Behavioural Foodie

Is Water Really As Important As They Make Out?

If you have ever read articles on how to be healthy, they will normally recommend you drink plenty water. While this is very helpful advice, it doesn’t really explain why or how to implement this behaviour change.

Why should we drink water?

The human body is made up of about 60% water. As a result we need water to help our bodies in many ways including physical activity, consumption of food and to remain hydrated. The common recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water, with each glass being around 237ml (8×8 rule). It is important to try and consume this over the course of the day to achieve maximum benefit. This can be water in its purest form, or through water based drink like tea. Although water can be found in other drinks, many of these contain caffeine and large amount of sugar. As a result pure water is the easiest and healthiest option.

What is hydration and dehydration?

Hydration is a state where ones water level are sufficient and they are not experiencing any symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration can occur when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. This can cause a range of issues to your body and so it is important to keep your water levels up. If you are dehydrated you can experience feeling thirsty, feeling dizzy and lightheaded, feeling tired, dry eyes, mouth and lips. A very obvious indicator of dehydration is the colour of your urine. A dark yellow and strong smell indicates dehydration. As well as this, urinating very little can be a result of lack of fluids in the body.

What are some of the health benefits of water?

1. Higher energy levels and brain function

Your level of hydration can significantly affect energy levels and brain function. Studies have indicated even mild dehydration can impair brain function in many ways. As well as this dehydration can impair mood and cause headaches due to a lack of energy. People may feel overly tired and lack the motivation to do physical activity. Your body is in a sense trying to slow you down and stop you moving in order to preserve energy. By ensuring you have enough fluid intake you can ensure these energy levels remain high and improve brain functionality.

2. Helps maximise physical performance

When you are hydrated, your body uses this water to regulate your body temperature. When the body is too hot, it releases sweat to cool you down. This is more noticeable when it is a hot day, or when you are experiencing high levels of activity through physical movement and exercise. When the body is dehydrated, it cannot regulate the body temperature as effectively, reduces in energy and you can lack motivation. This will cause the exercise to become more mentally and physically challenging. In order to maintain the best performance level you should be having water during and after your physical activities.

3. Aids weight loss

I often have people tell me that they have a constant habit to eat food throughout the day and that they cannot lose weight. Many people will feel ‘hungry’ all day and will respond to this feeling with food consumption. Upon some enquiry, I have found a lot of the time, many people only drink 1-2 glasses of water a day. They mistake this feeling of thirst for hunger and in turn cause more problems for themselves. Water can also increase your satiety levels and boost your metabolism rate. The time of day when you drink your water can also be very effective. By drinking water half an hour before meals you can help with remaining hydrated as well as helping to control consumption levels. Over time, this increased water intake can help reduce your weight gain.

How to I increase my hydration levels?

In my opinion, the best way is to implement new habits into your life in order to try and increase the level of fluids you intake on a daily basis. We can use behavioural science techniques to try and build new habits and continually improve on them.

When trying to form a new habit, many of us face the ‘Intention-Action gap’. This is a gap where an individual has the awareness, intention and knowledge but lacks the ability to adopt these new habits. This in many cases is due to forgetfulness, which results in people reverting back to their old bad habits of not drinking plenty of fluids.

What do I need to do to form a new habit?

Make it Automatic

A habit needs to become something that is an automatic and unconscious response. Meaning that it needs to feel effortless for us. As humans we want to have the easiest life using the least amount of effort. By making drinking water like second-nature, we can easily increase our water intake.

Create Cues

Secondly, every new habit needs a cue. Most habits are triggered by cues, and we can use these cues to increase our daily intake through the day. Many people will have notifications on their phone telling them to drink water which is a great way to have constant reminders. Alternatively you can buy a water bottle! I have many of these and find that having the water bottle on my desk is a visual cue for me and reminds me to drink the water when I feel I need it.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Habits need to be repeated in order for them to be effective. The exact number of days it takes to form a habit can differ, but is it important than for a prolonged period of time we repeat the behaviour until it becomes a normal part of our lives. But how can we encourage ourselves to continue repeating a behaviour?

Treat yo self

Rewards! By rewarding yourself for repeated behaviour you can trick your brain into automatically wanting to carry out this behaviour. This is understood from B.F Skinner’s experiment and operant conditioning, where the consequences of a response will determine how likely the action will be repeated. Therefore, by rewarding yourself every time you drink water, you can increase your chances of repeatedly doing it. This doesn’t mean you eat a chocolate bar every time you drink water!! Finding something that words for you is important, like 5 minutes to sit down, or pausing work and going outside etc.

Invest in a water bottle!

I, like many others, used to struggle with water intake and constantly trying to increase it. I have found that since I bought a water bottle it has been SO much easier. I work for a water bottle company called Ion8 Leakproof who’s bottles I use for all my beverages and they are great! I have used a picture from my hill walk below!

Check out their website using the button below. Use my code ‘behaviouralfoodie’ at the checkout for a 10% discount across your whole purchase!

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