Benefits of drinking water: why staying hydrated is the smartest habit of all

The benefits of drinking water are plentiful—from healthy weight loss to enhanced brainpower, these are all the reasons to increase your daily H2O…

an image of a woman drinking water from a reusable water bottle in gym gear, against an orange and blue background
(Image credit: Getty Images/Future)

It's not news that staying hydrated is essential. The benefits of drinking water are numerous—in fact, hydration relates to almost all bodily functions that keep us feeling good, not to mention, alive. (FYI, you'd be pretty screwed without any H2O for more than a few days.)

In fact, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men aim for 3.7 liters per day, while women should be sipping on 2.7 liters. If that sounds like a lot, this also includes fluids from other drinks, as well as a little from food.

But what you might be less familiar with is exactly how getting enough water does wonders for your wellbeing. From boosting energy to helping digestion and supercharging brainpower, it really is a miracle worker. So, splash out on one of these best reusable water bottles, and let us tell you precisely why you should be hitting those guidelines on a daily basis.

Benefits of drinking water: 6 reasons to stay hydrated

1. For better health

This may a bit of a broad positive, but it's one that's oh-so-important. Drinking enough water is absolutely key to our physical health—and the perks of staying well-hydrated are practically endless, reveals Julia Young, a registered nutritional therapist. 

“Water assists in regulating our body temperature and supports the body’s detoxification system, helping us to sweat and release toxins," Young explains. "Additionally, keeping hydrated is important for preventing constipation and enabling the body to remove waste products." She adds that dehydration, which reduces blood flow to the brain, can also trigger headaches and migraines. 

Drinking enough water (see our guide to how to drink more water) is also important when it comes to fertility. Young, a member of the Fertility Nutrition Centre, notes: “It’s essential for increasing sperm production and volume, increasing cervical mucus, supporting ovulation, and increasing implantation success, too.” Wow!

two women walking on a high hill above a town and the sea

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2. It can boost your fitness levels

Reached a plateau when it comes to your workouts? Whether you practice your downward dogs on one of the best yoga mats, or lift one of the best dumbbells for women regularly, you might not be hydrated enough. Drinking lots of water can help give you the edge during workouts.

Studies have shown that just a two percent decrease in body mass through water loss can result in a 20 to 40 percent reduction in performance, and research published in the National Library of Medicine has found that some athletes can forgo up to ten percent of their body weight via sweat during the most challenging of sessions. 

As such, “hydration is a key aspect of physical activity, particularly if you're doing very intense exercise,” says David Wiener, a training specialist at fitness app Freeletics. “Since water is lost through sweat, your body needs to replace it in order to ward off fatigue.” 

Wiener adds that staying continuously hydrated can help give you the power to smash your PBs—including strength building or calorie burn. “If your muscle cells are dehydrated, the process of growing muscle is slowed,” he explains. "Additionally, water enables the body to sweat, which regulates your body temperature and decreases fatigue, allowing you to work out longer.”

3. It can help you manage weight

If you want to achieve healthy fat loss, drinking enough water could be an easy way to help reach that goal. In fact, a 2008 study from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California found that women who drank more than a liter of water a day shed an extra 2kg of weight during a 12-month period.

So, how exactly does staying hydrated aid you in this pursuit? Claire Barnes, a nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult, explained: “For example; switching calorie-containing beverages for water automatically means you are consuming fewer calories," she explains. "Then, there's the fact that drinking a glass of water before a meal may help reduce appetite and therefore calorie intake." She points to a study where participants who did the latter lost 44% more weight than those who didn't—intriguing.

4. It can improve digestion

Keeping the water flowing will also ward off those sluggish vibes. “Hydration plays an important role in digestion—it is a constituent of stomach acid and bile, and promotes the proper functioning of digestive enzymes, helping us to break down our food," explains Barnes. 

As such, enough H2O also helps—err—keep things moving. “Water is also necessary to keep stools soft, bulky, and easy to pass,” she adds. “Insufficient hydration will slow the digestive process and chronic poor hydration is significantly associated with constipation.”

Woman pouring a glass of water

(Image credit: Image credit: Getty Images)

5. It can increase energy

If you hit 3pm and find yourself exhausted, pause before you order that oat milk flat white, and grab a bottle of water instead. "Water facilitates the absorption of nutrients—like carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals—from the digestive tract and into the bloodstream and delivered to cells," notes Barnes. "This produces energy for the body to function. 

Dehydration, on the other hand, has been linked by studies to greater fatigue and reduced alertness. “Instead of reaching for stimulants such as caffeine and sugar to boost your energy levels, a simple glass of water may be all that’s needed to do the trick," she adds. As such, increased energy is one of the biggest benefits of drinking water.

6. It can help aid brainpower

The benefits of drinking water aren't all physical. Since the brain is an estimated 70% water, it makes sense that drinking enough of it will help your ability to tackle that tricky work presentation or essay. 

"When we are well-hydrated, brain cells are better supplied with fresh oxygen and nutrient-laden blood, helping the brain remain alert,” says Barnes. “Evidence suggests that dehydration negatively influences our cognition—and particularly when it comes to tasks that require lots of attention."

How much H2O is needed for a desk-based boost? A University of Westminster study found that sipping just 300ml of water—approximately half a bottle—supercharged concentration by almost 25%. It’s a no-brainer!

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. Most recently, she has been the Acting Commissioning Editor of Women's Health—where she co-produced the Going For Goal podcast—and has previously also written news and features for titles including The Telegraph, Grazia, Stylist, Dazed, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. She covers all aspects of lifestyle, specializing in health, beauty, and travel. Can't live without: oat milk lattes, new podcast episodes, long walks, and great skincare.