Yesterday we talked about food and touched briefly on what to drink and what not to drink. Let’s go into a little more detail today, starting with water.

Water is the best fluid to drink when you’re thirsty because it fulfils your body’s need for hydration without any extra substances for your body to process. Water is calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.

Your individual needs depend on many factors like your age, general health, exercise and climate.  No single formula fits everyone but it is generally agreed that drinking two litres per day is about right for females (and you’ll be getting a little from your food on top of that).

Water makes up around 60 percent of your body weight and every cell, tissue and organ needs enough water to work properly. Water gets rid of waste, regulates your temperature, lubricates joints, protects sensitive tissues and much more. If you don’t get enough you’re making it hard for your body to keep you healthy and hard for your immune system to work well. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

Some reasons you may need to drink more than two litres are if you are:

  • doing a lot of exercise where you sweat
  • living in a very hot climate (or high altitude)
  • dehydrated through illness
  • pregnant or breastfeeding.

Now there seems to be a common thought pattern these days that if one is good, more is better. This isn’t the case with water and it is possible to drink too much. Just because experts say 2 litres is good for you does not mean that 4 litres is better!  Drinking too much water over a short time can reduce the salt concentration in your blood, causing your organs to swell. This is called hyponatremia and can be fatal. Plus it’s just really hard on your kidneys to have to process twice as much water as your body needs. So think carefully. Headaches are a sign of both over-hydration and dehydration so that can be a warning sign.

AND SO TO OTHER DRINKS…

Sports drinks (like Gatorade and Powerade) which contain electrolytes are only need by athletes doing very intense training. Water is enough for the normal range of exercise.

So called “Energy Drinks” (like Red Bull and V) are full of caffeine, stimulants, sugar or other additives and are not formulated to replace electrolytes. Avoid them. Period.

Herbal tea is essentially water so is great for hydration. Even tea, coffee and caffeinated soft drinks can contribute to your daily water intake (the minor diuretic effect does not offset hydration unless you’re having more than 3 cups of coffee per day) but watch out for all the sugar or artificial sweeteners that go hand in hand with soft drinks and coffee – you really shouldn’t be putting them into your body.

Alcohol – this is something you need to consult your own GP about before making decisions. However, it’s generally agreed that alcohol is okay in moderation which means up to 7 standard drinks per week – but hey, that’s not all on the same night! A glass of red wine per day actually has some health benefits but that’s one standard drink, not one of those bucket-sized glasses… and no refills, cheeky.

In summary, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. Think of it as LIQUID FOOD.  Here’s a good general guide:

  1. Drink a glass of water with each meal and between each meal.
  2. Drink water before, during and after hard exercise.
  3. Drink water if you’re feeling hungry. Thirst is often confused with hunger.
  4. Don’t drink too much water. Two litres a day is about right.

And last but not least, please don’t buy plastic bottles of water.  Refill and reuse. Come on… save the planet, PLEASE!

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about stress … and how and why to stress less.

Until then, drink up!