Drinking water is a vital part of everyday life. Water is second only to oxygen as being essential to survival. Unlike food, humans cannot survive more than a couple of days without it. This is because the human body is made up of more around 50% – 80% water depending on lean muscle mass. Ensuring we are constantly drinking water to account for body fluid loss is key to maintaining good health.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when the body does not have enough water to perform properly. This results from a combination of not consuming enough water throughout the day, at the same time your body is losing its fluid. Fluid loss will occur naturally through sweating and urinating and will be increased by many factors including strenuous exercise, being unwell, i.e. through vomiting or diarrhea etc or even being in warmer / more humid climates.
Dehydration of as little as 2% loss of body weight can result in impaired physiological and performance responses. New research indicates that a lack of water consumption can increase the risk of colon cancer, urinary tract infections, childhood and adolescent obesity and overall health in the elderly.[i]
Recognising the signs of dehydration
It is important to recognise the early signs of your body being dehydrated before they take full effect. Here are some of the tell-tale warning signs your body needs water:
– You experience increased feelings of thirst
– Your urine is dark coloured and / or has an unpleasant smell
– You have a headache
– You have a dry mouth
– You experience feelings of tiredness
– You experience feelings of dizziness
How much water should we be drinking?
The Australian Government recommends adult women should drink around 2 Litres (8 cups) per day. For adult men they recommend a consumption of at least 2.6 Litres (10 cups) per day. However, this should be increased when strenuous exercise is undertaken, or fluid loss is increased i.e. through excessive sweating when exercising, unwell or in humid environments etc. [ii]
Tips for how to stay hydrated
– Make sure water is always readily accessible! Keep a glass of water by your bedside table, fill a large water bottle before you get in the car,
– Account for fluid loss. 8 plus glasses a day is the minimum recommended daily quantity, however if you are aware your body will be excreting more fluid on a given day, plan ahead. Make sure on days of strenuous exercise, you drink as much extra water as possible
– Avoid dehydrating liquids like alcohol and caffeine.
– Drink more water and feel fantastic!
[i] Kleiner SM. Water: An essential but overlooked nutrient. J Amer Diet Assoc 1999;99:200-6.