Water is the most abundant component of a healthy human body however the risk of dehydration and fluid imbalance increases over time. One of the most fascinating observations regarding hydration has to do with age. We are all familiar with the mythical quest in search of the fountain of youth, but I propose the source and secret to eternal youth is actually held within each one of us on the cellular level. The objective is to hold on to as much of the rejuvenating powers of water as possible through lifestyle management.
Consider this, a premature baby can consists of as much as 90% water, a full term newborn is 75% water, by the end of the first year of life infants drop to approximately 65%. Healthy adult males average around 60% water and females approximately 55% due to higher body fat percentages. Elderly and obese individuals can fall to 45% total body water or lower.
In general athletes tend to skew higher percentages of total body water since muscles contain more water than fat. Therefore, I advocate the secret to youthful vigor and a healthier life is to minimize the amount of excess fat and maintain or increase muscle mass by regularly lifting weights, drink lots of water complimented with a balanced diet with special focus on minerals.
Simply put a well hydrated body is a younger body complete with plump healthy skin. If the outer most layer of the epidermis is dehydrated the skin will lose elasticity.
Maintaining optimum hydration isof paramount importance to support life functions. Fluids maintain body temperature, cell shape and the transport of nutrients, gases and waste. Unfortunately most underestimate the complexity of true cellular hydration. Thirst and cramping are obvious signs of dehydration however a high percentage of the population exist in a perpetual state of mild dehydration where cells are not fully hydrated or provided with the correct electrolyte replenishment that promote energy production (ATP), muscular contraction, stamina and recovery.
Hydration is constant flux the body gains and loses fluid through several different processes. Environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and altitude additionally influence fluid loss. As a result we all experience varying degrees of dehydration daily that we must combat. It begins the moment we open our eyes, on average we lose 1- 1½ liters of water while sleeping (the loss occurs from respiration, perspiration and any impromptu trips to the restroom).
To determine how much fluid loss occurs weigh yourself before you go to sleep and first thing upon waking. You will want to replace what was lost as soon as possible assuming you were properly hydrated before you went to sleep.
The immediate consumption of water helps restore body temperature and blood volume, however water is absorbed relatively slowly, and drinking water initially only adds to extracellular fluid and can be proportionately expelled. The cells require time and nutrients to properly rehydrate by replenishing the solutes that promote intracellular fluid retention.
Fluid in the body is held in two basic compartments: intracellular and extracellular. Fluid inside the cell is called intracellular and as you have likely deduced fluid outside of the cell is called extracellular. Extracellular can be further divided into interstitial fluid that surrounds the cells, including transcellular fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, ocular and joint fluid), and intravascular fluid (plasma), the liquid portion of blood.
Fluids travel by osmosis into and out of the cell, but true cellular hydration (intracellular) is more complicated than just drinking water. Water is transported in and out of the cell aided by electrically charged ions (electrolytes).
Maintaining the balance of electrolytes is important. Two primary protagonists are Sodium and Potassium. A sign of low Potassium levels is skeletal muscle weakness, especially in the legs and is compounded by cramping. Typically we consume ample amounts of Sodium that promotes extracellular water retention so it can be important to consume Potassium rich foods daily to create balance.
Optimum hydration varies in quantity based on gender and total lean muscle mass however the correct distribution of total water volume is 2/3 intracellular and 1/3 extracellular.
To measure hydration I use a five-signal bio-impedance device (Bodivis.com) that measures total body water (both intracellular and extracellular), total lean mass, total fat mass, and total bone mass including segmental analysis.
Take away: We gain hydration from foods and beverages we consume, natural hypotonic drinks like coconut water may help restore hydration faster but in the long run the best source of water will always be water along with a balanced diet. So drink ample amounts, if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
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