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Hydration: what everyone needs to know

Look better, lose weight, feel energised. Who wouldn’t want a health hack that targets all of that? Look no further than the humble glass of water.

You probably already know that staying hydrated is essential for good health. But if you’re still struggling to drink enough water or you’re not quite convinced of the benefits of optimal hydration, here’s some liquid inspiration that will have you running to the tap.

 

Wonderful water

Staying hydrated and ensuring you take on plenty of fresh water each day is not new news. But it’s certainly crucial if you want to improve your overall health and wellbeing. It’s been linked to improved mood and brain function as well as improving the digestive system. We’ve answered some of the most common questions around hydration to help you drink your way to watery wellness.

 

“Why is water so good for me?”

Where do we begin? Around 60% of the body and 90% of blood is made up of water. It’s no surprise, therefore, that when dehydration kicks in, our body’s ability to function at its best declines. For example, the bowel needs water to lubricate the digestive process and prevent constipation. And as the kidneys regulate fluid in the body, insufficient levels of liquid can cause problems like kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Dehydration can often lead to headaches too because a lack of water can affect brain structure and function. Oh, and let’s not forget that your skin will slurp up water leaving you with a plump, dewy visage.

 

“Why is water important for exercise performance?”

Water helps regulate our body temperature, blood pressure and lubricates our joints – all critical physiological processes essential for a good workout. If you’re going into exercise already dehydrated, you’re going to feel it.

Your muscles are around 75% water and so will struggle to power you through your regime if you don’t take on board enough fluids before, during and after a workout to replace liquid lost through sweat and breath.

In addition, your heart has to work harder during exercise to get blood flowing around your body. And when there’s not enough water in the blood, this can lead to dizziness and fatigue.

 

“How much water should I drink in a day?”

Nutritionist, Rita Arora, says: “Most people go with the 2 litres of water a day rule. But actually, we should be more specific and aim to drink a minimum of 35ml of water per kilo of body weight. So, a person weighing 100kg would need around 3.5 litres of water a day.”

And remember when you’re exercising, sweating or drinking diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine, you’ll need to drink more water to compensate.

 

“How can I tell if I’m dehydrated?”

 
Assess your diet honestly. If you’re eating lots of salty snacks, drinking tea, coffee and alcohol and not sipping on water, you’re going to be dehydrated.

If you’ve been experiencing illness such as a fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, or conditions, including bladder infections and urinary tract stones, you should be upping your fluid intake to compensate. In some cases, your doctor may recommend oral rehydration solutions.

Look before you flush! How often are you passing urine? And what colour is it? Check the colour against the chart below and remember, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables counts towards your water intake too. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated so try to sip on water steadily throughout the day.

 

 

“What are the best ways to increase water consumption?”

Some people are happy to sip on plain water straight from the tap all day. But if you’re bored of the taste, or struggle to remember, try Rita’s top tips:

  • Hot or warm water from the kettle is often easier to drink than water straight from the fridge when the weather is cold
  • Like tap water, sparkling water contains no calories or sugar and, according to the Natural Hydration Council, when consumed in moderation, does not negatively impact dental health, bone density or weight
  • Try a ‘water’ app on your smartphone which will remind you to drink-up and reach your goal
  • Carry a refillable water bottle with you
  • Create a routine around your daily life. For example, my daughter drinks two glasses when she wakes up, two in the lunch queue, two when she gets home and two before dinner!⠀
  • Take a glass of water to bed with you
  • Have a beautiful jug in the kitchen or on your desk with water infused with herbs such as mint, or a slice of cucumber to flavour the water
  • Try not to drink lots of water too close to meal times because it can dilute digestive acids and enzymes which can affect digestion

Rita Arora teaches on our Nutrition in Culinary Practice course with Leiths School of Food and Wine which is uniquely designed to create the perfect mix of theory and practical, healthy cooking.