There’s nothing quite as refreshing as drinking a tall glass of water. But there’s a lot more to water than meets the eye (or dry mouth).
If we look at the composition of the body, water is the largest single component. Water accounts for 60-70% of total body weight in an adult. 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 your temperature and to maintain bodily functions, such as protecting your tissues, spinal cord and joints. It also aids in digestion, the removal of waste products and prevents you from becoming dehydrated.
The body also loses litres of water daily! Approximately 1 – 1.5 litres of water is lost daily through the skin as sweat, the lungs as exhaled breath, the gut as 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 can cause a headache as well as feelings of lethargy and light-headedness.
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 loss and maintain your hydration status.
Factors that could influence your water needs:
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.
The volume of 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, it may be recommended to consume 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). You should also continue to replace fluids after you’re finished exercising.
Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of water, especially if you are training in this type of heat.
Illnesses or health conditions
When you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, your body loses additional fluids. In these instances, you should drink more water and an oral rehydration solution may be recommended. You may also need to drink more water 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:
- Start every day with a glass of water when you wake up
- End every day with a glass of water before you go to bed
- Drink a glass of water with every meal (even if you are eating out)
- Carry a bottle of water with you daily, and take small sips throughout the day
- Keep a water bottle on your desk and in the car to help meet your quota every day
- Include caffeine-free herbal teas, such as mint or chamomile tea, or Rooibos tea, which will contribute to water intake
- Sugar-free concentrates such as Brookes Low-Cal are a great way to make drinking water easier (on occasion) Adding bubbles also seems to help increase water intake but be sure not to choose flavoured waters which have approximately 6 teaspoons of added sugar
- Remember that you also get water through food, especially through certain fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and lettuce
Infuse your water! Add lemon, ginger and/or fresh mint to hot water and for a delicious range of cool flavoured water ideas, try some of the fantastic recipes below.
Flavoured water recipes:
Please note that these recipes are for a large jug to serve about 4 people, but you can also downsize recipes to cater for a single 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 with Basil
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 6 strawberries / raspberries + 1 thinly sliced lime + 1/3 cup chopped basil
Recipe 3: Blackberry and Sage Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup blackberries (which have been slightly crushed) + 4 sage leaves
Recipe 4: Watermelon and Rosemary Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup of chopped watermelon cubes + 2 rosemary stems
Recipe 5: Pineapple and Mint Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup chopped pineapple cubes + 12 finely chopped mint leaves
Recipe 6: 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
Recipe 7: Grapefruit and Lime with Rosemary Water
Mix in a jug: 10 cups of water + 1 cup chopped grapefruit + 1 thinly sliced lime + 2 rosemary stems