Water is a calorie-free fluid that is essential for life. You can live quite a long time without food (depending on the size of your body fat stores) but only a few days without water. Water makes up around 70 per cent of your total body mass and, to stop you getting dangerously dehydrated, your body uses thirst to tell you when to drink!
However, in many people, the thirst mechanism doesn’t work as it should. Some of us have been dehydrated for so long that we ignore thirst or, in many cases, confuse thirst for hunger. Some people who experience thirst reach for soda, juice, tea or coffee which can often compound the problem of dehydration; it’s water that your body needs and not “liquid candy” as soda should be thought of.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE WATER?
Water acts as a suspension medium for all the chemicals in your body. No water? No way to circulate oxygen-carrying red blood cells, infection-fighting white blood cells, or clotting platelets.
As a lubricant - your joints, skin, eyes and digestive system function smoothly because of the presence of water. Like a car with no oil, your body would soon cease to function smoothly without water.
Detoxify your organs - have you ever noticed how much smellier and dark your urine is when you are dehydrated? That’s the increased concentration of toxins you can smell.
Temperature control - you can lose a lot of water through sweating and vigorous exhalations.
SO, HOW MUCH WATER DO I NEED?
Opinions vary but the consensus suggests that you need around two litres of water per day plus a further half a litre per 30 minutes of exercise. Drinking more is not likely to cause you any harm as excess will be eliminated.
Tea, coffee and juices as well as fruit and vegetables all contribute to your fluid intake as well, but as it’s hard to estimate just how much water these sources provide, you should simply shoot for two litres of water per day as a minimum. If you are getting thirsty, your body is telling you that you need to take some more water on board!
Sports drinks are designed to rehydrate you and also provide you with energy in the form of carbohydrates. Different sports drinks contain different amounts of carbohydrates and contents vary from 2 to 10 grams plus per 100 millilitres. Sports drinks are great for gruelling matches or lengthy workouts but are merely a source of unwanted calories for most general exercisers.
Some “light” sports drinks contain no carbohydrates but use artificial sweeteners, flavours and colours. These chemicals are often linked to health problems like ADD, anxiety, and hyperactivity, and are generally best avoided. If you find you are running low on energy during a workout of 60 minutes or less, the fault lies with your diet and not your choice of sports drink.
Water might not be the most exciting beverage but is definitely the most important. Keep track of your water intake to ensure you are drinking enough.
If your water intake is currently very low, don’t suddenly increase it to two litres per day overnight – unless you like running to the bathroom every half hour! Instead, drink an extra glass of water per day and up your intake gradually to avoid shocking your bladder too much!