Now more than ever, when health is at the forefront of our minds, it is important not to forget how crucial it is to stay hydrated in order to keep our bodies healthy. Especially, in a tropical country like Sri Lanka where we experience Summer all year around, it is vital to know how to stay hydrated.
Why Do We Need Fluids?
Water makes up a large proportion of the body; on average sixty percent of body weight in men and between fifty to fifty-five percent in women. Water has many functions in the body, it helps:
- To regulate body temperature;
- Transport nutrients;
- To maintain glowing, healthy skin;
- Act as a lubricant and shock absorbers in joints;
- Remove waste products which are passed in urine;
Water is lost in urine and sweat throughout the day. We are uniquely designed to regulate our own body temperature, particularly in hot conditions, by losing more water through the skin (perspiration), which in turn acts to cool the body helping to maintain a stable temperature. Therefore, living in a hot climate, we rapidly lose fluid through sweating, hence we need to ensure we drink fluids more regularly to ensure all bodily functions are able to function as required.
What Happens When You Are Dehydrated?
Studies have shown that at about one percent dehydration (equivalent of one percent of body weight water loss) there are negative effects on mental and physical functions, and these become more severe as dehydration gets worse.
Low levels of fluid cause:
- Feelings of dizziness
- Poor concentration
- Dry mouth
Once the body detects that more water is needed, kidneys reduce the amount of water lost in the urine. Hence, the color of urine becomes darker.
How Much Water Do You Need?
- Adults: 1.5 to 2 liters of fluid a day or eight to ten glasses per day;
- Children: six to eight glasses a day;
Fluid intake depends on factors such as:
- The climate;
- Level of physical activity;
Needs vary from person to person, but there are certain population groups who may need to pay particular attention to hydration.
- Children: need plenty of fluids, despite their smaller body size, and they should be encouraged to drink water regularly, especially if they are very active;
- Infants: get their fluids from breast milk or formula milk, but will start to get some fluids from food when they move onto solids;
- Older Adults: may have a weaker sense of thirst and, if necessary, should be helped and encouraged to drink water regularly;
- You can identify your hydration level by looking at your urine color. Aim for a pale straw like color. Darker color indicates you need to increase your fluid intake.
- Drinking water is the best and healthy way to up your intake. However, alternatives such as coconut water and lemon, cucumber and mint infused water are great alternatives. Also, adding basil seeds to your water is also a great way to remain hydrated.
- 150ml of fresh juice or smoothies can provide a percentage of your daily water requirement, however you should be limiting these due to the sugar content and lack of fibre, when compared to eating whole fruits.
- High water content food such as cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, celery and spinach can also contribute towards your fluid intake.
- Tea, coffee and milk are great options but shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities.
- Food for hydration include options such as soups, vegetables, stews and homemade fruit popsicles.
- Sugary Beverages
- Energy Drinks
For all those who are finding it hard to stay hydrated here are some tips:
- Use Your Phone: you can set alarms every hour to remind you to drink a glass of water or even download an app which can help you track your intake, as well as send you hourly reminders;
- Water Bottle: carry a water bottle to work, school or even have one at home. This will help you keep track of how many times you have refilled your bottle;
- Hydrate Before, During and After Exercise: Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise as it can affect performance and energy levels. Coconut water post exercise is a great option.