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How to stay hydrated

How to stay hydrated

Team ErbologyErbology

Staying hydrated can be difficult in the best of times, and even more so in the summer! Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated.

July 08, 2022 3:45 pm

Water is life

Water is essential to our health. We literally can’t survive without it. Whilst many adults could survive for weeks without food (although it’s not recommended), humans cannot survive for more than a couple of days without water. 

As adults, our bodies are made up of about 60% water. H2O makes up our tissues, it serves as a lubricant for our joints, creates saliva and gastric juices, transports nutrients around our body and regulates our body temperature amongst many other functions. Our bodies are constantly losing water through bodily functions such as sweat and bowel movements, even simply by breathing you are expelling water! For this reason our water stores need to be replenished regularly.(1) 

person in blue denim jacket holding stainless steel bottleIf you exercise a lot, tend to sweat more than the average person or are simply just living through a hot summer, you will have to pay even more attention to ensuring that you stay hydrated!

Electrolyte balance 

When it comes to staying hydrated, most of us just think about water (H2O). Of course water is a major part of the equation, however it’s also about electrolyte and carbohydrate balance. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium and phosphorus. Too much or too little water can upset the electrolyte balance in our body. All electrolytes work together to ensure that our cells function properly, thus keeping them balanced is essential to our health.(2)

Therefore, staying hydrated is more than just drinking sufficient water, the food you eat also plays a major role. We can achieve a balance of water, electrolytes and carbohydrates through what we eat and drink. 

A balanced varied diet full of fruits and vegetables and between 2 to 3 litres of water per day covers most people’s hydration needs. It’s important to note that hydration requirements can vary widely between individuals and that “8 cups per day” as a one-size fits all approach is a myth. In fact, how much water you need depends on many factors from age to gender, body weight, activity level and other health conditions!(3)

How do I know if I’m dehydrated?

Luckily it is relatively easy to tell if you are not getting enough fluids. One of the first ways to see whether you are adequately hydrated is to observe the color of your urine. Light yellow or clear is ideal and means that you are well hydrated. Darker colors like deep yellow can indicate that you need to drink more fluids. Other signs of dehydration include dry mouth, sleepiness or brain fog, difficulty concentrating, headaches, dizziness and infrequent urination.(4)

Signs of more severe dehydration include extreme thirst, confusion, irritability, rapid heartbeat and fever. Hopefully the early signs of dehydration (urine color) should be enough for you to take action and avoid reaching the severe dehydration stage. 

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“If you are very physically active or an athlete, your body will need more water to function and therefore you will have increased hydration requirements.”

How much water do I need?

There is no one-size-fits all to how much fluid you need per day. Most adults need between 2 and 3 litres of fluid per day. Children require less fluids whilst pregnant and breastfeeding women need more. Most of your fluids should come from drinks but some also comes from foods such as fruits and vegetables, soups and stews. 

It’s important to ensure that the amount of fluid that you lose each day is replaced by the fluids in drinks and food. In doing so, you will prevent dehydration. The exact amount of fluid you require to stay hydrated can depend on several factors. 

Age is an important one. In fact, as you get older, your body stores less water and your kidneys are not as efficient as they used to be. This is why the elderly have a lower body percentage of water compared to babies. This is also why older adults are at higher risk of dehydration, because their water stores are not as high as in younger people.(5) Furthermore, thirst cues are not as strong as we grow older so we cannot always rely on how thirsty we “feel” in order to know whether we need to drink more fluids.

Increased fluid requirements

If you are very physically active or an athlete, your body will need more water to function and therefore you will have increased hydration requirements. If you are living in a hot environment or it’s summer, you will likely need to drink more water. Indoor areas with central heating or air conditioning can also dry the air so you may need to compensate by drinking more water. 

Finally, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding you are at higher risk of constipation and you need more hydration for the baby (and milk production) so fluid requirements are increased.

Keeping a water bottle at hand will remind you to sip on it throughout the day to help you stay hydrated. 

“If you are very physically active or an athlete, your body will need more water to function and therefore you will have increased hydration requirements.”

What should I drink?

Most fluids are hydrating but it depends on what you’re doing and what your body’s needs are. For example, if you’re working from your desk and are not particularly exerting yourself physically, a glass of water is perfectly fine. However if you are running a half marathon, you may want to look into a sports drink! Remember that sports drinks contain sugar and calories so unless you are sweating profusely due to intense exercise, you shouldn’t drink them regularly. 

Other sugary drinks like soda increase your risk of tooth decay and risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so avoid these as much as possible.(6)

Water

Water is the number one choice when it comes to staying hydrated. H2O is virtually calorie-free and readily available from the tap. If you don’t like the taste of tap water you can invest in a water filter for your sink or filter jug. You can also try chilling it in the fridge or adding some bubbles to make sparkling water. 

Both still and sparkling water are just as effective at keeping you hydrated. Be aware though that sparkling water contains CO2 and can damage tooth enamel if you consume it in high quantities, using a straw can minimize the impact of acidic CO2 on your teeth. Also be aware that if you have IBS or suffer from bloating, sparkling water may not sit well with your stomach and you may prefer to stick with plain water instead. 

If plain water tastes too bland for you, you can try adding a splash of bergamot juice or sea buckthorn juice to add some citrusy freshness. You can also add some slices of lemon or lime, some cucumber or some ginger. Again, if you are adding citrus to your water, this will make it more acidic so you may wish to drink from a straw to protect your teeth. 

Fruit juice and smoothies

Fruit juice is also high in sugar and should only be drunk sometimes. It shouldn’t replace consumption of whole fresh fruit. In fact, the gut-friendly fibre naturally found in fruit is stripped from fruit juice, leaving you with a much less nutritious drink.It contains a lot of free sugars and acids which can negatively impact your teeth. Nonetheless, fruit juice still does contain vitamins so it can still be part of a healthy diet if consumed sparingly. 

Fruit juices and smoothies count as a maximum of one portion of your five-a-day even if you drink more than one serving (150ml). Make sure you check the portion size if you are buying your juices and smoothies because many bottles are much larger than this. 

Soda and soft drinks

Soda and soft drinks are non-nutritious drinks. In fact, they are empty calories providing a lot of sugar and not much else. One can of soda can contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar. If you must drink soda, zero-sugar and sugar-free versions are better alternatives. The literature around these drinks is still conflicting and there is no real consensus around the healthfulness of artificial sweeteners. 

So if you choose to consume sugar-free drinks in alternative to their sugar-laden counterparts, do so sparingly. And don’t forget a straw! Some sodas and soft drinks can be as acidic as stomach acid!

Dairy and alternatives 

Dairy milk contains water, protein, calcium and B vitamins. If you consume dairy, milk can be a good way to get fluids into your body. Choose low-fat varieties to lower the fat content.

Alternatively, plant-based non-dairy options are great choices for adults who do not consume dairy. You can drink these milk alternatives on their own or add them to coffee tea, or smoothies. Look for the unsweetened varieties and those fortified with calcium, vitamins and minerals. Our Italian Almond M*lk base is also a great dairy-free vegan alternative. Just add water and voila, you have yourself a hydrating and nutritious vegan drink!

Is caffeine dehydrating?

You may have heard that caffeine is dehydrating and that tea and coffee don’t count towards your hydration goals. This may not be entirely true. While you shouldn’t rely on tea or coffee alone for fluid intake, they shouldn’t make you dehydrated if you consume them within the daily limits.

Both tea and coffee contain caffeine which means they are diuretic (i.e. you will produce a higher urine output). The safe daily limit of caffeine for a non-pregnant adult is about 400mg. A cup of filter coffee has up to 100mg of caffeine so if you don’t have more than 4 cups per day then there’s nothing to worry about. A cup of black tea has about 50mg of caffeine. 

You can read more about the effects of caffeine here. If you are sensitive to caffeine but still want a boost of energy, you can try our organic matcha green tea which contains l-theanine, an amino acid that may help with focus without the jittery side effects of caffeine!

What about alcohol?

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t rely on alcohol to keep you hydrated! Similarly to caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic which can make you dehydrated if consumed in high quantities. If you are drinking alcohol, it’s a good idea to alternate with a glass of water or diet soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks. This way you can stay hydrated and avoid overconsuming alcohol.

Eat your water

As previously stated, some of our fluid intake comes from food! In fact, some foods like fruits and vegetables naturally contain very high amounts of water. For example, watermelon and strawberries are almost entirely made of water. Lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes are also very high in water. Other foods are made using water or stock such as soups and stews. These can significantly contribute to your fluid intake! 

Is it possible to over hydrate?

Whilst unlikely in most people, it is actually possible to drink too much water. If you drink more water than your body is able to process, this can lead to electrolyte imbalances. In fact, you could put yourself in danger if your sodium levels are too low due to excess water consumption. You would have to purposefully drink A LOT of water before that happens though. It’s quite unlikely that you can accidentally over hydrate. 

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