While water isn't the most exciting of drinks, drinking enough water has incredible short and long-term benefits -- from helping us to digest food and making our skin glow, to helping carry important nutrients around the body.
Ever wondered how much water you need to drink per day? Or if tea, coffee or even food count towards the recommended amount?
Why is drinking water important?
"Good old water is one of the best health boosters around and, unfortunately, many of us don't drink enough of it," Alexandra Parker, accredited practising dietitian from The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.
"The body is made up of 50-75 percent water and the fluids we drink help us stay healthy and energised. Water is so important that the human body can only last days without it, whereas it can last weeks without food."
Water helps our bodies to:
- Digest food
- Carry nutrients around the body
- Remove waste
- Keep bowels regular
- Cushion organs
- Maintain fluid and electrolyte balance
What happens when we don't hydrate enough?
"As our body can't store water, we need fresh supplies every day to make up for losses from the lungs, skin, urine and faeces," Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitian from The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.
"The tell-tale sign that you haven't been drinking enough water is feeling thirsty. But it's important to drink regularly throughout the day as by the time you're feeling thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated."
Even just mild dehydration can show itself in the following ways:
- Dry lips and mouth: this is one of the most obvious signs of feeling thirsty and is one of the initial reminders that your body needs water;
- Dark-coloured urine: if you're healthy and well hydrated, your urine should be a pale straw colour. Dark yellow or amber-coloured urine means you need to drink more;
- Headache: the brain is about 80 percent water, so a subtle headache is often an indicator that you're dehydrated;
- Flushed skin;
- Muscle cramps.
"Severe dehydration can result in: low blood pressure with a rapid heartbeat, fever, lack of energy, delirium, unconsciousness, severe diarrhoea and/or vomiting, and inability to keep fluids down," Debenham said.
How much water should we drink per day?
The exact amount of water we need per day depends on factors like our body size, metabolism, the environment (i.e. weather), what foods we eat and our activity levels.
"Generally speaking, the body uses between 1 to 1.5 litres of water each day, which is why most people benefit from drinking an average of two litres (eight glasses) of water each day," Debenham said.
"During exercise the body cools itself by sweating. However, this results in a loss of body fluids, which if not replaced can lead to dehydration."
As well as exercise intensity, sweat production (fluid loss) also increases with increasing temperature and humidity.
"If you exercise frequently, knowing your sweat rate can give you an indication of how much you should be drinking during exercise," Parker said. "On average, men have a higher lean body mass and are heavier than women, so they typically need more water than women."
Although one exact quantity of water doesn't fit everyone, as a general guide aim for 2.1 litres per day (for women) or 2.6 litres (for men), and drink more during and after exercise and on hot days.
"To ensure you drink enough water, we recommend keeping a water bottle on your desk, in your handbag and in your gym bag."
Does tea, coffee, juice and food count as water intake?
Water is definitely the best option when it comes to staying hydrated and should always be your go-to drink, Parker explained.
"'Fluid' includes not only water from the tap, but also other drinks that give you water such as tea, coffee, milk and fruit juices," Parker said.
"You can also get water from the food you eat. Most foods, even those that look hard and dry, contain water. The body can get approximately 20 percent of its total water requirements from solid foods alone."
"Fruits and veggies are mostly made up of water. 'Wet' foods like yoghurt and soups also contribute water," Debenham added.
Find drinking enough water difficult? Make these lemon and berry-infused ice cubes to add to your glass.
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