When you learn that water accounts for as much as 80 per cent of your body weight , it’s not surprising that for survival, access to water is more important than access to food .
Then when you consider that you lose roughly three litres of it a day , simply as a result of your body going about its business, the ‘drink plenty of water’ message starts to make perfect sense.
Especially because the body requires much more water than it’s capable of producing itself, which is why water is considered an ‘essential nutrient’.
But how much water is enough each day? And why does running a little low matter so much, anyway? Here’s what you need to know.
Why does your body need water?
The short story is that water forms the basis of everything from blood and digestive juices to urine and perspiration – and most of your body’s functions rely on water, too.
For example, water is required to lubricate and cushion the joints; hydrate the skin; carry nutrients and oxygen to cells; help eliminate by-products of the body’s metabolism; regulate body temperature via sweating; and aid digestion. And that’s just for starters .
How much water should you drink?
The answer can depend on a variety of factors, including how physically active you are and how hot it is , but according to official guidelines, an adequate intake of water for men is 3.4 litres a day, and for women it’s 2.8 litres a day .
However, the food you eat contains some water, so that roughly 20 per cent, or around 700-800 millilitres, of your daily water requirement is taken care of by your diet . Plus, your body produces a small amount of water as a by-product of the digestion process .
So, in terms of how many glasses of water you should aim to drink each day, men need about 10 cups (or 2.6 litres of water) and women need about 8 cups (or 2.1 litres of water ).
Is it only water that does the trick?
While water is the best choice, because it’s kilojoule-free and hydrates efficiently, it’s not the only choice you can make to help meet your fluid intake requirements. Other drinks, such as milk, juice, tea and coffee, and even soup, count as fluids .
If you do drink milk and you're actively managing your cholesterol, choose a low- or reduced-fat variety . And don’t forget that fruit juice is rich in sugar, containing around
six teaspoons in a single 250 millilitre cup .
How to be water wise
A few simple tips and tricks can help you hit your daily water target, either by reminding you to drink enough water or making it a tastier tipple that you’ll want to enjoy.
You could try:
- Pouring yourself a glass of water whenever you sit down to eat a meal or snack and making a conscious effort to have a sip or two in between mouthfuls of food
- Always keeping a bottle, jug or glass full of water next to you when you’re working
- Carrying a refillable water bottle with you whenever you’re away from home
- Adding a squeeze and a slice of lemon, lime or orange to a glass of water, to add a bit more flavour. Other flavour boosters include mint leaves, sliced cucumber and frozen berries
- Make some fruit-infused ice cubes, with either juice or whole pieces of fruit, and add them to a glass of water