Nutrition: How to stay hydrated and why we need water
WATER is essential to life. It makes up about 60 per cent of our body weight and is important to help us regulate our body temperature, lubricate our joints, digest our food, to carry nutrients to our vital organs and help excretion of water material.
When we become a little dehydrated, we can feel more tired and lethargic, have headaches and notice we are not as sharp as we should be.
:: How much is enough?
For most adults, six to eight glasses, or one and a half to two litres of water is enough to keep us well hydrated. Of course, this will vary depending on how hot it is, how much exercise we do and what other foods and drinks we consume.
:: What are the signs of dehydration?
If you become, dehydrated, your body will tell you about it! Some signs that you are dehydrated include:
Constipation, dark yellow/brown urine, dry, sticky mouth, few or no tears when crying, headache, increased thirst, muscle tiredness, sleepiness or tiredness – children may be less active than usual.
Older people, babies and young children are at higher risk of dehydration, for a variety of reasons.
:: How do I know if I am drinking enough?
A good indicator is the colour of your pee! If it is a light straw colour, then you are probably doing OK with hydration, but if it is a darker colour, then it's time to drink up!
Of course, this is not a definitive guide, as some medications and certain foods can change urine colour – the most obvious one being the after effects of beetroot as a red coloured pee for some people.
:: Do fizzy drinks and coffee count?
Strictly speaking, any drink (apart from alcohol!) will increase our hydration levels, but of course, some are better than others. The best option is water. It is sugar-free and caffeine-free, with no nasties like artificial colours or sweeteners.
:: Do I need to drink less water if I eat lots of fruit and vegetables?
Fruit and vegetables will contribute to our daily fluid intake, so it is great to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg every day, but you still need to keep your hydration topped up with six to eight glasses of water too.
:: Can I drink too much water?
Yes, you can. Aim for six to eight glasses a day. Although uncommon, overhydration is possible and can be very dangerous, causing an imbalance of electrolytes in our body and a condition known as hyponatremia.
:: My top tips for hydration
1. Start your day with a big glass of water, or hot water and lemon to get your day off to a good start. One of the signs of dehydration is fatigue, so this will help to energise your morning.
2. Keep water handy so it is an easy choice to make. Have a glass on your desk, a jug in the fridge in the kitchen, or a small bottle in your bag and sip on it throughout the day.
3. Here's a trick that works if you find it hard to drink water, but are a tea or coffee drinker. Every time you fill the kettle up to make a hot drink, fill half a mug with water from the tap and drink that while you are waiting.
4. Swap one or two of your daily tea or coffees to herbal tea.
5. Buy a water bottle, fill it every day and carry it with you to keep you hydrated on the go.
6. Set a jug of water on the table at dinner time to share. Infuse it with some sliced fruit like oranges, lemons or strawberries, some fresh mint leaves or some sliced cucumber to give it a flavour.
7. Keep a glass bottle filled with cold water in the fridge and drink with meals.
8. Carry a bottle with you when you exercise and take small sips throughout your session to prevent muscle fatigue and cramps.