There’s this wonderful stuff called water that we depend on for so many things, yet somehow goes unappreciated. My hope after this article is that you’ll see how important and how awesome water really is.
1. Water helps you lower calories
When you look at the taste:calorie ratio of drinks, nothing really comes close to water, which has 0 calories. When you start adding up your non-water drinks, you’ll most likely see that simply replacing them with water will cause rapid weight loss.
Foods high in water content (like fruits) have a lower energy density than an alternative carbohydrate like pasta. People eat a weight-based amount of food, which means you will likely consume less calories if you try to stick to foods that contain a lot of water (1).
2. Water reduces hunger
While more rigorous studies need to be done, there is some promising evidence that water can reduce hunger and appetite.
3. Water can help you form better eating habits
Improvement is all about forming positive habits and breaking bad habits. For eating habits, water is the perfect drink to use as a replacement behaviour for many bad habits. Read more about the science of making and breaking habits.
4. Water can give your metabolism a short boost
Many people dismiss the impact that water can have on your metabolism. Drinking water, especially cold water can cause you to burn a significant amount of calories that will add up over time.
One study found (2):
“Drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%. The increase occurred within 10 min and reached a maximum after 30–40 min. The total thermogenic response was about 100 kJ.”
5. Stressed out? Water can fix that too
Even small levels of dehydration can cause an increase in cortisol – the stress hormone(3). While necessary at certain time, from a weight loss perspective, cortisol is something that you don’t want.
6. Water keeps your kidneys running well
Your kidneys work tirelessly to get rid of the waste floating around in your blood. It filters out the waste and sends it out of you through urine. In order to do its job, the kidneys need to be hydrated.
If you continuously don’t drink enough, you increase the risk of kidney stones, which is a man’s worst nightmare.
7. Water is crucial to regular bowel function
Water is important in digestion to keep things moving through your gastrointestinal tract and out through stools. When you’re lacking fluids, one of the first places your body takes water from is your stool, which can lead to constipation.
8. Water can help fight skin disorders
Skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis can often be improved and managed by upping your intake of water (4).
9. Water can help prevent heart attacks
If you stay hydrated you are less likely to have a heart attack (5). Note that this doesn’t mean that if you drink 10 liters of water every day that you’ll have a 0% chance of a heart attack.
10. Water prevents and fixes headaches and migraines
Like many of you, I learned about the headache healing powers of water. Dehydration is a very common cause of headaches and migraines, and water is the best way to prevent or fix dehydration (6).
11. Water is needed for a well-functioning immune system
A study of rowing athletes showed that key immune system biomarkers are negatively affected by dehydration (7). While short periods won’t have significant effects, prolonged periods of inadequate water intake can leave you regularly sick.
12. Dehydration can cause depression
The brain is made up of a huge proportion of water, over 80%, and a lack of water is linked to depression. If it doesn’t have enough water to operate, there’s a whole slew of things that are negatively affected. One key element is the neurotransmitter seratonin, which can’t be produced in significant amounts without adequate water.
13. Water literally prevents cancer
Staying well hydrated will decrease the chance of developing bladder and colon cancer (8). Another great property of water is that it can be used to dilute, in this case it can dilute cancer-causing agents in the urine, rendering them less likely to cause you harm.
14. Water is needed to maintain a good salt/water ratio
The salt:water balance is one of the most important things in the body. There are many problems caused if this is skewed heavily to either side of the ideal. Your body helps to regulate this ratio through thirst and hunger, and keeps you in a healthy range.
15. Keep your joints healthy with water
You can try to prevent joint diseases like arthritis by staying well hydrated. Water is key to allow your joints to stay lubricated, and therefore flexible.
According to the National Institutes of Health, cartilage, the slippery coating at the end of each bone, is comprised of 65 to 80 percent water. Synovial fluid keeps cartilage healthy, slick and smooth, properly cushioning joints if properly hydrated.
16. Water is needed to absorb certain vitamins
A certain class of vitamins, water soluble vitamins (the B and C vitamins), which need to be dissolved into water to be absorbed effectively in the body.
17. Water can reduce the risk of infection
While there is some controversy due to insufficient research, many studies do point to the fact that if you are dehydrated you are at a higher risk for infection. For example, water intake has been studied and linked with urinary tract infections (9).
18. Water improves the look of your skin
Water will help your skin look younger by reducing dryness and wrinkles. It’s not an anti-aging drink, but you’ll look like you’ve aged if you don’t drink it.
19. Urine smells better
While it’s not a huge problem, drinking a lot of water will essentially dilute your urine, which in-effect makes it clearer and smell less.
20. Bad breath
Many cases of bad breath are caused by having a dry mouth. If you have inadequate fluids, there isn’t enough to produce a sufficient quantity of saliva. Drinking water will upregulate your saliva production, which will neutralize the chemicals causing bad breath.
21. Water helps your muscles resist fatigue
When cells in your body don’t have enough water, they shrink over time. Your muscle cells are no exception, and they can shrivel up. In this state they are not able to function at a high level, and it will be difficult for them to grow.
22. Water improves your physical activity performance
When exercising water is crucial for proper body temperature regulation through sweat. While short term strength isn’t largely affected by mild dehydration, your exercise capacity will decrease significantly (10).
23. Water makes you smart
Water is needed for proper neurotransmitter function. Even a small lack of water can result in significant deterioration in your cognitive capabilities (11).
24. Water keeps you alert and focused
Just like cognitive ability is challenged by water scarcity, so is your focus. Many people struggle to remember to drink enough water throughout the day and find their focus slipping away after a few hours as a result.
25. Water can make muscle cramps go away
A lack of water around nerves can cause a state of hypersensitivity. This has the unfortunate side effect of promoting muscle cramps and spasms. The salt water balance and presence is the most important factor in regards to cramps.
All the rest
26. Saves you money!
Water is virtually free in most places, and even bottled water isn’t too expensive compared to sodas, juices and coffees. Even just switching a drink or two a day would save you a decent amount over the course of the year.
27. Water promotes proper hormone function
I recently read Body by Science by Doug McGuff and John Little, and in one section they write about the effect of hydration on hormone receptors. All cells have an outer wall comprised of a double lipid layer, and hormone receptors stick out of this wall. When you are not sufficiently hydrated, this layer shrinks and the receptor is forced further inside the cell, which makes it difficult for hormones to function correctly.
28. Water can help prevent hangovers
It is well-known that dehydration is one of the primary causes of a hangover, after all, alcohol is a diuretic (promotes water loss). Drinking water at the same time or after drinking alcohol can mitigate the hangover you have in the morning.
29. Water makes you happy
Many people exercise in an effort to feel happier, but when dehydrated it may actually have the opposite effect. A study found that athletes that did not hydrate sufficiently during or after intense exercise were more likely to be angry and depressed (12).
So this water stuff, pretty cool right? Did I miss anything? Let me know what role water plays in your life by leaving a comment below.