Hydration seems simple enough, when we are thirsty we drink water and it satisfies our thirst. Yet despite this simplicity, there’s an ocean of misleading information out there that leaves us all confused. These questions sent me down a whirlpool of information, trying the get to the bottom of what is fact and what is fiction.
Let’s start with some facts:
- Water is the single most important substance we consume.
- You can survive for about two months without food, but you would die in just about seven days without water. Our bodies can’t survive without it.
- A main job of the kidneys is to excrete just enough water to keep cells properly hydrated.
FACT OR FICTION: WATER EDITION
NUMBER 1: DRINK 8 GLASSES OF WATER A DAY
FICTION: We’ve all been told at some point in our lives that proper hydration requires us to consume eight glasses of water a day. It’s the myth that just won’t go away. Almost everyone thinks they don’t drink enough water, but the idea that we all should consume eight glasses per day (or 2 litres) is based on no scientific data whatsoever. In fact, it’s since been shown that those pushing this myth are the businesses who would benefit the most.
So how much water should you be drinking for optimal health? While most research into this question has been industry led, most physicians and researchers agree that ‘8 glasses of water a day’ is completely arbitrary. Unfortunately, there is currently no hard and fast rule on how much water you need per day. Where there is agreement into this question, is that the amount of water you need is affected by a variety of factors such as what you eat, your weight, activity level, stress levels and even the climate in which you live. According to the alternative medicine proponent Dr. Mercola a good rule of thumb is to look at your urine as an indication of your hydration levels. A light coloured yellow urine is typically a good sign of good hydration as is frequency.
NUMBER 2: DRINKING WATER LEADS TO WEIGHT LOSS
FACT & FICTION: As with many things in life, myths can lie in a sort of blurry grey area. There is certainly some truth to this myth. While water consumption doesn’t directly lead to weight loss, it can help contribute towards it.
When we feel the pains of hunger and immediately reach for our lunch or snack – we should pause as thirst can often be misinterpreted as hunger. Taking a extra mindful few moments to drink some water when you think you are feeling hungry will not drop your weight overnight but can be beneficial to you and your weight in the long term.
Water – or tea – can also help keep your mouth busy as well as giving you some satisfaction that comes from eating or drinking. Unfortunately drinking water does not directly lead to weight-loss in and of itself but it can play a role in enabling you make better decision for yourself.
NUMBER 3: ONLY WATER CAN HYDRATE OUR BODIES
FICTION: The Institute of Medicine, a US non-profit, has stated that all kinds of liquids can contribute to your total water needs, including beverages like tea (yay!), coffee, juices, sodas and drinking water. While hydration can come from juices and soft drinks, these beverages include added sugar, higher calorie counts and little to no nutritional value. Studies have shown that people who drink these extra calories from soft drink and juices don’t compensate by consuming less calories from food. This has, in part, accounted for many expanding waistlines in recent decades.
Hydration can also come from the moisture contained in foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and even meats. In fact, the Institute of Medicine estimates that the moisture in food accounts for about 20 percent of a typical person’s water intake.
NUMBER 4: WATER CAN GIVE US ENERGY
FACT: Water does not give energy to the human body in the same way food gives us energy. We get energy from foods in the form of calories. Water, on the other hand, does not contain any calories. So how does it work?
When we are dehydrated we begin to feel sluggish and tired, which accounts for depleted energy levels. As you hydrate you therefore become less dehydrated and this raises your energy levels, giving you more energy to go about your day or activity. Hydrating also increases our likelihood to exercise or make other healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced meal rather than reaching for ‘instant’ energy found in carb-loaded, sugar-laden snacks.
NUMBER 5: IT’S EASY TO GET DEHYDRATED DURING AN INTENSE WORKOUT
FACT: Dehydration can occur when a person has lost 2 percent of their body weight. So for a 70 kilogram woman that would be losing 1.4kg of water. When you’re working out intensely, you’re more likely to be losing water, both through your breath and through sweat. You’ll start to get dizzy, lethargic, your muscles won’t work as well, you won’t feel as sharp mentally, and you’ll get cramps sooner.
By contrast, well-hydrated athletes feel stronger and therefore can workout longer and more effectively. Most of us do not drink as much water as may be necessary during a workout. Even experienced athletes have a difficulty judging how much fluid they need and when.
So how much water should you drink before, during, and after a workout? What seems to be most important is to be well hydrated before you even start your workout. For example, you should drink 500 millilitres of water 1 to 2 hours before your workout, then 15 minutes before you begin, drink between 250 millilitres of water. During your workout, try to drink another 200 millilitres every 15 minutes. If you are sweating heavily (I’m looking at you bikram yogis) you may need to drink more.
Please note, this is for INTENSE RIGOROUS EXERCISE, where you would be losing a lot of water. This would not be the case for a brisk, 30 minute walk -in that case, you can leave the water bottle at home.
BENEFITS OF STAYING HYDRATED
- improved digestion, nutrient absorption & elimination
- increased mental alertness & clear brain fog
- stronger immune system
- muscles & joints work better
- promote cardiovascular health
- regulate body temp / keeps the body cool
- weight loss – thirst can be misinterpreted as hunger
- pain relief – dehydration increases susceptibility to pain
- energy – dehydration can make you feel tired
- ensures kidney function and reduces susceptibility of kidney stones
TIPS FOR STAYING HYDRATED THIS SUMMER
Water is responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen to every single cell in your body. Headaches and irregular elimination are some of the first signs of dehydration. Here’s how you can ensure you stay hydrated even when everything’s go-go-go;
- Always drink at least one large glass of water on rising. Hot, warm or room-temp.
- Fill up a large reusable water bottle every morning and take it to work. Sip from that throughout the day, aiming for it to be empty before you drive home.
- Drink before and after exercise to replace lost fluids.
- Have one additional glass of water for every alcoholic beverage that you consume – drink before, during & after that big night out.
- When you feel hungry, reach for a glass of water before you eat & check – are you actually dehydrated?
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which all have a high water content.
- Avoid processed foods that are high in salt and sugar.
And, very importantly – pop a stress-relieving and energising bag of Tulsi tea into any water that you’re drinking (hot, cold or iced, in a glass, jug, pot or your water bottle) and enjoy the additional benefits of this incredible ancient Ayurvedic herb.