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Knowledge Gains: How Much Water Should You Drink a Day?

Many of us find it difficult to drink the right amount of water for our bodies. This could be down to simply not liking it or not knowing how much we should be drinking as well as issues relating to stress.

Your body is roughly 60 per cent water. You are constantly losing water from your body, primarily from urination and sweat so to prevent dehydration, you need to drink adequate amounts of water.

The NHS recommends to drink between six and eight glasses a day, while the American advice is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, which equals about two litres, or half a gallon.

This blog takes a look at a few ideas which explore how to easily match your water intake to your individual needs.

What happens if you don’t drink enough water?

Dehydration can affect your body and brain in a number of ways. You may feel tired, find it hard to concentrate, experience mild memory problems, lack motivation – especially when it comes to exercise – or find it takes more effort during a run or gym session.

You can tell if you’re drinking enough by checking the colour of your wee. It should be a clear yo pale-yellow colour. If, however, it is dark, cloudy or strong-smelling urine then this is a sign you’re dehydrated, so start upping your fluid intake as soon as possible.

Does water intake affect energy levels?

It has been claimed by a number of experts down the years that if you don’t stay hydrated throughout the day your energy levels and brain function will begin to suffer.

There is research that seems to back this up, too. Some studies have reviewed the effects of water on young, healthy women. the results showed that a fluid loss of 1.36 per cent after exercise impaired mood and concentration and increased the likelihood of headaches.

Further studies found that mild dehydration (one to three per cent of body weight) had a negative effect on the function of the brain.

While it might not seem it, just one per cent of body weight is a significant amount. Losses such as this occur primarily when you’re sweating a lot.

Studies at Loughborough University discovered also that mild dehydration can negatively affect physical performance, leading to a reduction in endurance.

Does drinking water help you lose weight

There are many claims that increasing your water intake can help you to lose weight, through increasing your metabolism and reducing your appetite.

This study conducted in Germany concluded that drinking 500ml of water can temporarily boost metabolism by 24 to 30 per cent.

The researchers estimated that drinking two litres in one day increased energy expenditure by roughly 96 calories per day.

Drinking water around half an hour before meals can also reduce the number of calories you end up, especially in older individuals.

Some studies have discovered that dieters who drank 500ml of water before each meal lost 44% more weight over 12 weeks, compared to those who didn’t.

Also, it may be more beneficial to drink cold water because your body needs to use more calories to bring it up to body temperature.

There’s a solid base of evidence to suggest that drinking good amounts of water, particularly before meals, may have a significant effect on weight loss, especially when in tandem with a healthier diet.

When do I drink?

Maintaining water balance is vital and for this reason, your body has a sophisticated system for regulating when and how much you drink.

When your total water content goes below a certain level, thirst starts. This is a process similar to breathing in that you don’t need to consciously think about it for it to occur.

For many people, there isn’t too much of a need to worry about water intake as the thirst instinct is usually reliable.

However, certain circumstances might require an increase in water intake, for example during times of increased sweating.

This could be brought on through exercise or hot weather, especially in dry climates. If you find you are sweating a lot, it is important to replenish the lost fluid with water.

If you are performing athletic or sport related activities for a prolonged period of time, you may need to also replenish lost electrolytes along with water.

How much water is best?

Exactly how much water you need depends on the individual, everything from your metabolism, to height and weight can change the amounts needed.

Try to experiment and see what works best for you. Some people might function better through increasing their water intake from the usual, while others might find it doesn’t make much of a difference.

Can you drink too much water?

Don’t force yourself to drink if you don’t feel thirsty. This could lead to hyponatremia,a dangerous condition where excess water dilutes the electrolytes in your blood.

Easy ways to stay hydrated

Bored of plain water? Try drinking herbal teas, coconut water, or adding slices of fruit for flavour to your water bottle instead.

Around 25% of the water we consume comes from our food, so include more foods with a high water-content. The US Department of Agriculture says these are:
• strawberries, watermelons, spinach (90 – 99% water)
• apples, grapes, broccoli (80 – 89% water)
• bananas, avocado, baked potato (70 – 79%)
• pasta, salmon, chicken breast (60 – 69%)

The basic principles to follow are:

  • Drink when you are thirsty
  • Stop drinking when you are no longer thirsty
  • During exercise and periods of high heat, drink enough to make up the loss of fluids from the body

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

- The Letterbox Gains Team