If we look at the composition of our bodies, water is the largest single component of the body. It compromises up to 60-70% of our total body weight. Every chemical, biochemical and metabolic reaction that takes place in the body requires water to be present. The body uses this water to help regulate its temperature and to maintain bodily functions, such as protecting your tissues, spinal cord and joints; removal of waste products; assists digestion and prevents you from becoming dehydrated.
The body also loses litres of water daily! Approximately 1.5 litres of water is lost daily through the skin as sweat, the lungs as the breath you exhale, the gut as your bowel movements and via the kidneys as urine.
So, it is vital that you replace this lost fluid daily to stay healthy and to maintain normal bodily functions.
How do you know if you’re not drinking enough?
Failure to consume sufficient water will initially present with a headache, feeling tired and less alert, light-headedness thereafter cognitive and neurological impairment occurs.
So how much water should I drink daily?
Aim for 6-8 glasses of water per day!
This should be adequate to replace your fluid losses and maintain your hydration status.
Factors that could influence your water needs:
- Exercise. If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour (for example, running a marathon) requires more fluid intake.
How much additional fluid you need depends on how much you sweat during exercise, and the duration and type of exercise. If you are partaking in long bouts of intense exercise (for example a marathon or half marathon, or a cycling race) it may be recommended to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as well as other electrolytes, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia (low sodium levels). Also, continue to replace fluids after you’re finished exercising.
- Environment. Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid, especially if you are training in this type of environment.
- Illnesses or health conditions. When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, your body loses additional fluids. In these cases, you should drink more water, and in some cases an oral rehydration solution may be recommended.
You may also need increased fluid intake if you develop certain conditions, including bladder infections or kidney stones. On the other hand, some conditions, such as heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases, may impair excretion of water and even require that you limit your fluid intake.
Some Great Tips to Increase Your Water Intake
Be Water Wise! Drink up to maintain your hydration status, to prevent fatigue and improve alertness and concentration. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. Here are some tips to help you get your water intake up:
#1 Start every day with a glass of water when you wake up
#2 End every day with a glass of water before you go to bed
#3 Drink a glass of water with every meal (Even if you are eating out)
#4 Carry a bottle of water with you daily, and take small sips throughout the day
#5 Keep a water bottle on your desk and in the car to help meet your quota every day
#6 Include herbal teas such as rooibos, mint or chamomile which will contribute to water intake
#7 Sugar-free concentrates such as Brookes Low-Cal are a great way to make drinking water easier (on occasion)
#8 Adding bubbles also seems to help increase water intake but be sure not to choose flavoured waters which have about 6 teaspoons of added sugar
#9 Remember that you also get water through food, especially through certain fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and lettuce
#10 Infuse your water! To hot water add: lemon, ginger and/or fresh mint. To cold water: Try these fantastic recipes below….
(Remember you can serve this at dinner time in a jug, but you can also downsize recipes to
make it for one in a water bottle to take with you to work or in the car)
- Recipe 1: Lemon and Cucumber Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 thinly sliced cucumber + 1 thinly sliced lemon
Add 1/3 cup thinly sliced mint leaves for extra flavour
- Recipe 2: Strawberry and Lime OR Raspberry and Lime Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 6 strawberries / raspberries + 1 thinly sliced lime + 1/3 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
- Blackberry and Sage Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup blackberries (which have been slightly crushed) + 4 sage leaves
- Watermelon and Rosemary Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup of chopped watermelon cubes + 2 rosemary stems
- Pineapple and Mint Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup chopped pineapple cubes + 12 finely chopped mint leaves
- Apple and Cinnamon water
- Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup chopped apple cubes + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Melanie is currently practicing as an associate dietitian at Nutritional Solutions, which is based at the Centre for Advanced Medicine, 12 Scott Street, Waverley, and at the Daisy Office Park, 135 Daisy Street, Sandton.