Water is the single largest component of the human body (making up a whopping 50 to 80 per cent according to the National Health and Medical Research Council) and it plays a vital role in most bodily functions.
We can’t survive very long without it and even mild dehydration can lead to fatigue, headache and a bad mood. So get out your water bottle pronto and keep reading.
How much water should you drink each day?
It seems like an easy question but Toby Mundell, a researcher at Massey University in New Zealand, says there isn’t a simple answer.
“Several factors have a bearing on this such as your body composition, your metabolism, diet, climate you live and work in and your clothing,” he says.
The Australian Dieticians Association recommends between 1.5 and 2 litres for adults and between 1 and 1.5 litres for children every day. While all fluids can count towards your daily total (even those from food, tea and coffee) the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest drinking plenty of water and limiting beverages with added sugars and alcohol.
Should you drink more water when you’re more active or exercising?
Put simply you should be guided by your own thirst. Toby says prolonged physical activity and exposure to heat can increase your fluid or water needs. Toby points to research data (NHANES III) that showed on average people reporting five or more days of leisure time activity a week had higher water intakes of approximately 500 millilitres per day, compared to less active people.
“But this is all a case of balance, the more water you use, or lose, then in theory the more you should replace this and be in water balance,” he says.
Should you drink sports drinks when you exercise?
Toby isn’t a huge fan of sports drinks and he says there’s little evidence that we ‘need’ anything in sports drinks if we maintain a varied, healthy and adequate diet. And while he says there’s been some evidence that sports drinks may improve performance and speed up the recovery process between exercising, for most everyday people, we don’t need them.
Most importantly don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Toby says hydration is a dynamic process and we shouldn’t be too quick to take a snapshot of it. Some days we drink more, some days less. Some days we’re active and other days we’re not.
“After even a day of not having enough water we usually catch up by drinking more in the evening or the following day. Such that over a period of time it balances out as we have enough water reserve and flexibility within our body to cope with short-term challenges,” he says.
Tips for increasing your water intake
- If you’d like to add more H2O to your life (and body) you could try:
- Carrying a water bottle with you or leave one at your desk/workspace.
- Keeping an easily accessible jug of water in your fridge.
- Using an app to track your water intake.
- Setting reminders on your phone to have a glass of water.
- Adding freshly cut fruit to your water jug or bottle.
- Switching one of your tea/coffee breaks with water instead.
NHANES III is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey - a survey research program conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States.