Fitness and Performance
Why it’s important to drink enough water and keep hydrated
This week is Nutritition and Hydration week. At Bodyset, our team like to highlight and promote good nutrition and the importance of staying hydrated not just during exercise, but as part of a healthy diet. We caught up with our Regional Lead and Senior Physiotherapist Larissa Christian who’s provided us with some all-important information around staying hydrated.
As the spring season looms, we’re hoping to see an increase in the temperature (and good riddance to another winter!). This means our body will have to adapt to keep us cool, which increases the amount we sweat, resulting in the loss of water from our bodies. This is why we need to be even more aware of drinking water and staying hydrated on a daily basis.
Key facts about water in our body
- Our body is made of an average of 70% of water.
- The percentage of water in children can even be up to more than 75% while elderly people might only have 55% of water in their system.
- 90% of our blood is water.
- We lose water not just through sweat, but also through our breath, urine and faeces.
So, why do we need to drink water and stay hydrated?
Almost everyone will have heard the advice before that it is important to drink enough water and stay hydrated. Maybe it was your GP, your personal trainer or your beautician. They probably all have different reasons, but this doesn’t make it less true. Here are a few key points why water is so important:
- Your kidneys are vital organs that filter your body fluids and produce your urine. A lack of water will put more stress on your kidneys and your body will produce less urine, which can look darker. This could create a higher risk in getting urinary infections, kidney stones and in worst-case scenario kidney failure.
- If you are hydrated your body will find it more difficult to sweat and therefore in conditions with warm and hot temperatures, your body is unable to control your core temperature. This can possibly lead to a heat stroke and fainting.
- Research shows that dehydration can lead to cognitive changes such as difficulty concentrating. In elderly people, it has also shown links with dementia.
- Dehydration can reduce your physical performance as your joints can become achy and your muscles will feel weaker and sometimes can even go into a cramp.
- Dehydration can lead to changes in the amount of water in your blood. As this consists of 90% of water, a lack thereof can create headaches, low blood pressure and can increase your heart rate.
Who is at higher risk of dehydration?
The reasons why we need to drink water and stay hydrated also mean that certain groups of people are at higher risk. These include:
- Athletes and people who partake in high intensity or endurance sports such as marathon running and cycling.
- People with heart conditions, diabetes or kidney disease.
- Children and the elderly.
Even though the above reasons are known by many of us, staying hydrated still seems to be a problem for 40% of the people. A study in the US shows that 7% of the population do not drink any water at all on a daily basis. We retrieve water through foods, like vegetable and fruits, juices, tea and coffee, but research shows that pure water gives us the best intake of water compared to any alternatives.
Fun Fact: Originally, tea and coffee were said to dehydrate you, but recent studies show that this effect is actually minimal and drinking a couple of cups of tea or coffee per day will not cause dehydration. Of course, the amount of sugars in your cup of tea or coffee can be negative for your health and impact on this.
How much water do you need to stay hydrated?
There isn’t a clear guideline about how much we actually need to drink on a single day, but the NHS suggests that “In climates such as the UK’s, we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated. In hotter climates, the body needs more than this. We also get some fluid from the food we eat.” This of course will differ more depending on your sex, your activity level, the climate your in, your health condition etc. which is why we would suggest you use this purely as a guideline.
Lots of people do seem to find it difficult to drink enough water, but to help you out with this, here are 10 tips to make sure you hydrate enough:
- Drink pure water – bottled or tap water is both fine. Carrying a small bottle of water with you on the day makes it easier to keep track how much you are drinking.
- Add some lemon juice or some fresh fruit to your water to change it up a little. Change your flavour each day to make this more appealing!
- Listen to your feeling of thirst. This is your first indicator your body needs more fluids.
- Sometimes a thirsty feeling can be mistaken for hunger. So when you are sitting behind your desk and feeling hungry, make sure you drink a glass of water first.
- Recent studies show that fat-free or semi-skimmed milk is the second-best fluid to drink to stay hydrated and it also contains important minerals like calcium.
- Look at the colour of your urine, the darker this is, the more dehydrated you are. It’s your bodies way of telling you to drink some water.
- Add plenty of vegetables and fruit to your daily diet. It won’t be enough on its own, but it can help you stay hydrated throughout the day in addition to drinking water.
- During your exercise workout make sure you’re sipping water regularly throughout your work-out and not just at the end!
- Sipping coconut water or sports drinks with electrolytes can help you recover during and after your work-out to rebalance the nutrients in your blood.
- Prepare some homemade fruit smoothies, based on water and/or ice. Especially great for those hot spring and summer days!