June 16, 2016

Hey guys! With the temperatures rising, I wanted to talk a little about the importance of proper hydration today. In the last few years, the notion of adequate hydration has really taken off, and people right and left are telling us to increase our consumption. But does drinking more water have health benefits, you ask? Yes! Water is a clear cut path to good health, and increasing your consumption really can make a big difference.  So let’s dive in (no pun intended) and talk about how your body recognizes your need for water and how dehydration affects your body.

The Physiology:

The medical version: In the hypothalamus of your brain, there is an osmoregulatory pathway. Neurons in specific locations respond to plasma hypertonicity and send out a message to the posterior pituitary which stimulates release of vasopressin to stimulate the sympathetic cells paraventricular nuclei and increases renal autonomic nerve stimulation to restore fluid volume and proper chemical makeup.

Human-speak: In one area of the brain, there are little things that can tell that you don’t have enough water. They send a message to a new part of your brain. This area decreases a chemical. That chemical causes another part of your brain and your kidney to hold on to water so you don’t become further dehydrated.

At the same time that your body can detects your body’s dehydration, it also stimulates thirst.

Effects of Water:

Dehydration as little as 1% decrease in body weight can cause decreases in performance and impaired functioning by around 20%. In a 150 pound woman, that is a loss of only 1.5 pounds. This can easily happen on a warm day or during an intense 20 minute workout.

Early symptoms of dehydration include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, flushed skin, heat intolerance, light-headedness, dry mouth and eyes, burning in stomach, dark urine.

Late signs of dehydration include difficulty swallowing, clumsiness, shriveled skin, sunken eyes, dim vision, painful urination, numb skin, muscle spasms, and altered mental status.

Chronic lack of adequate intake of water is linked with kidney stone development. 

Low water intake has also been tied to development of certain cancers including bladder, prostate, kidney, testicle, breast, and colon. The thought process for each of these systems is similar. Water helps with the body’s functioning and proper metabolism. Being dehydrated results in a chronically stressed state, which may result in abnormal cell turnover and development which may lead to cancer.

Water helps you to stay fuller and eat less. People who drink adequate amounts of water each day are far less likely to be overweight and obese. 

So How Do I Know If I’m Dehydrated, and What Should I Do?

A quick a dirty (literally) way to tell if you are dehydrated is by looking at the color of your urine. Pale yellow urine indicates that you are well hydrated, anything darker means you should think about filling up your water bottle and taking a few gulps.

Another way to tell if you are dehydrated is to go by body weight. For example, if you weight yourself in the morning and then go workout. You can weigh yourself after your workout to see how much water you have lost. Loss of 1 pound is equivalent to loss of 2 cups of fluid.

When your body starts telling you you are thirsty, you should both drink water and have some food as it is likely that you have lost both volume (the water) and minerals (sodium, potassium, etc). So you cannot fulfill your need for repletion with water alone.

For the average sedentary male, 12 cups of water is sufficient. For the average sedentary female, 9 cups is enough. This means if you sit on your bum all day, this is how much water you need. Any activity means you will need more water. I aim for at least 16 cups of water a day, and if I’m exercising outside on a hot day, probably closer to 20-30 cups.

Design a water plan to help you stick to a schedule. Write down a schedule or create reminders to drink a cup of water every couple hours.

Keep a water bottle handy at all times.

If plain water is too hard for you to get down, try to do infused water or flavored water instead.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a great weekend!

XOXO – Emmy Lou Lou


Bichet, D. G. (2016, June). Vasopressin at Central Levels and Consequences of Dehydration. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 68. Retrieved June 18, 2016.

Kleiner, S. M. (1999, April). Water: An Essential But Overlooked Nutrient. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(4).

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