This article covers a very important and current topic, one which has been repeated to death, yet we still need to keep parroting it, as experience shows that most people don’t pay attention to drinking proper amounts and quality of fluids. Remember, knowing what and when to drink (or eat) to make up for fluid losses isn’t only useful for people living active lives, but everyone. Written by Ildikó Szántó.
I feel a bit inauthentic talking about this topic, because I’m one of those whose fluid intake is below what their bodies need. But I’m trying to change for the better. :) Many acquaintances of mine also struggle with the same task. I wouldn’t call this a problem, as luckily we do have water available to drink, we just don’t do it for some reason. The real problem can be found on the other side of the Earth where people can’t get enough, if any, drinking water.
So, for us, everything is at hand to drink proper amounts and quality of water, we just need to pay a little attention in our own interest. After all, failing to meet the basic needs of one’ body can lead to serious problems that can occur in both the short and long term. These can be reversible or irreversible processes, so it’s better to prevent them entirely.
The body and water
About 65% of our body is water, so it’s natural that maintaining healthy physical and mental activity requires you to make up for fluid losses. After all, water plays a major role in bodily functions:
-digestion and nutrient absorption,
-transport of nutrients and excretion,
-ensuring adequate blood pressure and circulation,
-regulating body temperature,
-maintaining the acid-base balance and the osmotic pressure
-and diluting urine.
Therefore, it’s important to maintained the balance between fluid intake and output, because as soon as output becomes dominant, your body starts experiencing a water shortage, and likely sends some signals about it. In such cases, you may experience dizziness, headache, restlessness, confusion, fatigue, weakness, rapid breathing, and palpitations. In addition, muscle spasms, clouding of consciousness, or more severe dehydration may occur. If you experience these symptoms, before reaching for pills, think about whether you’ve had enough water. If not, gradually make up for the backlog. :)
In certain cases, it’s better not to wait until you feel thirsty,
as this may indicate that your body is at risk of dehydration. Often by the time information about dehydration reaches your brain, your cells have long been “drowning” due to accumulated waste products. Even loss of consciousness can occur. In the long run, dehydration can also have an adverse effect on your kidneys and result in kidney stones. A fluid loss of 2% is enough to produce symptoms and decrease physical and mental performance. Prevention, if possible, is preferable.
So, how much water do you need?
On average, and adult person should consume 2-3 liters of water per day. This includes fluid intake by food (soup, fruits, vegetables, etc.) as well as the water produced by the body while it breaks down food. However, beverages make up the biggest part.
Drinking tap water and mineral water is the best choice.
Tap water contains calcium, magnesium and fluoride. The mineral content of mineral waters depend on their type. Ones with low mineral content (less than 500 mg/l) are ideal because you don’t need to worry about mineral overdose when consuming them. Sugary soft drinks are water-based, but they also contain dehydrating substances, not to mention their adverse effect on our physique. Coffee is also a diuretic, but when consumed with milk, it makes up for some of the losses. Of teas, green teas and fruit teas are preferred for hydration.
Determining the right amount is not all that easy because there are many factors that influence fluid requirements.
Such factors include age and weight. For healthy people, the daily fluid requirement is:
-190 ml per kg of body weight at the age of 1 to 6 months,
-800-1000 ml at the age of 6-12 months,
-1100-1200 ml at the age of 1-2 years,
-1300 ml at the age of 2-3,
-1600 ml at the age of 4-8,
-2100 ml for boys 9 to 13 years and 1900 ml for girls,
-2-2.5 l over 14 years.
According to dietitian expert Kinga Miháldy, one needs to consume 4 dl of fluids per 10 kilograms of body weight per day. In Prof. Ronald J. Maughan’s view, it’s more difficult to calculate, since age, level of activity, time spent outdoors and in air-conditioned rooms should also be taken into account. Seasons also influence fluid requirements due to the variance of temperature. In the summer, people tend to sweat more, so fluid needs can even double. The same thing happens while doing sports and in the sauna. A variety of health-related conditions can also increase fluid needs (such as fever, diarrhea and vomiting), as can the consumption of alcoholic beverages or high-sodium foods. Keep in mind that fluids aren’t only lost through urine, but also through sweating (even up to a liter), breathing and faeces. The professor formulated a simple method to check the correctness of fluid intake: if you only urinate 1-2 times a day and your urine is relatively dark, you should definitely drink more. However, if you hurry to the toilet 8-10 times and your urine is almost colorless, you may be drinking too much water. This extreme isn’t a health benefit either, as mineral intake may be too high, putting a burden on the kidneys.
Thus, excessive fluid intake also has detrimental effects. Sometimes, someone who’s been thirsty for hours and feels the signs of dehydration decides to make up for the backlog by suddenly drinking a more-than-heatlhy amount. Doing sports, drinking with friends or at family gatherings, or even doing drugs can lead to excessive acute fluid intake. In a discrete case this is usually harmless, only increasing the amount and frequency of urination. However, in chronic cases (e.g. taking antidepressants, compulsive drinking), excessive water consumption can lead to problems. To avoid these, it’s recommended to follow these guidelines:
-try to distribute the amount you need evenly throughout the day,
-have 8-10 glasses of fluid per day (more when doing sports and in warm weather),
-in case of increased sweating (exercise, high temperature), also mind the loss of sodium (it’s advisable to choose sodium-containing drinks),
-monitor the frequency and color of your urine (I explained this in more detail earlier).
I’d like to get back to fluid intake during exercise and harder manual work because sweating causes a loss of minerals in addition to water. If you don’t supplement these, your body may become hyponatremic, or salt-depleted. This can cause water to appear in the blood and cells, which can lead to the formation of edema, which is extremely dangerous for the brain. Swelling of the hands and feet aren’t pleasant either, of course. In mild cases, the combination of salt depletion and excessive fluid intake can cause headaches, nausea and drowsiness. However, pressure inside the skull may also increase and limit blood flow, which can lead to seizures and, in severe cases, even death. Don’t let this scare you away from exercise! With a tiny bit of attention, you can make up for all the losses with the right amount. :)
Healthy people do not usually need to calculate their daily fluid intake very accurately. However, for someone on dialysis, for example, this can be a matter of life and death, since dialysis systems can only extract certain amounts of fluid from the circulation. In such cases, maximum fluid intake (including water from solid foods) is determined by physicians and dietitians based on the patient’s current condition, body weight, and amount of urine excreted.
I would also highlight the limited fluid intake before various sports events, which is extremely unhealthy. Regardless, I did it myself before fitness competitions, trying to do my best not only in performance but also in appearance. The former may have been affected, but at the time I wasn’t aware of the consequences. On the day of the competition I sometimes felt weak, I had to take multiple pills for my headache (without water) to be able to get on stage at all. My hair was falling out, my skin was dry, my nails got brittle, to which though a strict diet also contributed. In weight-category sports, athletes often resort to even more drastic weight-loss methods; barely drinking and not eating at all for days. In the end, everything balanced out for me, so it was worth it for the good memories and good results. However, I’m glad that my priorities have changed. :)
Often, people care about looks more than invisible problems, so I think it’s important to mention that dehydration is most prominent on your skin. Avoid consuming dehydrating foods and beverages and make sure to replenish, since water gets to the skin last, so if the water isn’t enough, the skin isn’t really getting any of it. Water can help moisturize the face and prevent wrinkles. It can also partially prevent the development of cellulite and is important for its elimination. The financial aspect is important too, because if you provide your body with enough fluids, you’ll probably have to spend less money on body lotion, lip balm, anti-wrinkle serums, anti-cellulite creams and treatments, etc…
Help is here!
There are different techniques that help. For some, it’s enough to just keep in mind how much they have drunk and act accordingly. But we can also have a water bottle or a larger glass with a fill mark at hand. Setting an hourly alarm on your phone or watch can be effective. There are different mobile apps that alert you and keep track of your intake as well. So there’s no excuse, it’s all a matter of determination, for the sake of health and looks. I’m also working on it, I already drink 2-2.5 liters a day, which would be great if I didn’t do 2-4 hours of physical activity each day. But I’m on the right track. :)
All in all, when it comes to healthy eating, focusing on food isn’t enough, fluid intake is just as important.
Come on, let’s restore, maintain, and improve our health together! :)
Source of featured image: pxhere.com
Translation by Ádám Hittaller