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How much water should you drink? That's the wrong question

07 November, 2018
Thirsty girl drinking bottle of water

Water, water everywhere

Australia has some of the highest quality water in the world and a whopping 93% of households having access to town water or water mains.

Despite this, and in the face of a sun that can make a car a portable stove top, we are a woefully underdrinking nation.  

Sure, the question of how much water you should drink seems to change every year. Suggestions range between six to eight glasses or two to three litres, and change depending on your age, height, weight, level of physical activity, environment and pregnancy status (off the hook there, fellas) – but the solution is simple.

Before we give it away, let’s get our heads around our current drinking habits.

How Aussies drink

Plain water, the life-giver, the fluid that powers our mortal coils, accounts for only 50% of our daily beverage consumption – an average of a little over a litre of water per person per day.

As for the rest:

  • 21% in discretionary beverages (soft drinks/cordial and alcohol)
  • 15% in non-discretionary beverages (tea and coffee – drinks that have dehydrative properties)
  • 13% in non-water, non-discretionary beverages (juice and milk drinks)

That’s too much soft drink

Australia is in the top 10 of global consumers of soft drink.

To put this in perspective, we’re not in the top fifty countries in terms of population.

This kind of stat is impressive when we’re dealing with medals won at the Olympics or breakthroughs in science – not so much when it’s how much fizzy we guzzle every day.

It’s also linked to obesity, cancer risk and various other health risks.

Every word in here links to a different article concerning adverse effects of soft drinks.

To summarise, soft drinks can:

  • Increase your risk of cancer
  • Increase your risk of diabetes
  • Increase your risk of heart disease
  • Increase your risk of obesity
  • Increases your risk of tooth decay

Whereas the benefit of soft drink is the brief satisfaction of tasting something sweet.

Alcohol isn’t too much better, especially for older Australians

Surprisingly, teens are leading the way in healthy drinking habits. Over the last ten years, there’s been a 40% decrease in teen drinking (between the ages of 14-17).

Older Australians –– have stabilised or slightly increased their drinking habits.

This isn’t a happy combination – not only is alcohol a diuretic (makes you pee, decreasing your liquid levels), the older we get, the more water we need.

That’s because older people experience:

  • changes in kidney function
  • changes in hormone levels
  • are less likely to feel thirsty (thirst sensors aren’t triggered as much)
  • increased need for diuretic medication

Not to forget the harms of excess consumption of alcohol (over two standard drinks on any day), which can include:

  • increased risk of obesity
  • impacts on the immune system
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • increased risk of breast cancer
  • increased risk of complications during pregnancy
  • impacted central nervous system
  • increased risk of fatty liver
  • dehydrated skin
  • altered kidney function and increased risk of kidney disease
  • irritate or decay stomach lining
  • increase risk of pancreatic diseases
  • irritated bowels or increased risk of colon cancer
  • impacted on sex drive/performance
  • impacted menstrual cycle

Balancing tea and coffee

The health benefits of tea and health benefits of coffee make them the good alternatives to soft drink and alcohol.

But – and it’s just a small but – they’re both diuretics. It’s not really a problem (if drunk within reason) though – just drink more water.

How Aussies should drink

Here’s the golden rule for how much water you should be drinking:

More than you think

Because the problem isn’t knowing the volume to consume – it’s getting in the habit of regularly drinking water.

Let’s face it; you’re busy, life is complicated, and if you’re not prompted to by thirst, you might forget to drink water.

However, if you are under any medical treatment that may require certain fluid restrictions please discuss with your GP before making any changes to your fluid intake.

Creating water drinking habits

Here are our think-proof suggestions:

Keep a bottle of water on your desk: every time you notice it, take a sip or gulp of water.

Drink by the half hour: Take a big gulp of water every half hour

For every glass of non-water, drink twice as much plain water: Drinking a can of fizzy? Drink double the amount in water. Same goes for coffee, tea and juice. For alcohol, try three times the amount.

Here’s how water helps your health

Besides the simple fact you need it to live, water is vital in:

  • maintaining the health of every cell in your body
  • keeping your blood liquid
  • flushing out waste by-products
  • regulating body temperature
  • preventing constipation
  • moisturising skin

Keep hydrated, people. Summer is coming…

Sources

Health Harvard – How much water should you drink

ABC – How much water do we need to drink a day

Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian drinking water quality

Australian Bureau of Statistics – Water consumption

Agriculture.gov – Water quality

Australia State of the Environment – Inland water quality

Better Health Victoria – Alcohol and weight gain

Better Health Victoria – water a vital nutrient

The Conversation – Young Australians drinking less, older people drinking more

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