Every system of the body – every cell of every organ – requires water in order to function properly. On a molecular level, say medical experts, hydration is essential for healing, training and athletic performance.
“Hydration is important because the body is comprised mostly of water, and the proper balance between water and electrolytes in our bodies really determines how most of our systems function, including nerves and muscles,” said Larry Kenney, PhD, a professor of physiology and kinesiology at Penn State University.
This means that whether you’re healing from an injury or post-surgery, or simply recovering from a workout, staying hydrated is critical in your body’s recovery and healing process.
So how much water should a person actually drink each day to stay hydrated? It depends on your size and level of activity, but many medical experts have begun to circle around a simple rule of thumb:
Consuming water equal to one-half of one’s body weight (in ounces) can help alleviate many of the symptoms of dehydration, leading to more energy, improved alertness, fewer hunger pangs, and faster healing/recovery.
This means, for example, that a 150-pound person would require 75 ounces (9 cups) of water per day, a 200-pound person would require 100 ounces (12 ½ cups) of water, and so on. Those exercising at a higher intensity, of course, need to increase this amount.
“Even small levels of dehydration can create headaches, lethargy, or just an overall lack of alertness,” said Dr. Susan Shirreffs, an expert on dehydration from the Biomedical Sciences Department at Aberdeen University. According to Shirreffs, a reduced intake of fluid in the body causes the volume of your blood to go down, which means there’s not as much available to flow to the heart, brain, muscles and other vital organs. Less blood means less oxygen, which can have an impact on the body’s ability to heal and perform normally.
Some researchers have even shown good hydration is a combatant in two of our nation’s greatest health concerns: heart disease and cancer. However, it’s estimated that up to three-quarters of the U.S. population simply doesn’t drink enough water.
If you are feeling like pain, muscle soreness, or recovery from injury may be affecting your ability to exercise and “live life,” try increasing your fluid intake. If you don’t see an improvement within two weeks, schedule an appointment with your physical therapist for a more thorough evaluation.
Medical News Today: Hydration – Essential for Your Well-Being
Medical News Today: Sweat & Hydration Issues Examined in Recently Published Journal Supplement
National Institutes of Health: Water, Hydration and Health
Mayo Clinic: Dehydration
University of Missouri System: How to calculate how much water you should drink
Mayo Clinic: Water – How much should you drink every day?
WebMD: The Quest for Hydration