Water accounts for an impressive 50-75% of the human body, with variations occurring due to sex and age (depending upon how much lean body mass you have). A healthy 70kg body will contain a massive 41kg of water. Water is essential for all of our life processes including; maintaining blood volume, regulation of body temperature, to carry nutrients and waste products, metabolic reactions and as a lubricant for our spine and joints. Therefore, to keep our body functioning optimally, it makes complete sense that it is ESSENTIAL to be adequately hydrated.
Did you know?
Even mild dehydration, as little as a 1-2% loss of body weight, can starts to affect our brain cognition, cause weakness and loss of appetite! Further dehydration begins to impair concentration, can cause irritability, headaches and even effect temperature regulation. Drinking plenty of water can also assist satiety (the feeling of fullness) and therefore be a useful tool in preventing mindless afternoon snacking. Interestingly sometimes when we think we are hungry what we actually need is some water for hydration! So next time you experience a headache and/or feel grumpy mid-afternoon, try having a big glass of water before you reach for the Panadol or have a sweet treat. Note, for those who experience digestive issues, it is best to drink water away from main meals, as drinking lots of water with your meal can dilute stomach acid and impair digestion. Staying hydrated also reduces the risk of constipation and has more long-term effects such as preventing kidney stones. It is also important to know that our brain does not send is the signal (the feeling of thirst) until we are already experiencing mild dehydration.
So how much should we be drinking?
Like most things, water requirements also vary a low depending upon your age, activity levels, environmental temperature, humidity and diet. General recommendations for fluid intake (excluding the fluids contained in foods) for adults are 2.1L (just over 8 cups) per day for women, and 2.6L (10 cups) for men. However, this is only a guide, and there is no such thing as a single water level that ensures you are adequately hydrated. An effective way to self-check is to observe the colour of your urine. Pale or clear urine means you are well hydrated, whereas dark indicates you need to drink more.
Does it have to be plain water?
Our total fluid intake isn’t just our plain drinking eater. The water in other beverages such as tea, milk, juice also contribute. However, plain water should account for most of our intake, containing no kilojoules or sugar. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding some lemon or lime slices, fresh mint or ginger for a flavor kick. Herbal teas are also a great choice being naturally caffeine free and equivalent to a glass of water.
Soft drinks and juices on the other hand are high in sugar and kilojoules and need to be kept in moderation. Just one glass of juice or soft drink contains up to 25g of sugar! Flavoured milks are also high in sugar, so unflavoured is always best.
Regular black tea and coffee in moderation are also fine, but caffeinated beverages such as coffee have also been linked with increased fluid loss, as caffeine acts as a mild diuretic. However, the diuretic effect is more than offset by the quantity of liquid and proven to not cause dehydration.
Alcohol on the other hand is a diuretic, can cause dehydration and yes you guessed it, does not count towards your fluid intake! Alcohol also contains excess kilojoules, is typically high in sugar (depending upon type of alcohol) and is associated with many other possible negative effects on health and wellbeing. Moderation really is key here!
Can you drink too much water?
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water and the term used is water intoxication. This results in the quantity of electrolytes and salt in the body becoming too diluted. If this continues, a serious condition called hyponatraemia can also occur, with endurance athletes being most at risk. This is caused by an excessive water intake of 4 litres or more within a few hours, reducing sodium levels to dangerous levels. Untreated over hydration can result in confusion, muscle weakness, seizures and in extreme cases even death.
Putting all this into practice
The take home message, water is essential for all life and bodily functions. Making sure your body is adequately hydrated ensures you can perform at your optimum. Monitor hydration levels by checking the colour of your urine. Choose plain water, or beverages with minimal kilojoule content such as herbal teas over sugary soft drinks or juice.
Article formulated for HUSTL. HEALTH.
Created by ®Chrissy Freer