Having just returned from a holiday in Europe where temperatures were between 30-35 degrees C practically every day, hydration is in the forefront of my mind. Naturally we drink more liquid when the weather is hot and we are perspiring. However, this does not mean that we do not need liquid during the cooler and colder times of the year or in cooler and colder climates.
How much of us is water?
The body is made up of 75% and the brain 85% water. We require water for many critical bodily functions including blood flow, for cellular metabolism and for the kidney and liver to function well to eliminate toxins and waste through urination and the formation of stools, as well as for mental alertness and concentration. In order to support all the named functions and more, we need to be drinking a minimum of 1.5 litres of water daily, and when temperatures rise, or if exercising regularly causing loss of fluid through sweat, the amount of water needed by the body has to be increased. During exercise, especially in hot weather, we also lose electrolytes through sweat including magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphate and chloride. These need to be replaced together with water to stay hydrated.
In hotter temperatures we lose more water through perspiration as the body works to maintain core temperature. The normal water usage in the body for an adult of approximately 70 kg is in the region of 4% of body weight and up to 15% in infants of approximately 7 kg. This is the equivalent to 2-3 litres and 1 litre respectively.
Effective hydration is enabled through drinking of pure water, or water with a natural flavouring such as a slice of lime or lemon, a piece of cucumber, sprig of mint or other herbs of choice, for it to be absorbed readily into the body systems.
Tea, coffee and soda are considered water, right?
In our world today we are surrounded by choice. Why would water be interesting? We are so quick to make that “cuppa”, pour that glass of juice, wine or soda, mistakenly thinking that these are a good source of hydration. Of course, this is true to a certain extent. However, while containing water they often contain dehydrating agents as well, thus removing water from the body’s water reserves and with time, depleting the overall system.
The need for water, as indicated by the thirst sensation in the mouth, tells us that the body requires water and to drink. The colour of urine also indicates how well hydrated you are, the darker the colour the more dehydrated you are likely to be. Urine should be a pale straw colour. In order to avoid triggering the thirst signal, it is better to drink little and often to keep a good level of hydration. Irrelevant of the time of year, drinking little and often is essential to keep the mind active and the body hydrated. Comparing this to your car, when needing petrol, in our case water, the fuel gauge lights up or beeps when close to empty, or the arrow sits in the red “danger” zone, which is equivalent to the thirst signal. If not filling up, the engine simply stops!
Tips and tricks to stay hydrated
- To keep the needed level of hydration, have a glass of water handy, to sip on whilst at your computer, desk or other workstation. If moving around, take a bottle of water with you, preferably one made of glass or PET plastic to avoid toxicity from the bottle leaching into the water you are drinking. Sip regularly throughout the day.
- If you struggle to drink enough water, monitoring consumption encourages the right behaviour. Get a litre bottle and pour from that throughout the day so that you can see your progress whilst also monitoring how much you are drinking.
- If walking about and the weather is hot, wear a hat to protect the head and limit loss of fluid.
- Swop tea or coffee for a herbal tea with fresh mint, lemon Melissa or any other herb of your choice. Making iced tea from fresh herbs or green tea is also a good form of hydration and can be kept in a jug in the fridge.
- Avoid over-eating to not put pressure on the digestive system. Choose lighter meals with cold soups and salads during the summer.
- Cucumber and watermelon are naturally hydrating and can be eaten as a snack. Most children love these.
- For children, make frozen fruit puree ice-lollies with added water. This is a good way to help ensure hydration whilst also being a treat.
- Replace electrolytes with chilled coconut water.
- To limit the loss of fluid, stay out of the midday heat of the sun and use early morning and afternoons for activities, sightseeing and sport.
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