We all know that drinking water is important for our health, but why exactly? How much do we need to drink? What counts towards our water intake? And how can we increase how much we drink? Because, often even when we know we should, we don’t always do it.
I found water at the ripe old age of 27 when I started sprinting as part of team GB. Growing up we never drank water and in fact, I remember being discouraged to drink water on its own. To be fair, it came from a well, and unboiled water probably wasn’t safe to drink. As a result, I always drank, juice, tea, coffee and later, beer!
Finally, when I started drinking water I discovered how dehydrated I had really been. I had more energy, better concentration, my pee changed colour, my appetite reduced and I trained better. I have never looked back, but it did take a while to get up to the recommended amount.
Why do we need to drink water?
Every cell in our body needs water. 60% of our body is water and without the right amount, you are straining and possibly damaging your organs.
Here are just some of the uses of water in the body
- Water makes nutrients and minerals more accessible for our bodies and fuels our kidneys to flush out waste.
- Our joints require water to stay lubricated.
- Mucus and saliva are created by water, which helps to keep eyes, mouths and noses healthy.
- Your brain needs water to function properly. In fact, dehydration headaches are caused by the brain shrinking and pulling away from your skull.
- Water helps your digestive system to run smoothly and helps prevent constipation
- Water keeps your skin healthy, as dehydrated skin gets wrinkled and is more vulnerable to skin disorders
- It cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues
How much water do I need to drink? And what counts?
This depends on your sex, age and weight, but generally speaking, an average woman should drink 1.2- 1.5 litres of water and a man should drink 1.6- 2l of water.
The best source for this is water, although fruit juice, low-fat milk and tea and coffee count.
If the weather is hot or you are exercising you should increase this amount.
We also get water from the food we eat. Foods such as melon, courgettes, cucumbers and soup can all contribute.
Our top 7 tips for increasing your water intake.
- Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables or add a bowl of soup to your meals. Most fresh fruit and veggies are great sources for water but you especially increase melon, cucumber, courgettes, tomatoes and berries.
- Buy a 500ml reusable water bottle, or bigger. Fill it up in the morning and aim to refill it 3 times (if female) or 4 times if male. Don’t buy something bigger than is convenient to carry. The point is that it goes everywhere with you. We love stainless steel bottles.
- Pour a glass of water every time you put the kettle on. Caffeine causes you to produce urine quicker so it’s not as effective at hydrating you like water. Also, it’s an easy cue to remember, fill up the kettle and fill up a glass. It’s good to give yourself cues to drink to get into the habit, so you could try – as soon as you get in the car or just before you get out. After you’ve been to the toilet. First thing in the morning or just after you brush your teeth. When you watch TV in the evening. On the train or bus. Whilst cooking have a bottle of water on the go, or whilst working on your laptop or phone.
- Before you have a snack have a glass of water. It is easy to mistake thirst for hunger, so I gave myself the rule, if I fancy a snack (especially in the evening), I will have a glass of water, wait 20 minutes and if I’m still hungry then I will have a snack. This is also helpful if you are trying to lose weight or reduce snacking.
- If you don’t like the taste of water, flavour it. Try cucumber, lemon, lime or mint. Or you could use a herbal tea bag.
- Make your own ice pops. Use water or low-fat milk and flavour them naturally with fresh fruit or fruit juice. You could make smoothies with frozen fruit (cheaper) and then freeze in ice lolly moulds. This is a great way to hydrate kids, get more fruit into them and give them a cool treat.
- Start somewhere. All improvement is an improvement. If you drink barely any water and your liquids are mostly fizzy, caffeinated or alcohol, be realistic, switch to a good quality cordial in your bottle or make up a bottle of half juice half water. Or you could try water kefir
Bottom line, keep it simple, make slow and steady improvements.
Once you’ve cracked it your energy levels will rise, your appetite may decrease (many people mistake thirst for hunger), every organ in your body will thank you and even your brain will function better