What is the best way to stay hydrated but avoid drinking too much?
The first and foremost requirement for a healthy diet is drinking water. We are made up of billions of cells and each is essentially a water filled sac. Water makes up some 60% of our body weight.
Water is sometimes called the ‘universal solvent’ — the fluid in which all the biochemical reactions of life take place. In addition, blood which transports nutrients and oxygen around the body is composed largely of water.
What are water’s functions?
Water also removes toxins and waste products from the body via the kidneys which produce urine. Another essential function of water is the cooling of the body via sweating. Water is essential. While we can survive without food for several weeks, we will die within a few days if no water is taken.
How much water do we need to drink?
We are often told to drink at least 8 glasses (around 2 litres) of water each day. This however varies a lot, especially when conditions are hot or we are exercising. Caffeine and alcohol can increase our urine output and potentially dehydrate us, making drinking more water necessary. To learn more, read our article on how much water you should drink in a day.
Drinking water is critical for both physical and mental function of your body. Research shows that thirst is surprisingly poor at telling us how well hydrated we are and should not be the only sign we look out for in terms of our fluid requirements.
How to determine if we are drinking enough water?
A very simple and surprisingly accurate method of assessing if you are drinking enough water is to check the colour of our urine. If it is straw coloured or paler this indicates adequate hydration. Any darker and fluids should be taken, regardless of the absence of thirst.
Check other interesting tips like this one in our healthy eating guide.
What are the best ways to stay hydrated?
While water is the basis of life, it is not usually the best thing to drink to achieve optimum cellular hydration. This is because water is much more dilute than our blood, so when we drink and absorb plain water it quickly dilutes our blood and our kidneys respond to this sudden dilution by producing urine. As this effect is quite rapid (diuresis) it doesn’t give our cells (the really important things) a proper chance to take up the water from our bloodstream.
For this reason, water is better retained if we take some solute (things dissolved in the water). If you drink diluted fruit or vegetable juice for example you are going to retain much more water than if you drink plain water. Sports drinks contain a lot of solute – sugars and electrolytes – for exactly this reason. Unfortunately they often contain a lot of calories as well and are only suitable for those undertaking heavy exercise with an equal expenditure of calories, like running a marathon
Three simple ways to make sure you are drinking water
- Mix water with juice. Drink diluted fruit or vegetable juice to stay hydrated. Mix one part fruit or vegetable juice to four parts water. If a lot of sweat has been lost, then adding a pinch of salt can help replace the sodium lost in sweat. This allows the body to retain the water and hydrate the cells.
- Don’t wait for thirst. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. This is especially true on hot days or when exercising.
- Less coffee, alcohol or soda. Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol which can dehydrate you. If you are taking alcohol or caffeine, make sure and compensate by drinking more non caffeinated/alcoholic drinks with less sugar in them.