Why hydration matters

About 60% of our bodies are made up of water and whilst we can survive for surprisingly long periods of time without food, we cannot survive for more than a few days without water.

We don’t just need it for survival though…aside from keeping our cells hydrated and functioning properly (which in itself gives us more energy), water helps us to digest food, it reduces cravings for sugar, it helps our ability to concentrate, makes our skin clearer and it helps us to process substances like alcohol.

Most adults need c. 3L of fluid a day, on average, and about 1L of this typically comes from our food, leaving us with c. 2L left to consume in the form of drinks.

Some people have no issue drinking several litres a day, but for many people this can be a big challenge. Some tips to help you along the way are:

  • Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up (leave it by your bed the night before if that’s easier)
  • Carry a bottle around with you everywhere you go to remind you to drink and to help you gauge how much you’ve drunk so far. You can also leave multiple bottles lying around the rooms and places you tend to be to make it easier…particularly if you get trapped under a sleeping baby!
  • If you really don’t like the taste of plain water, add slices of citrus fruit to it
  • Drink a glass of water half an hour before each meal
  • Set reminders or alarms on your phone if that helps you to remember!
  • If you enjoy an alcoholic drink or two, remember that alcohol dehydrates us and you’ll lose more water than you replace, even if you’re drinking water alongside your favourite tipple.
  • By the time you realise you’re thirsty your body has normally lost c.1-2% of its water and your body’s performance is already suffering at this point. So try to have regular drinks throughout the day so you don’t get to the point of feeling really thirsty.
  • Finally, sip don’t guzzle…our bodies can only absorb c. 1.5L of liquid per hour. It’s much better to have little sips/cups regularly than drinking a whole bottle in one go every so often.

As we’re talking about hydration, let’s touch on the subject of caffeine and fruit juices.

Caffeine is the world’s most popular drug and whilst some studies do show some benefits of limited amounts of caffeine, the extent to which you might benefit from them depends on your genetics and it’s 100% clear that caffeine has a massive negative impact on sleep (both how long it takes you to go to sleep and the length and quality of your sleep). And as getting enough high quality sleep is essential for the proper functioning of our minds and bodies, this is clearly sub-optimal!

So if you’re going to drink caffeine, ideally drink it before midday so it’s out of your system before bedtime and drink non-caffeinated herbal teas if you need something more later in the day. Beware of green tea though as it does contain caffeine.

My last point for the moment around drinks is on the subject of smoothies. They often seem like a really healthy alternative, but in reality, they’re typically loaded with sugar and because drinks bypass our body’s mechanisms which tell us when we’re full, you’ll likely consume a lot more calories that you would if you were eating the equivalent items without all of the same benefits. Have you ever tried eating 6 or 7 oranges instead of drinking a glass of orange juice? There’s nothing wrong with making smoothies, but focus on getting veg into them ideally rather than filling them with fruit.

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