Shocked by Hugh Jackman’s emaciated look in Les Mis? He deprived himself of water for 36 hours to achieve the gaunt appearance of his character, Jean Valjean.
We all know that water is essential to life – a few days without it and severe dehydration will kick in. It has many important jobs in the body’s normal functioning - providing the medium for all chemical reactions, a source of minerals and behaving as a solvent, a transporter, a lubricant for our joints, and as a temperature regulator – cooling us down through sweat.
But how much should we be drinking to help keep ourselves in peak condition?
A basic strategy for staying hydrated is matching intake of water with expenditure – and as a rough guide for most people, three litres daily is generally quoted as a safe recommendation. As about one litre comes from food such as fruit and vegetables, that means about two litres of water - or eight glasses - should come from ‘purposeful’ drinking!
However, several factors will affect our individual needs including body size/height, climate and certain health conditions. You may also wish to pay a little attention to your intake around exercise. Naturally, the more intensely you exercise and the longer duration, the more water you need to replace due to losses through sweat. I also recommend you start thinking about hydration before you start sweating by having an extra glass about thirty minutes befor exercising.
You can make a reasonable judgement if you are getting your water intake about right by checking urine colour. The trick is to drink enough fluid to ensure that urine colour stays pale yellow (and non-odourous) throughout the whole day.
What about other drinks? In addition to water, herbal and fruit teas are great. The caffeine in coffee and tea can have a mild ‘diuretic’ effect so in theory can contribute to dehydration – but the effect may be negligible if your intake of water (and herbal teas) is sufficient. Fruits juices are generally high in sugar, so they are usually best kept to a minimum. I only suggest isotonic drinks to athletes or those performing longer endurance exercises. And alcohol – well, we all know about the hang-over effect…
So, don’t wait until you feel parched, keep topped up. Water is the giver of life. Cheers!