A woman carrying a tray of glasses of water

The Importance of Hydration

Did you know that water makes up two thirds of our body? It’s rather important!

Results from a recent YouGov survey showed that 17% of British adults said they didn’t drink any glasses of water during the average day.

Read on to find out the gender differences when it comes to hydration and why it is important to stay hydrated…

Why is being hydrated important?

Water is essential for life and enables your body to function properly. It improves your health, fitness, weight control, mood and even your energy levels. It transports nutrients and minerals in the blood, removes waste products through urine, maintains your body temperature, assists with digestion and absorption, and is key to good blood circulation.

Studies have found that drinking a litre and half of water everyday can increase your metabolism by 24-30% for up to an hour and a half.

Your brain is 75-80% water, so the slightest bit of dehydration can decrease concentration and short-term memory.

Staying hydrated can help reduce the symptoms of headaches.

A study found that dieters who drank half a litre of water before meals lost 44% more weight, over a 12-week period.

If you don’t drink enough water, dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, headaches, constipation, dizziness, and confusion. It’s therefore important to keep your body full of fluid because, after all, it makes up 60% of you!

How do I know if I’m dehydrated?

Water is lost through urination, sweating, and breathing, so if you don’t replenish this loss, you could be at risk of becoming dehydrated. If your urine is darker than a pale-yellow colour, or has a strong smell, it could be a sign that you need to drink more fluids. Other signs include pain when urinating, dry mouth or lips, thirst, dizziness, headaches, lack of concentration and tiredness.

It is important to remember the dehydration occurs before feeling thirsty, and our thirst mechanism falls behind our actual level of hydration. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Relying on this thirst mechanism can therefore have some detrimental effects on our body and research shows that as little as 1% dehydration can negatively affect your mood, attention span, memory and motor coordination.

How much should I be drinking?

Did you know that the water content of the body varies with age and gender? Males typically have a higher water content than females, because women have a higher proportion of body fat. Interestingly, research has identified that women are generally more hydrated than men; studies have shown that 20% of men drink no water at all during the day compared with 13% of women. Age is also a significant factor in hydration levels, with a staggering quarter (25%) of those over 55 stating they drink no water during the day; this compares with just 7% of people aged 25-34.

The Eatwell Guide recommends at least 6-8 glasses of fluid per day, which is about 1.5-2.0 litres. It is also best to drink regularly throughout the day as opposed to condensed into a short period.

Does it matter what I drink?

In terms of staying hydrated, any non-alcoholic drink will contribute to your fluid intake; however, there are some drinks that are better for your health than others.

Water contains no calories or added sugar, so it is the best way to replenish fluids. Sugar in drinks mean additional calories which can lead to weight gain, and can be damaging to your teeth.

Tea and Coffee can count towards your fluid intake if part of a balanced diet; however, caffeine may increase water loss through urine, and some are more susceptible to its effects than others. A European Safety review concluded that 400mg of caffeine a day (up to five cups), could be enjoyed safely for the general healthy adult population. Consuming excess caffeine has been shown to affect sleep, cardiovascular risk and anxiety.

Milk is a great source of water, minerals such as calcium, vitamins and proteins. However, the saturated fat content means it might be worth considering a lower-fat alternative, such as skimmed, semi-skimmed, oat milk or almond milk. It is also important to consider sugar or sweetener content in milk alternatives.

Sugary drinks such as fruit juices or smoothies contain healthy vitamins; however, blending fruit also breaks down the fibre, and releases the sugars more quickly. As a result, these drinks can contain high amounts of sugar and reduced fibre, consequently causing potential blood sugar spikes.

Sport & energy drinks, flavoured waters, fizzy drinks and squash can also contain high amounts of sugar, so it’s a good idea to limit these kinds of drinks and always check the label before you buy.

Now that you know the great benefits of staying hydrated, how much we should be drinking and the types of fluids, here are some helpful tips to guide you on your way to a healthy and hydrated body…

Top tips for staying hydrated!

  • Carry a one litre drink bottle – The recommended consumption for water is between 1.5-2 litres a day. Carrying a one litre bottle means that, once you have finished your first litre, you only need to fill it up one more time to know you have hit the recommended daily consumption. It is a great visual cue to remind you to drink up, too!
  • Don’t rely on thirst – The thirst sensation is not a reliable indicator of dehydration as it usually occurs at around 2% dehydration, and, at this point, performance has already reduced by up to 30%. Pre-empt dehydration by drinking regularly throughout the day.
  • Make water exciting! – No added sugar concentrated squash can make water less boring; however, be careful with any flavoured waters from the supermarket, they might taste nice, but they may have a lot of sugar added to them. Studies have found that flavoured water can contain up to 13 grams of sugar, which equates to 3 teaspoons!
  • Natural flavourings – If you can, try to avoid over consumption of sweeteners by opting for natural sugars and flavours. Try putting slices of citrus in your water, or even some herbs and spices such as mint and ginger.
  • Are you hungry or thirsty? – Sometimes the body is deceiving and can trick you into thinking you might be hungry when in fact you are just thirsty. Taking regular sips from your water bottle throughout the day can help prevent this and may also help prevent snacking, too.
  • Think food – Hydration doesn’t just come from water, some food sources contain a high-water percentage and help towards hydration, too. Try including foods such as watermelon, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli and apples in your diet.
  • Filtering water – Many people prefer to drink filtered water; however, not all workplaces provide this. Instead of buying bottles of water from the supermarket, you can buy bottles with filters inside them, meaning you can have the convenience of tap water with the benefits of filtered.

It can be easy to forget to remain hydrated with water, but it has an important role in our health. Use these tips to make hydration convenient and exciting!