WaterEveryone knows the importance of staying hydrated.? However, many people ignore the fact that it is essential for optimal health. Our bodies can live without many nutrients for weeks or even months, but it only takes a few days without water for serious consequences to set in. Making up over 50 percent of our body weight, we couldn?t survive without water. Lubricating and cushioning our brain and joints, water also helps regulate our temperature through perspiration, rids waste from the body and carries nutrients to where they are needed most.

Sweating, crying, using the restroom, even breathing causes the body to lose water, and failing to replace it on a daily basis causes dehydration. Dry mouth, producing darker than usual or less urine, headaches, extreme thirst, fatigue, confusion, dizziness or lack of moisture in the body, for instance dry eyes, could mean that you need to up your water intake. High temperatures outside, exercise and illnesses causing fever, vomiting or diarrhea can also contribute to dehydration, so be extra vigilant during these times.

Recommendations for how much water you need to drink in order to stay hydrated vary anywhere from 6-13 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Many things need to be taken into consideration when calculating your needs, including gender, height and weight. When in doubt, use the classic 8 8-ounce glasses a day recommendation as a minimal goal.

Most people can listen to their body and stay hydrated just by drinking water when thirsty and adjust the daily amount as needed. Many people, though, confuse thirst with hunger and try to feed the feeling instead of quenching the actual thirst. If what you feel is truly hunger then liquid will not satisfy it, so it?s a good idea to try drinking water before reaching for food to satisfy the urge. It?s also beneficial to sip on H2O while you?re eating to aid in digestion and help you realize that you are full faster.

Be mindful of your body and get in the habit of keeping a reusable water bottle with you during the day, making sure to start your day with a full glass. Understand that you need to take in extra fluids on really hot days or when you know that you are going to get an intense workout in. If you just can?t stand the taste of water by itself try infusing it with citrus or some other type of fruit. Get yourself on a schedule and make drinking water a healthy habit.

You can also up your liquid intake by eating lots of water-dense fruit and vegetables. Melons, celery, apples and citrus fruits are just a few of the healthy snacks that can help you reach your intake goals. Other beverages can also contribute to the amount of water you get, but many options contain extra sugar, calories and caffeine that contain no substance, while coffees and teas, though made from water, can act as a diuretic which reduces the amount of water you retain.

However you decide to stay hydrated, try to stay aware of how much water you take in and don?t wait till you feel symptoms of dehydration to start drinking or eating water and water-rich foods. The consequences of neglecting this nutrient could take effect sooner than you?d think.

Shanna Oatman for TOPTRAINER

Click here for full podcast playlist.