My dad always says to me, ‘there are only two times when you drink…when you’re thirsty and when you’re not!’. But I’m not sure he was talking about water, because he also follows this up with ‘if it wasn’t for drink, you wouldn’t go into pubs’!
However, even without the expert insight from my dad, we all know we should drink plenty (of water!). But why is it so important and how much do we need?
The basic biological factors of the human body should highlight how important it is for us to regularly drink water. Around two thirds of the human body is actually made up from water. Yes that’s right, two thirds! We need water every second of the day to carry out a variety of essential processes such as biological reactions, regulating temperature, helping to get rid of waste in the body, brain function and maybe of most interest to you – burning fat. Basically, we need water for growth and maintenance and we cannot survive without it.
Water is lost from the body, mainly through sweat and urine, so it has to be replaced to ensure the body doesn’t suffer from dehydration, which can cause headaches, poor concentration, changes in skin condition, constipation and, more seriously, kidney stones. With regards to exercise, dehydration can have a major impact on performance. It has been reported that even a 2% decrease in body weight through dehydration can result in a 20% reduction in performance. Dehydration during exercise can result in impaired aerobic capacity, reduced concentration and reaction times, as well as a rise in heart rate. When dehydration occurs, it causes the blood volume to decrease which leads to thickening of the blood, which in turn places strain on the heart and blood vessels. This results in a rise in heart rate to maintain adequate blood supply to the working muscles and organs, which in turn have further knock on effects. It seems a shame not to maximise all that training time because you simply haven’t taken in enough water!
The intake of water comes from either drinks or foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a good source of water, however, adults are recommended to drink around 1.5 – 3 litres (or 6 – 8 glasses) of fluid a day. If you are in a hot climate or exercising, you may need more, to replace the extra fluid lost through sweat. A good way to determine if you are drinking enough is to look at your urine. Maybe not so pleasant to do, but it can tell you a lot about your level of dehydration. If you have a light yellow/straw colour to your urine, you are probably well hydrated. However, if your urine is dark and perhaps with a strong smell, it is likely that you are dehydrated and your body will be suffering from the effects, even if you are not consciously aware of it.
Tips to maintain your hydration levels:
- Have a bottle of water on your desk at work.
- Sip water throughout the day because by the time you feel thirsty you are already experiencing dehydration.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables as they have high water content, as well as many other health benefits.
- Take in extra water if you are hot or exercising.
- Try and have a glass of water with every meal. This will not only keep you hydrated but it will help with digestion too.