In the Western Cape, residents will have breathed a sigh of relief that the early arrival of the rainy season has pushed the threat of the dreaded “Day Zero” further back in their minds.
A little bit closer to home though - and by home, I’m referring to this body I inhabit - I spent some time thinking about why water is important for my health and well-being and how an increase in my intake of water has helped me reduce my consumption of sugar-laden fruit juice and carbonated cooldrinks to zero over the past two years.
It’s common that anyone who expresses the desire to get healthy or lose weight will be strongly advised to “drink more water” or “stay hydrated”. But rarely is it explained why exactly water is so important for our well-being or how much of the stuff we should be drinking every day.
Google it and you’ll find all kinds of formulas based on your height, weight, activity levels, and so on. Some people swear by eight glasses a day, others drink as much as four litres a day.
And then there are those who drink lots of water to suppress their hunger.
Why is water important?
According to the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report 6-Week Plan for Health Eating, water fulfils a number of functions in our bodies. Among them is carrying nutrients and oxygen to our cells; facilitating digestion; flushing toxins and bacteria from the bladder, preventing constipation; protecting organs, tissues and joints; regulating body temperature and maintaining the sodium balance of our bodies.
Water also plays a role in stabilising the heartbeat and blood pressure.
How much water should you drink?
Personally, I aim for two to three litres a day on the days that I’m very active. Generally, I drink a litre during my workout or immediately after a run and then another two litres during the day. Remember that your daily water intake can include the water in fruit and other beverages - and it’s best if these are not sweetened.
Also worth keeping in mind is that it is possible to drink too much water which can result in over-hydration or “water intoxication”. This generally happens when you drink more water than your kidneys can get rid of via urine.
This is more likely to happen if you drink a lot of water over a short period of time, so instead of trying to guzzle down a huge amount of water at the start of the day so you can “get it over and done with”, spread your water consumption over the course of the day.
While the US-based Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that men drink about 3.7litres of water a day and women, 2.7 litres.
The best advice I’ve heard is to listen to your body and drink when you feel the urge to. To this I’d like to add, however, that you should also consider increasing your clear water intake when consuming alcohol, eating rich, fatty foods or if you notice that your urine is darker than usual or has a strong odour.
Tips to increase your intake
* Carry a water bottle with you and fill it as soon as it’s empty. If you’re using a plastic water bottle, make sure it’s BPA-free and don’t leave it anywhere that gets really warm, like your car.
* Keep a jug or bottle of water on your desk at work.
* Aim to drink a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage.
* Drink your tea without milk and sugar.
* If you’re not mad about the taste of clear water, spice it up with some lemon, cucumber or mint.
* And if all else fails, there are apps you can install on your phone to remind you when it’s time to take a sip of water.
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