Given the emphasis on hydration in health circles (downing enough of the clear stuff has been linked to improved mood and brain function and a happily functioning digestive tract) it might not be something you think about that much –after all, your reusable water bottle never leaves your side…
But. Although some experts would have you think it’s as simple as aiming for two litres of liquid per day, in reality it’s far more complicated than that.
As nutritional therapist and co-founder of Your Body Programme Terry Fairclough reveals, factors such as your activity levels, the weather, your health and whether you’re pregnant all need to be considered when working out how much should be drinking per day.
How Much Water Should I Drink a Day: Your 5-Step Checklist
1. What is your current weight?
To find the base amount you should be drinking per day:
Multiply your weight in kg by 0.6
Divide this figure by 15
For example, if you weigh 60kg: 60 x 0.6 ÷ 15 = 2.5 litres per day
“Remember that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables will increase water intake, meaning you can drink less water,” says Fairclough, “while, drinking too much coffee, tea and alcohol will act as a diuretic, meaning you will need more.”
2. What are today’s training goals?
Did you know that you can lose up to 6-10% of your body’s water content, via sweat, when you exercise ? Which, considering even just a drop of 2% can have a noticeable effect on your performance levels, is a lot. Helps to explain why that uphill sprint suddenly feels so much harder than it ever has done before. Did you know that muscle is about 80% water? ‘The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking o.5 litres about two hours before exercise, and at regular intervals during your workout to replace fluids lost by sweating,’ says Fairclough.
“If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400 to 600 millilitres) of water to compensate for the fluid loss – if you’re doing short bouts of exercise. For more intense training lasting more than an hour (for example, running a marathon), you will need even more – the exact amount depends on how much you sweat during exercise, and the duration and type of exercise.”
When undertaking intense exercise, Fairclough also recommends hydrating with a sport drink that contains sodium to help replace that lost in sweat and so reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia (see below). “It is also essential that you continue replacing fluids after exercising.”
3. What is the weather like?
Okay, so this isn’t just a question of whether you’ve managed to bare your legs for the summer or are still encased in a pair of tights. The environment that you commute and work in also factors into how much water you should be drinking.
‘Hot, humid weather and heated indoor air, can make you sweat, leaving you dehydrated and in need of fluid,’ says Fairclough. ‘Plus, altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves.’
One to note, if you’ve any adventure holidays in the pipeline.
4. How are you feeling?
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 such as Rehidrat or Powerade,” says Fairclough. Note that a number of health conditions can impair water excretion: heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases may require that you limit your fluid intake.
5. Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
“The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups (2.3 litres) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 13 cups (3.1 litres) of fluids a day,” notes Fairclough. Did you know that the water content of the foetus is estimated to be 75-90%?
Why? Well, water is needed to form amniotic fluid (it is estimated a woman carries from 0.5-two litres during pregnancy), support the increase in blood plasma volume and to produce breast milk. “Remember, that water contained in tea and coffee is not an ideal replacement when dehydrated as they are diuretics and increase your loss of water.”
5 Ways to Increase Your Water Consumption
According to the Natural Hydration Council, symptoms of dehydration include constipation, dark yellow urine, a dry mouth, headaches, increased thirst, lethargy and muscle tiredness.
Research shows that water losses of just 2% can result in reduced mental performance – think brain fog.
Fairclough shares his top tips for keeping your fluid intake up:
*Hot or warm water from the kettle is often easier to drink than water straight from the fridge, when the weather is cold.
*Start the day with a glass of water to flush the body of toxins built up overnight.
*Aim to have most of you water intake away from meals, as drinking a lot of water close to a meal may dilute digestive acids and enzymes, inhibiting digestion. However, having a glass of water one hour before a meal may help to increase the enzymes and acids.
*Like tap, 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.
*Naturally flavour your water with slices of lime, lemon, strawberry, ginger or herbs such as mint.
The article Once And For All: How Much Water Do I Have To Drink Each Day? was first published on Women’s Health US.