Hydration

Jul 19, 2022 | Nutrition

Water is literally transporting the good stuff into your cells and around your body, and transporting the bad stuff out of you and keeping your body functioning, so hydration needs to be at or very close to the top of everyone’s health priority list!

I feel like we’ve all been told to drink our 8 glasses of water per day, but why? What’s all the fuss?

It seems crazy, but approximately 60% of our body weight is water. It’s a really important factor in keeping everything in the body functioning optimally. The body uses water in all organs, tissues and cells to help maintain bodily functions. Water is also used to help remove the metabolic waste from your body, maintain mental clarity, protect your joints and tissue and regulate body temperature. Water is literally transporting the good stuff into your cells and around your body, and transporting the bad stuff out of you and keeping your body functioning, so hydration needs to be at or very close to the top of everyone’s health priority list!

Our bodies lose water through sweating, digestion (urination and bowel movements) and even through breathing! Just a 1% drop in hydration can have up to a 10% performance impact, which is huge for everyone, not just athletes. If you’re regularly dehydrated, the body can begin to retain water, attempting to prevent water levels from getting too low. Dehydration can cause mood swings, decreased mental focus and lethargy – basically you’re not a fun person to be around when you’re dehydrated.

Symptoms of hydration include thirst, headaches, a dry mouth and/or lips, difficultly concentrating, fatigue and dry or cracked skin.

Now, how can we keep hydrated? The most simple way is of course by drinking water. How much, you ask? The health standards in Australia say adults should get around 2.8L (females) and 3.4L (males) of water in per day, including both food and fluids, to replace what’s being lost due to all the bodily functions above. Generally 0.7-0.8L is consumed through our food, which leaves around 2.1L for females (approx. 8 glasses) and 2.6L for males (approx. 10 glasses) of water through fluids. Everyone is slightly different though, and your physical environment, level of activity, medications and age all play a deciding factor in the amount of water that your body needs. A good test for the amount of water to drink can normally be handled by your level of thirst. Simply put, if you’re thirsty, you should drink water. If it’s hot and/or you’re sweating more than usual, drink more water. As we get older, we can begin to lose the thirst reflex, so as we age, we need to be more mindful of our water intake.

While there are other ways to get your water in, none are as ideal or recommended as just drinking water, but let’s discuss them below.

  • Carbonated water (soda water), still counts towards your daily intake, but it makes you feel fuller with less of it because of the bubbles in your stomach, so I would recommend not all your water intake is carbonated water.
  • Cordial added to your water – while there are low or no added sugar cordials out there now, it’s not a habit I would recommend getting into. Water for the most part doesn’t have a taste, and if you can’t talk yourself into drinking just water water, you need to consider your levels of self-discipline and just do it please. Your body will thank you for it.
  • Sports drinks – water is the main ingredient in sports drinks, with added electrolytes and a lot of the time carbohydrates in the form of sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose. While these can be useful for athletes to refuel after a prolonged period of exercise, it’s more beneficial for the general population to get their water from water, and their carbohydrates from real food, than from the form provided in sports drinks.
  • Water-rich fruit and veg – yep this definitely counts, but as referenced above, around 0.7-0.8L of water is accounted for in our foods, so to get another 2.1-2.7L through foods is not really achievable or sustainable.
  • Beer – (eye roll) yes beer does have water in it, but being a diuretic, it causes increased frequency of passing urine, so (in addition to other negative impacts of alcohol), it’s not going to help to optimise your level of hydration.