Benefits of Water: Why Dehydration is Slowly Killing You

“It is chronic water shortage in the body that causes most of the diseases of the human body”

- F. Batmanghelidj in “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water

The average U.S. citizen drinks 58 gallons of water per year, which translates to 20 fl. oz. (0.6 liters) per day. The adequate daily intake is estimated at:

  • 74 fl. oz. (2.2 liters) per day for women
  • 101 fl. oz. (3 liters) per day for men

No wonder most people today struggle with chronic health problems when the majority of people drink 70% less water than they should.

Water Intake Graph

Data Source: The Atlantic

At least the average person is now drinking more water than soda, which wasn’t always the case.

As you probably know, water builds approximately 75% of the human body. Water is present in every tissue, so dehydration affects all systems in the body and decreases their performance.

Symptoms of chronic dehydration can include:

  • Decreased physical performance
  • Joint-related problems
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Fat gain
  • Decreased immune system performance

The following sections explain how water prevents those problems and refer you to more information relating to the problems you want to address.

Water and Physical Performance

Water has several roles that affect your physical performance. Adequate hydration maintains a high level of physical performance because water:

  • increases breathing potential and helps the lungs perform better.
  • increases tolerance to elevated core temperature.
  • improves the sweating rate to dissipate more heat.
  • decreases the rate of glycogen use so that your muscles can perform more high-intensity work.

Losing as little as 3% of water relative to your body weight affects those systems and reduces both aerobic and high-intensity performance capacity. Significant dehydration (5-8% or more) decreases endurance by more than 50% and makes high-intensity work nearly impossible.

Dehydration Effects on Performance

Data Source: Sport Nutrition (2nd ed.) An Introduction to Energy Production and Performance

The reductions in physical performance you see in the graph apply only to mild climates. Hot and humid climates reduce physical performance even in well-hydrated athletes, so environmental conditions combined with dehydration decrease physical performance.

The effects of dehydration on physical performance are immediate, but it may take several days to recover from one instance of dehydration. That’s why you want to reach your recommended daily water intake every single day.

Further Reading

If you are physically active, follow the steps in the article “Hydration and Electrolyte Replenishment During Exercise” to calculate your baseline water intake and the required water intake during exercise.

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you can also refer to that article and calculate your daily water requirement without adjusting for physical activity.

Water Protects the Joints

Although water builds only 22% of the bones, it helps joints function better by:

  • lubricating the joints to prevent damage during movement
  • preventing sedimentation that will damage joint health and range of motion

However, increasing water intake is beneficial even for people who already have certain medical conditions:

  • Arthritis: In addition to lubricating the joints, increasing water intake can also reduce inflammation that causes severe chronic pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients (Source).
  • Gout: If the body can’t flush the excessive uric acid, it will crystallize in the joints and increase the risk for a gout attack. It is estimated that only 5 glasses of water per day can decrease the risk of gout attacks by 40% (Source).
  • Other: You can never go wrong with drinking enough water to meet the recommended daily requirements. Your body will be grateful.

Why Water Speeds Up Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight, your first step should be increasing water intake because chronic dehydration:

  • increases insulin levels, so the body will store more fat.
  • affects liver functions, so the liver can’t process fat as fast as it should.
  • affects kidney functions, so they can’t purify your blood as fast as they should.

When you start drinking enough water:

  • your metabolism will speed up.
  • insulin levels decrease, which reduces both fat storage and risk for diabetes.
  • you will not feel hungry as much as you would when chronically dehydrated because water is an appetite suppressant.
  • your toxin elimination system will work better.

Drinking more water can be an excellent first step to achieving your weight loss goals. It won’t happen overnight, but drinking more water is a long-term investment in your health, not just your weight loss goals.

Further Reading

The article “Can Drinking More Water Help You Lose Weight?” explains how much weight you can expect to lose if you increase your water intake. It also recommends additional strategies for promoting weight loss.

Upcoming Sections

The following sections will be added on a weekly basis (not necessarily in this order):

  • Water and your immune system
  • Water and sleep patterns
  • Water and mood regulation
  • How water affects the hormones
  • Water and the nervous system

Improve Drinking Water Quality to Improve Health

Drinking enough water is important, but the quality of your drinking water is also critical for health. To learn how you can improve the quality of your drinking water, read about the different ways to purify water at home and while traveling.