Around the world it’s common knowledge that we should stay hydrated. Drink our 8 glasses of water a day, or have a water bottle on hand at all times. But how many of us actually know why this is so important, and what happens if we don’t consume enough water?
So why does my body need water?
At least 60% of the adult body is made up of water, and so water is involved in almost all of our bodily functions. It enables circulation, maintains body temperature, acts as a transporting agent for nutrients and waste, a solvent for chemical reactions, and even a lubricant for our organs. This is why the human body can survive for up to three weeks without food, but can only between three to four days without water; it plays so many critical roles, that without sufficient hydration, our bodies would not be able to function effectively.
Then how do I know if I’m dehydrated?
Dehydration can occur in various stages, from a mild thirst to extreme dizziness. Some symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Little to no urine
- Darker urine
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- No tears when crying
Now some people are more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, including those who:
- Exercise at a high intensity for a long period
- Have certain medical conditions such as kidney stones and bladder infections
- Are sick
- Are pregnant
- Are trying to lose weight
- Are elderly (this is because as you get older the brain stops sending thirst signals to tell you that you are dehydrated)
With this in mind, a good rule of thumb in making sure you keep hydrated is: ‘if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated’. In other words, don’t wait until symptoms occur. Stay on top of your water intake throughout the day, especially if you fall under one of these highly susceptible categories.
So how do I stay hydrated?
On average, it is recommended that you should consume 1L of water for every 25kg of body weight per day – plus another 1L for every hour of exercise. This is because each day we lose around 1.5L of water through urine, breathing, sweat and tears, and this volume increases with exercise as we breathe and sweat more rapidly.
Now when I talk about hydration, I know that some of you will be thinking “ugh, why do I have to drink so much water?”. Well the good news is, that staying hydrated doesn’t necessarily mean drinking water. It just means maintaining enough water content in our bodies, regardless of how we receive it. So your water can come from fruit sources, the water you put in your coffee or tea, water from drinking low-sugar soft drinks or water consumed from various other foods or drink.
Top tips to ensure you reach your recommended daily intake:
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day: This will help you to keep an eye on your water intake, and remind you to refill it any time you run out. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
- When you are hungry, drink fluids: Thirst can often be confused with hunger, so drink some water or other fluid to help you feel full for longer, and stay hydrated.
- If you have trouble remembering to drink fluids, then drink on a schedule: For example, having a drink with every meal you have during the day, or even having a small glass at the beginning of every hour.
- Drink fluids when you go to a restaurant: It will help you stay hydrated, and if it’s tap water then it’s free.
- Drink more water until you’ve got clear wees: This is a true sign that your body is well hydrated.
So now that we know the importance of hydration and how to keep hydrated, set yourself a goal to keep up your fluid intake. If you don’t consume many fluids at the moment, try starting out with 2L of water a day and progress from there. Remember, your body functions better when well hydrated, so you’ll see the benefits in no time.
DID YOU KNOW?
Before we even begin to exercise it is vital to keep hydrated. This is because dehydration lowers your blood volume, so your heart must work harder to pump the reduced amount of blood around your body and get enough oxygen to your cells. This is even more vital when we are doing cardiovascular exercise, as we need to constantly refuel our muscles with nutrients transported in our blood.