.
- Mild dehydration can lower the ability of the kidneys to eliminate waste from the body.
- Mild dehydration can cause or worsen constipation.
- Headache symptoms are often worse as a result of mild dehydration.
- The ability to regulate temperature in the body especially in heat is strongly affected by hydration status.
With all of these reasons it is vitally important that we consume enough water. But many questions remain. How much water do I need? What sources of water are best? How much water is too much? As I attempt to answer these questions I will use averages and current research. For specific answers you would need to calculate your personal pattern of water loss but the averages I give will suffice for all but the most extreme cases.