Please note that YSJActive staff are not medically trained, so these posts are for general information only. If you have any health concerns please seek advice from a medical professional, like your GP.
While a whole range of non-alcoholic drinks count towards your fluid intake, we will be focusing solely on water as it’s sugar, sweetener, calorie and caffeine free…and sometimes free.
In the UK the recommendation is to drink 6 to 8 glasses or 1.2 – 1.5 litres of fluids every day, ideally water. Of course, if you’re feeling thirsty you should have a drink of water, the amounts recommended are simply a guide. Our bodies are good at letting us know if we need more fluids, so we should listen to them primarily rather that forcing ourselves to meet targets. Drinking too much water can be very dangerous, if you are urinating excessively and your urine is very pale or clear you may be consuming more fluids than you need. Please seek medical advice if you are experiencing this or have any concerns.
Everyone is different and has different lives and activities so our ideal fluid intake levels may vary, but generally 1.2 – 1.5 litres is said to be a good amount to aim for. There’s actually very little research to back up this recommended amount, but as Dr Chatterjee points out often the only downside to drinking a bit more water is a couple more visits to the toilet a day.
How do I know if I’m adequately hydrated? A good way to tell if you’re adequately hydrated is to check the colour of your urine (as it comes out ideally). If it’s a pale straw colour then chances are you’re sufficiently hydrated.
Signs of dehydration (not getting enough fluids) include:
– Dark coloured and possibly smelly urine
– Dry mouth and tongue and bad breath
– Food cravings or needing to eat more, insufficient fluid intake can also trigger sugar cravings
– Lack of concentration
Again, if you have concerns about any symptoms you’re experiencing please speak to a medical professional.
Staying hydrated in winter is just as important as it is in all the other seasons, but many of us don’t drink the amount of water that we need to ensure we are adequately hydrated. As we are less likely to recognise that we are thirsty or get hot and sweaty in winter and cold weather, it is easy to forget to drink sufficient water and we can become dehydrated. Cold weather may also cause the body to need to urinate more often, which means we may also become dehydrated if we are not replacing these lost fluids by drinking water.
What we eat can also help us stay hydrated, some water rich foods are cucumber, tomatoes, apples, melon, spinach, broccoli and mushrooms. So, by adding these healthy foods into our diets we’re getting lots of nutrients and also supporting our body’s fluid levels.
Some benefits of being adequately hydrated by drinking water may include:
– Increased energy
– Having more regular bowel movements and better bowel function
– Reduced sugar cravings (see our previous posts on sugar for more information on free sugar)
– Better concentration levels
– Reduced risk of kidney stones
– Reduced risk of urinary tract infections
– Supporting weight management
– Drinking water also means you’re less likely to be drinking your calories, fizzy drinks, juice etc can contain a lot of sugar and calories with little to no nutritional content
One negative to drinking more water may be needing to go to the toilet more often, especially in the first few days of increasing your water intake. As we mentioned yesterday if you’re urinating excessively and your urine is very pale or clear you may be consuming more fluids than you need, which can be very dangerous so please seek medical advice.
If you’re using a refillable water bottle and filling it with tap water this also has benefits financially and environmentally. Filling your water bottle and taking it out with you may mean you don’t buy a drink, potentially saving you money regularly. By not purchasing bottled water or other additional drinks we can help reduce our impact on the environment. Worldwide every minute 1 million plastic bottles are purchased. 73% of all beach litter worldwide is plastic and plastic is estimated to be killing over 1 million birds and animals a year. Also, over 90% of birds and fish are believed to have ingested plastic particles, so any reduction we can each make when it comes to using single use plastic is helpful.
When to consider increasing intake
There may be times when we need to increase the amount of water we drink, in order to ensure that our bodies remain adequately hydrated. Again, please note these posts are just for general information, YSJActive staff are not medically trained, and as always if you have any health concerns or questions please seek professional medical advice.
When spending time in warm or hot environments we may need to drink more water, especially if we are sweating. Replacing the fluids lost through sweating means we are less likely to become dehydrated, which can be more serious in hot temperatures. If you are in warm or hot temperatures carrying a water bottle with you and having regular sips can help ensure you’re maintaining balance between fluids in and out.
Exercise is similar to hot environments, you may need additional water to make up for any fluids lost through sweating and breathing more heavily. It is also important to ensure you are adequately hydrated before starting your exercise, especially if the environment you’re exercising in is warm. Preventing dehydration before, during and after exercise can help us avoid the general side effects of dehydration (see Monday’s post) and could also reduce exercise related side effects such as muscle cramps. Please be aware that it is possible to drink too much water and it can have dangerous side effects, athletes and those doing exercise can be at increased risk of this. Symptoms of drinking too much water (hyponatraemia) include confusion, feeling bloated, feeling sick and/or vomiting, headache and even seizures. If you’ve been drinking a lot of water and are experiencing any of these symptoms, then seek medical advice promptly. The amount of water needed to cause hyponatraemia varies between each person. If you’ve noticed your urine is clear this may be a sign you’re drinking too much water and other fluids, again seek medical advice.
If you’ve had sickness and/or diarrhoea then there is a risk of becoming dehydrated as you will have potentially lost quite a lot of fluids. While you may not feel like eating of drinking, taking regular sips of water should help you avoid becoming dehydrated, keep an eye on the colour and smell of your urine as this will indicate your hydration levels. See below for how to obtain a guide on urine colours. Again, if you’re concerned speak to a medical professional.
Older adults are at greater risk of becoming dehydrated as the aging process can result in reduced feelings of thirst and declining kidney function may also mean that the body does not realise it is becoming dehydrated. Some medical conditions and medications may also result in older adults becoming more susceptible to dehydration. If older adults become dehydrated in can result in an increased risk of falls, low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion and pressure sores. Ensuring that fluids are consumed regularly can help to avoid dehydration.
Babies and children are also at greater risk of becoming dehydrated than adults. Their greater body surface to mass index, limited ability to retain fluids, higher metabolism and developing kidneys make them more vulnerable to dehydration. For advice on ensuring babies and children are adequately hydrated please speak to your midwife or health advisor.
If you have an illness and/or are taking medications these may also increase your risk of becoming dehydrated, your Doctor will be able to advise you if this applies to you.
Drinks that are high in sugar can make dehydration worse. If you are concerned you are dehydrated then a Pharmacist or Doctor should be consulted, and they may recommend some oral rehydration formulas if necessary.
Check the colour of your urine to see how hydrated you are, there are colour guides available online, search “urine hydration chart”.
If you feel you would benefit from drinking more water but find it hard to drink enough then these tips may help.
– Get a water bottle and refill it through the day. If you get one that’s around 600ml capacity then drinking two full bottles would get you to the recommended 1.2 litres.
– Have a drink of water upon waking, not only will this help you become adequately hydrated it could help you feel more awake. If you wake up craving a sugary breakfast, drinking water first thing before eating may also help to reduce these cravings.
– If you dislike plain water and struggle to drink it then infusing it with something like orange slices, mint or cucumber might help. You can buy water bottles with built in holders for these additions making it easy to add some natural flavour to your water. Your dentist would probably want you to be aware that some of these ingredients may cause damage to teeth, particularly acidic additions.
– If you find yourself venturing to the snack cupboard (or drawer, or wherever else you stash your snacks) try a drink of water first and see if that solves any cravings you were experiencing.
– Keeping a note of how much water you’ve had can motivate you and be helpful when it comes to meeting your water intake target. You could do this using pen and paper, making a note on your phone or using a food diary app as most of these let you record drinks.
– If you have a baby or small child then drinking when they drink/feed can be a good way to ensure you are adequately hydrated. Keeping a water bottle close by can help you achieve this and can provide a visual reminder to have regular drinks, which is easy to forget when you’re busy.
– If you’re going out, taking a water bottle with you can help you keep sipping through the day. If a water bottle feels cumbersome then you could get one that folds up, or goes flat, so when you’re done you’re not carrying a big, empty bottle with you.
– Having a glass of water when you’re preparing your meals can help you get 3 glasses of water closer to your intake target. It may also help you avoid reaching for sugary puddings and eating more than you need at mealtimes.
– If you drink other drinks during the day like tea, coffee, soda or juice you could commit to swapping one or more of these for a glass of water instead. Not only will you potentially reduce your sugar/caffeine/sweetener/calorie intake and financial expenditure (depending on what you were going to drink), it will help you with your hydration levels and possibly have other benefits such as reduced sugar cravings.
Hydration and Technology
If you find you’re forgetting to drink water or struggling to increase your intake having tried some hydration tips then technology might be able to help.
Setting a regular alarm to go off a couple of times a day can serve as a good reminder to have a drink of water. This way you won’t forget or lose track of time and go hours without a drink, after a while hopefully you’ll get into a habit and won’t need alarms.
There are a number of apps available to help you ensure you’re adequately hydrated. These apps offer functions like reminders to have a drink, daily intake target calculators based on personal characteristics and activities, logs for the fluids you’ve consumed, graphs and other visuals indicating your fluid intake and some offer rewards. There are also hydration apps that function like games, for example care for your own virtual cartoon plant by drinking and logging your fluid intake. Your plant’s happiness depends on you staying hydrated (no pressure) and the app will send you reminders to drink. A cute and fun tool to help you drink water regularly.
Smart bottles are also available which link to an app via Bluetooth and let you know how much water you’ve had and where you are in relation to your target. The apps also have reminders to drink, or the bottles themselves will flash or beep to remind you to use them.
You can also get tech that goes on your regular water bottle to remind you to drink by flashing or sending an alert to your phone so you can avoid becoming dehydrated.
If you’ve tried technology to help you stay hydrated please let us know what it was and how you got on with it in the comments section, thanks.