When it comes to healthy weight management and good health, there’s no denying that water works as a main beverage. But how much fluid is really enough? And what about those times you need a little flavour to quench your thirst? Let’s take a closer look.
Water is really the most essential nutrient. While your body can store certain vitamins and minerals plus maintain carbohydrate, protein and fat deposits, absence of water soon leads to life threatening dehydration. Even mild dehydration, equivalent to losing as little as 2% of body weight, can lead to a drop in mental and physical performance.
When it comes to weight loss, maintaining hydration is very important, but more is not better. Water is required for digestion, absorption, transportation, dissolving nutrients, elimination of waste products and thermo (body temperature) regulation. However, it’s important to realise that water is not a magic substance that can flush fat out of the body. An adequate fluid supply can support weight loss efforts as plain water has no kilojoules. Drinking water with meals can also slow down eating and help with feelings of eating satisfaction. Plus at times, thirst can be confused with hunger, so staying hydrated can help prevent non-hunger based overeating.
So how much fluid should I be drinking each day?
In individual terms this will be quite varied as hydration status differs from person to person. It is affected by things like your kidney function and how much body water you lose each day, including those sweaty gym sessions. A good personal guide is to keep check on the colour of your urine which should be light or clear and not deep coloured.
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommendations that an adequate daily intake of fluids is: Men 2.6L or around 10 cups and women 2.1L or around 8 cups. For good health and weight loss it’s great to aim for half of your total fluid as plain or sparkling water. The rest of your daily tally can be made up of caffeine and alcohol free beverages like fruit and vegetable juice blends and herbal teas.
When do I need to drink more?
It’s obvious that due to increased losses in sweat, you need to drink up in hot weather, particularly if you are exercising or working outdoors. According to Sports Dietitians Australia always start exercise well hydrated, but there is minimal performance benefit to being over-hydrated as drinking excessive amounts of fluid before exercise causes increased urination and feelings of bloatedness. They recommend you develop a plan for drinking during exercise based on your own sweat rates. Weigh yourself before and after strenuous exercise and aim for minimal fluid losses of less than 1.0kg. It’s important to realise that thirst is not an effective indicator of hydration status and there is usually a significant fluid loss before you feel thirsty. You generally will only need a sports drink if you are exercising continuously at a moderate to high intensity for 90min plus.
Smart ways to drink up in Summer
— Carry water whenever you’re away from home in a stainless steel or BPA free container
— Make a chilled water jug the only beverage at the dinner table
— Add fresh mint, lime and lemon wedges or berries to add flavour
— Water down alcohol, such as making a white wine spritzer with soda
— Grab a fresh supply of water after every office bathroom break
— Include foods with a high water based content like our new Summer range of Chilled Dineamic Soups such as Watermelon Gazpacho, Tomato Gazpacho, Beetroot and Pomegranate
By Karen Inge – Accredited Practising Dietitian