Water is even more important for your health and wellbeing, and probably impacts more on your mood and daily functioning than you realise. It carries nutrients into cells and waste products out of them. It helps your brain function, blood flow and digestive system move. When you don’t drink enough, you feel rubbish. But with the hussle and bustle of every day life, your body’s early thirst cues often go ignored or answered with snacks.
So how much is enough? And should you be investing in filtered or alkaline water for the family? How to keep the kids hydrated? Here’s my guide to everything you need to know about water and hydration in summer.
How much water?
The 8 glasses a day (2L) guide is actually a bit made up. It’s based the the amount the ‘average’ person loses through breathing, sweating and urinated on an ‘average’ day. It is a good rough guide for people who aren’t in tune with their bodies though, so I recommend using this as a goal while you tune in to your thirst cues throughout the day.
Everyone’s needs will vary and they vary daily. It’s hard to drink too much water but easy to stop once you’ve had your 2L – which will often not be enough. So keep topped up by tuning in and drinking to your thirst. It’s a myth that thirst occurs after dehydration has set in. It’s actually the most accurate indicator of how much we need to drink. As soon as you blood concentration of water starts to drop, a thirst signal is sent to the brain, this is usually before a 2% drop. Dehydration doesn’t occur until a 5% drop in blood water concentration.
You can use the colour of your wee as a guide too, if it’s as dark as apple juice or you can smell it, then it’s definitely time to drink up.
Symptoms of Dehydration
- Feeling light headed
- Dry mouth and lips (in children you will notice their lips become wrinkled as they dry)
- Dark eye circles ‘bags’
- Muscle Cramps
Is bottled water better than tap water?
Nope. In Australia, our drinking water is of such good quality that it is equal to or better than bottled water. It’s expensive and lacks fluoride that our tap water has. fluoride is added to our drinking water to improve our teeth enamel (making them less prone to cavities). Bottled water is expensive and massively contributes to land fill. Get yourself a couple of nice drink bottles, fill them up from the tap and keep them in the fridge.
Tips for drinking more water
Many people struggle to find water appealing, especially if sugary or flavoured drinks are your norm. Try cutting back on soft drinks and juice and having water, plain milk and tea as your main drinks – these all count towards your count.
- Get a nice water bottle that fits in your bag.
- For out and about, aluminium and glass do a better job of keeping cool than plastic.
- Fill your bottle and add ice and frozen blueberries before you head out the door. Add a handful of ice and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a handful of raspberries to a jug of water kept in the fridge.
- Keep a large jug of water in the fridge so there’s always chilled water on hand.
- Add lemon, cucumber and mint to your water bottle.
- Have a glass of water before your morning coffee or breakfast. It’s a good habit to get 250 ml before you’ve started the day.
- There’s no benefit to drinking water warm or with lemon (see my post about lemon detox here) but adding some slices of fruit does make it more appealing. Try slices of lemon, orange, kiwi fruit, berries, cucumber and even herbs.
Kids often need reminding to drink even if they’re feeling thirsty.
- Keep cups and bottles in view around the house as reminders and so toddlers can tell you easily that they’re thirsty.
- On hot days you might need to add some novelty to encourage them to drink more. Try letting them use grown up cups (with your help), a fun straw, your own water bottle or a new novel cup or straw cup.
- Checkout this Facebook post on how much littlies need to drink and more tips on encouraging them to drink more.
Do I need my water to be filtered?
Tap water can contain many impurities, both natural and chemical. Chlorine and Fluoride are added in the processing plant to make the water safe (chlorine) and good for your teeth (fluoride). There is no evidence to suggest that either of these cause any harm and plenty to tell us that we’re leading the world in a safe and healthy drinking water supply by suing them.
Although it can help improve the taste if you live in an area with a lot of disinfectant used to ensure the water is safe. Filling a big jug and leaving it for a few hours to dissipate before drinking will also do the trick.
If you find that your tap water suddenly smells, tastes or looks strange – contact your water supplier as they will test the water and start solving the problem.
What about electrolytes?
Most people don’t need to replenish electrolytes on a hot day or after a workout. Our body is great at maintaining its balance just by drinking water and eating a good diet. If you do think you need to replace some salts, after a very intense exercise session of longer than 2 hours or after being ill and vomiting – then plain milk (or flavoured) and electrolyte powders like hydralyte have a much better balance of electrolytes than sugary sports drinks like Powerade. Kids playing weekend sports also don’t need sports drinks – even on a hot day, encourage them to drink plenty of plain water.
Should I be drinking alkaline water?
Pure water has a pH close to 7; mean it’s neither acidic or alkaline. Regular tap water will vary between 6.5 to 8.5 depending on the amount of dissolved of trace elements at the time. Alkaline water (sometimes called ionized water)has a pH above 7 (usually around 8-9). So your tap water may already be alkaline – for free!
The theory is that to create a more alkaline balance in your body, you should drink water with a higher pH. There are two types of alkaline water, the first is created naturally where spring water runs over rocks high in elements such as calcium, silica, magnesium and potassium. The second type is made artificially by running tap water through an ionizing machine that uses titanium or platinum to alter the pH.
There is a lot of bad nutrition science information out there that claims that consuming foods and drink with a high pH (alkaline) will prevent your body from become too acidic – which is a huge over simplification of many different complicated processes. The body has different pH requirements for different organs and it maintains homeostasis without the need for intervention. To date there isn’t enough evidence to support any of the claims made about the benefits of alkaline or ionized water.
Drink tap water. Listen to your body and drink as much as you need, whenever you are thirsty, and regularly throughout the day. Help kids learn to drink to their thirst by always having water within easy reach.