The biggest key to a healthy body and mind is staying hydrated, which means drinking plenty of water. Unfortunately, most Australians fail to consume the recommended daily amount.
There has been a lot of talk about the importance of hydration for a number of years now, but many people don’t take its importance seriously enough. Water performs endless functions that keep your body healthy and in the best condition, and your daily intake of water can determine your overall wellbeing.
When our organs don’t get enough water, they begin to lose functionality fast, especially the brain, kidneys and skin. For older people, it’s even more important to stay hydrated and protect their already-under-pressure organs.
So what are the signs of dehydration?
Dehydration symptoms come in a range of forms, with the most common being headaches and difficulty concentrating. Others may have a feeling of lethargy or suffer from more severe symptoms such as muscle cramps, high blood pressure and kidney pain. While thirst is sometimes a symptom, it’s not always obvious and therefore shouldn’t be relied upon as a trigger to drink water.
How much water should you be drinking?
Dehydration gradually increases as we get older, so the older you are, the more water you need to consume. On average, a person should aim to drink 8 - 10 glasses (or 2L) of water each and every day to keep their body flowing with the right amount of fluid. The average body is made up of 70-80% water!
For some this may seem like too big of a challenge, but drinking the recommended amount is extremely important. Besides, there are plenty of ways to make staying hydrated easier and simpler, such as:
1. Making water taste great
If you don’t like the taste of plain old water, you can jazz up the flavour by adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice, a slice of orange or even some fresh herbs.
2. Carrying water with you
Taking a water bottle with you to work or on a trip to the shops makes staying hydrated easy. Stainless steel bottles keep your water cool and refreshing and are sturdy for transporting. Having a water bottle close to hand will see you sipping throughout the day, and before you know it you will have reached your recommended daily intake.
3. Get in a routine
Pacing yourself and drinking at regular intervals will keep you hydrated throughout the day. Start your morning with a big glass, have another at morning tea, then lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and bedtime. If you’re not good at keeping a routine, try setting a water reminder on your phone.
4. Find alternatives
If you find water boring, there are plenty of other options that will keep drinking interesting. Just remember that these should be occasional:
Tea: On a hot day, people generally tend to stay away from drinking hot drinks such as tea but tea can keep you hydrated. Tea comes in a myriad of flavours and certain herbal teas can come packed full of antioxidants. You could also make up a big batch of iced tea for those really hot days.
Water-filled foods: Fruits are an excellent source of water, with fruit such as watermelon, oranges, grapefruits and melon containing high amounts of water. While vegetables aren’t as rich in water as fruit, certain veg such as celery, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato can all help you reach your daily water target. Even food such as oatmeal, yogurt and soup can be great water sources.
Coconut water: Coconut water is a great alternative to standard water, and not only packs a flavour punch but is a high source of antioxidants needed for a healthy wellbeing. You wouldn’t want to drink it all the time, but the odd glass can make a nice change.
Electrolytes: Specialised electrolyte products, such as formula or ice blocks, can help maintain and replenish your energy and electrolyte stores. Qualities such as isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic solutions can help you achieve peak performance and rehydrate fast.
(Note: While alternatives are good for getting a bit of extra water into your diet, they should be in no means a replacement for water. Plain old, regular water is by far the best thing you can put into your body and most experts will suggest sticking to water as much as possible.)
Hydration and exercise
If you find yourself getting thirsty during exercise, it’s often too late - you’re already dehydrated! Staying hydrated is particularly important when doing exercise as with as little loss as 2% of body weight, the body’s blood volume starts to decrease. When blood volume decreases, the heart has to work faster to circulate the blood, leading to dizziness, fatigue and heat related illnesses.
On top of this, staying hydrated lets you get the most out of your workout. Water gives you increased energy, allowing you to push harder and get great results. To ensure you’re getting enough, drink water before, during and immediately after a big workout.
Hydration and hot days
On very hot days, your body heats up faster than normal and water can quickly be dispelled from the body through sweat. Sweat is needed to maintain an even body temperature, but if you don’t drink enough water, it’s harder to keep cool and comfortable.
If you find yourself sweating, be sure to increase your intake of water, drinking two glasses instead of one at designated drink times or increasing your drinking to one glass every hour. Ice blocks can also be great, especially for kids who are reluctant to drink large amounts of water.
If it’s still hot at night, take a glass of water to bed with you and place it on the night stand.
Hydration at work
Having enough fluid in your body will determine how well you work at the office, with good water levels keeping you alert and concentrated. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you are seated in an air-conditioned office that you need to drink less water - circulating air causes water to continually evaporate from the surface of your skin.
For workers on a construction site or for anyone exposed to high temperatures and manual labour, drinking water is even more important. Dehydration can lead to confusion, faintness and vomiting and in extreme cases, life threatening illnesses. It takes just a 7% decrease in body water before you could collapse.
Drinking water is something that should be taken very seriously, no matter your lifestyle.
What are you doing to ensure that you reach your daily recommended water intake?