BENEFITS OF HYDRATION

Water accounts for 60 percent of your body (or about 11 gallons or 92 pounds in a 155-pound person) and is essential to every cell. So it’s not to surprising that new research — reported on at a recent British Psychological Society Annual Conference — found that college students who brought water with them into an exam scored higher marks than their counterparts who didn’t have water.

Unfortunately, the researchers didn’t look into whether the students actually drank the water. Nor did they investigate the reasons behind the study findings. But the researchers hypothesized that drinking water could improve students’ thinking and/or help students stay calm and quell their anxiety — both of which could hinder their test performance.

Their thinking makes sense: Other research has suggested that staying hydrated keeps your memory sharp, your mood stable and your motivation intact. You can also think through a problem more easily.

Staying hydrated doesn’t just impact your brain, though. Here are a few ways water benefits your body’s health.

1. Water helps prevent dry mouth.

Water keeps your throat and lips moist and prevents your mouth from feeling dry. Dry mouth can cause bad breath and/or an unpleasant taste–and can even promote cavities.

2. Water promotes cardiovascular health.

Dehydration lowers your blood volume, so your heart must work harder to pump the reduced amount of blood and get enough oxygen to your cells, which makes everyday activities like walking up stairs–as well as exercise–more difficult.

3. Water keeps your body cool.

Your body releases heat by expanding blood vessels close to the skin’s surface (this is why your face gets red during exercise), resulting in more blood flow and more heat dissipated into the air. When you’re dehydrated, however, it takes a higher environmental temperature to trigger blood vessels to widen, so you stay hotter.

4. Water helps muscles and joints work better.

When you’re well hydrated, the water inside and outside the cells of contracting muscles provides adequate nutrients and removes waste efficiently so you perform better. Water is also important for lubricating joints. Contrary to popular belief, muscle cramps do not appear to be related to dehydration, but, instead, to muscle fatigue, according to Sam Cheuvront, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist.

5. Water keeps skin supple.

When a person is severely dehydrated, skin is less elastic. This is different than dry skin, which is usually the result of soap, hot water and exposure to dry air. And, no, unfortunately, drinking lots of water won’t prevent wrinkles.

6. Water helps cleanse your body — inside and out.

Your kidneys need water to filter waste from the blood and excrete it in urine. Keeping hydrated may also help prevent urinary tract infections and kidney stones. If you are severely dehydrated, your kidneys may stop working, causing toxins to build up in your body.

WHICH WATER FOR YOU

Many people struggle to know which type of water is the best because the market is full of so many different types. Each one claims to have some wildly impressive additional health benefits. However, which of these claims are true and which ones are simply no more than clever advertisers stretching the truth to sell more products?

This article will help you identify the main types of water available today and tell you what the real health benefits are based on scientific evidence and research data.

By the end of this article you will be better informed and have a good idea of which water you think is best for your specific needs.

Tap water

Tap water is the type of water that comes out of your water faucet. In most countries, it is usually supplied and controlled by a local government authority.

Who is it best for?

Everyone. It is generally safe for things like cooking, cleaning and laundry.

Biggest benefits

Cheap, easy to access for most people and usually a safe source of water.

Risks and issues

Tap water is generally safe to drink but some recent studies raise cause for concern. For instance, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) did a 5-year study looking at the quality of US tap water. The results showed that tap water supplied to all 50 states contained over 500 different contaminants.[1]

There are also some instances where a mineral like fluoride is added to the public water supply. For instance, around 10% of the UK population is supplied with fluoridated tap water to cut tooth decay.[2]

Bottled water

Bottled water is portable purified water that you can easily and conveniently buy whenever you’re thirsty.

Who is it best for?

Everyone. It is a good source of water for drinking.

Biggest benefit

Very convenient way to access clean safe drinking water.

Risks and issues

Some of the large water brands have admitted that their bottled water is nothing more than filtered tap water.

The biggest issue is the environmental cost. The creation of bottled water is insanely wasteful when it takes about 3 litres of water just to produce 1 litre.[3]

Also, plastics are extremely difficult to recycle. This means that your plastic bottle is likely to end up taking space in landfill sites. Or worse, it might end up in the ocean and poison not just the water but wildlife too.

Distilled water

Distilled water is sometimes called demineralized or deionized water. It is water that has everything removed including ions and minerals. It’s the purest form of water that you can get. It literally has nothing in it (good and bad). This means it has no contaminants, bacteria, minerals or nutrients.

Who is it best for?

Its high level of purity makes it the water of choice in places like laboratories and factories. It is also good if you want to drink water that is completely pure.

Biggest benefits

Distilled water has the highest level of purity and is almost sterile.

Risks and issues

There are no harmful risks associated with distilled water because it is so clean. However, some health reports suggest that it might not be best to always drink water that is completely empty of healthy minerals and nutrients.[4]

Hydrogen water

This is water that contains hydrogen molecules that act as powerful antioxidants. The claim is these molecules are capable of helping your body neutralize harmful free radicals that contribute to disease development, reduce inflammation and slow down aging.

Who is it best for?

Those who are very health conscious and happy to pay extra money on something that may have health benefits – but not guaranteed.

Biggest benefits

The hype around hydrogen water is based on a serious of studies conducted on mice. The studies appear to show that this type of water has mild anti-inflammatory effects, particularly on the development of diseases like Parkinson’s.[5]

Risks and issues

Many of the big health claims are still inconclusive when similar studies were performed on human beings. Yet, some of the health claims are presented as fact even though there are no guarantees. Also, all the hype makes this type of water very expensive to buy.

Alkaline water

Alkaline Water is water that is at a pH level of 8 and above, which is higher than the pH of regular water. It has become more popular because research shows that an alkaline diet is generally good for health.[6]

Who is it best for?

Everyone because drinking alkaline water is generally considered to be safe.

Biggest benefits

The human body thrives when it is able to maintain a slightly alkaline pH. Consuming alkaline water may be able to help in this regard. Here’re more benefits of it:[7]

Risks and issues

A report from the World Health Organization cautions against regularly drinking water that has low mineral content.[8] Alkaline water tends to be low on minerals and nutrients.

Boiled water

Boiling your water is generally one of the cheapest and most effective ways to purify your water. This is because putting water in temperatures above 185° F (85° C) will kill most pathogens within a few minutes.

Who is it best for?

Everyone. Boiled water is usually clean, safe and healthy to drink.

Biggest benefits

It is a great way to purify water that is not heavily contaminated.

Risks and issues

Boiling water will not purify water that is contaminated with things like lead, pesticides, nitrates and other chemicals. Also, some people don’t like the “flat taste” that sometimes comes with boiled water.

Which is the best water to drink?

The healthiest type of water is technically hydrogen water because of the potential health benefits of the antioxidants it contains.

However, the truth is that even the healthiest type of water can only ever have minor health benefits. Hydrogen water and any other type of water on this list will not be able to repair an unhealthy diet or lifestyle.

The biggest health benefits from hydration come from drinking water itself regardless of what type of water it is. The truth is that any type of water is good for you so long as it is clean and free of impurities.

The bottom line is that you should consider all the different “healthy” types of water on the market as ‘life enhancers’. Something that can mildly improve a lifestyle and diet that is already very healthy but not fix one that is not.

REHYDRATION

When workouts leave you drenched, or when it’s so hot outside that your clothes cling to your body like Saran wrap, start drinking. If you don’t rehydrate, your body and brain can suffer; mild dehydration can tank your mood, concentration and energy levels.

But not all fluids are created equal—and water isn’t always the best beverage for the job.

“When we drink, fluids are not available to the body immediately but take some time to be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream,” says Bridget Benelam, a public health researcher with the British Nutrition Foundation. How fast this happens is determined, in part, by what’s in the fluid.

That’s because when you sweat, water isn’t the only thing your body is losing.

Human sweat contains many different metabolites, including lactate, amino acids and fats, as well as sodium. “Drinks containing some carbohydrate in the form of sugars and electrolytes, usually sodium, can be absorbed by the body more quickly than pure water and therefore allow rehydration to happen more rapidly,” Benelam says. Think Gatorade.

On the other hand, even though your body is losing sodium and some other things as you sweat, water alone really will get the job done for the typical sweaty adult, says Lawrence Armstrong, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Connecticut. “Virtually no studies have shown benefits of sport drinks or carbohydrate-containing beverages unless you’re exercising continuously for more than 50 or 60 minutes,” he says.

Assuming you eat normally and aren’t on a super-restrictive cleanse or elimination diet, you’re probably not at risk for any sodium or electrolyte shortages, Armstrong explains. The volume of liquid you consume is the important thing. “During exercise, the average person ought to be drinking about a half a quart of water every 30 minutes, or a full quart in an hour, to replace the fluids they’re losing,” he says. (If you’re worried you’re not drinking enough H20, monitor your urine. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more.)

But if you’re the type who does exercise vigorously for long periods, “a complex source of nutrients is likely to have a positive impact on fluid retention,” says Ben Desbrow, associate professor of sports nutrition at Griffith University’s School of Allied Health Sciences in Australia. Desbrow’s research has compared different milk-based beverages to water and sports drinks, with a surprising champ.

“Milk is an ideal recovery beverage,” he says. “It is well retained and is a great source of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals.”

More research backs him up on this. A 2016 studyin the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfound that milk—full-fat, but especially skim—was more hydrating than water, sports drinks, coffee, tea and several other common beverages. Sports drinks do get the job done—especially if you’ve really been pushing yourself and you’re sweating heavily. But milk outperforms them.

You don’t have to pound a half-gallon of it after a workout. Getting some nutrients along with your H2O is the important thing, Desbrow says. You could drink an 8-ounce glass of milk followed by water. Or, if you’re not interested in dairy, drinking water with a little food will help your body absorb more water in a short period of time.

You can take a different route to rehydration, too. Rather than worry about what you’re drinking, just make sure your beverage is accompanied by a bite to eat, like a granola bar or a sandwich. Another recent study found that the type of beverage you reach for to rehydrate doesn’t really matter if you’re drinking it with food.