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Water is essential for cellular homeostasis and life and without it we can only survive a matter of days. To prevent dehydration we have a number of complex homeostatic systems that assist us in maintaining water and mineral balance.

Water is found in blood, muscles, fat, organs and in the cells of your body and there are two basic groups we divide this fluid into:

Extracellular water & Intracellular water

What do they both mean?

Extracellular Water

This is the water that is found in your interstitial fluid, transcellular fluid, and blood plasma all located outside of the cells. It makes up roughly 1/3 of your total body water. Extracellular water helps control the movement of electrolytes, allows oxygen delivery to the cells, and clears waste from metabolic functions.

Intracellular Water

This makes up the remaining fluid and is, as the name would suggest located inside the cells. Critical for many cellular processes it allows molecules to be transported to the different organelles inside the cell

The human body is made up mostly of water: 55-50% (female) and 60% (male). So drastic changes in body mass over a short time can be attributed to water gain or loss.

How much should we drink?

Many things can influence how much water we may need. Metabolism, body composition, sweat rate, relative humidity, the amount of fluid taken in from food and temperature to name but a few. There is, therefore, not a single level of intake that can be established that would assure adequate hydration.

An adequate intake to go by on average for young men and women is 3.7 litres and 2.7 litres per day, respectively but of course this can vary based on many factors.

So how do we know if we are hydrated?

Urine colour, is probably one of the most practical methods that can be determined using a scale of eight colours.

How Does Dehydration Affect Body Functions?

Dehydration pertains to the process of losing body water as well as a lack of fluid intake. The state of dehydration is reached when you restrict fluid intake during rigorous activity or in a hot climate. Another example is going without water for days, which can ultimately prove fatal.

Physical Performance

Exercise performance is impaired when an individual is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. Losses more than 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30%.

The main reasons we can attribute to this are:

• Reduction in blood volume • Decreased skin blood flow • Decreased sweat rate • Decreased heat dissipation • Increased core temperature • Increased rate of muscle glycogen use

Cognitive Performance

Mild to moderate levels of dehydration can also affect cognitive function. It can impair the performance on tasks such as short-term memory, perceptual discrimination, arithmetic ability, visuomotor tracking, and psychomotor skills.

Which Sources of Water Should You Choose?

In general, you can get fluids from beverages and food. Food contributes to around 20% of your water intake. All non-alcoholic drinks can also keep you hydrated. However, caloric drinks may do more harm than good for your health. Sodas and fruit juices contain sugar, which is suitable for powering you up during a workout but not in other things. Sugary drinks have links to adults being at risk for type 2 diabetes and children gaining weight. Some can also cause your tooth enamel to erode, leading to damaged teeth, due to their acid content.

Drinks containing caffeine such as coffee and tea also provide water. They’re known to be diuretic. However, the impact on overall hydration is speculative at this stage and requires further research.

Further, water-rich foods should also be part of your diet. Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, tomato, strawberry, cucumber, celery, and cantaloupe are good sources of water. Soups and stews can also be added to the list.

Water is still the best option to keep everyone well-hydrated.

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