Drinking enough water?
On average 60% of the body is made up of water which emphasises the importance of keeping hydrated. Hydration is essential for digestion, heart and brain function and temperature control.
The current recommendation for fluid intake is 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day, this includes water, lower-fat milk and sugar-free drinks. However, many foods we eat count towards our fluid-take, such as soup, jelly, cucumber, and melon. The amount of water we require depends on the environment; on a hot day we should hydrate regularly to prevent dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Shockingly, there are 2,000 heat related deaths every year in England.
Inadequate fluid intake can lead to dehydration, symptoms of which include impaired mental and motor function, poor exercise performance and increased resting heart rate. Urine colour is a simple indicator of your hydration status and should range from clear to pale yellow.
Research has shown that mild level dehydration (as little as a loss of 1% of your body weight in fluids) can lead to fatigue, headaches and reduce cognitive function, making simple tasks such as problem-solving more difficult (Lindseth et al., 2013, Benton et al., 2016).
Furthermore, hydration can also negatively affect mood, mental well-being, and energy levels. Interestingly, a study conducted by Armstrong et al. in 2012 found that mild dehydration worsened the participant’s mood, all of which were healthy women. Comparatively, it has been found that people who drink more water (2.5 litres of water a day) experience positive emotions including feelings of calmness and satisfaction. (Pross et al., 2014). Therefore, highlighting the importance of drinking fluids regularly throughout the day.
Studies have also shown that dehydration (as little as a loss of 2% of your body weight in fluids) can negatively affect physical performance; lack of fluids during exercise can lead to disruptions of the body’s internal temperature control and feelings of fatigue (Murray, 2007).
Overall, keeping hydrated can boost mental performance, mood, and physical performance.
Water and Weight Loss
There is some evidence to support that drinking the recommended amount of water helps with weight loss, especially consuming water before a meal. Specifically, whilst on a low-calorie diet, drinking 500ml of water 30 minutes before a meal can aid with weight loss (Galsziou et al., 2013). Walleghen et al. found that people who drank water before a meal lost more weight and were more likely to adhere to 10,000 steps a day than people who didn’t. Although, it has been hypothesised that this could be due to the substitution of water for sugary drinks.
Other Health Benefits of Drinking Water
- Can prevent and treat headaches
- May help relieve constipation
- May help treat kidney stones
Hydration and Sports
You should start exercise sessions well hydrated and if you’re exercising for longer than 60 minutes, it is important to drink water as well as having a fast-digesting carbohydrate and electrolytes (salts and minerals). For example, an isotonic sports drink, a glass of milk, a banana, a sports bar or carbohydrate gel. You can make a homemade sports drink with 800ml of water, 200ml of squash (not low calorie) and a large pinch of salt.
Tips for Drinking More Water
WaterMinder is a great app that calculates personal hydration levels and sends reminders so you can easily hit your target.
The Smart Water Bottle: tracks your water intake and glows to remind you to stay hydrated
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