Summer holidays have officially commenced here in Belgium, and with them have come proper summer weather! (The Belgian weather is always a bit touch and go!) With the temperatures inching higher, hydration, while always important to good health, becomes even more crucial.
Why is it so important?
Our body mass is 55-60% water and it makes up most of our cell volume and bodily fluids. Water has many important roles in our body’s functioning, such as:
Transportation: getting the nutrients where they are needed, flushing toxins, removing waste
Cushioning: acts as a shock absorber and cushioning system for joints, bones, and organs
Immune system: regulates body temperature and empowers the body’s healing process
We can only fulfill about 8% of our body’s daily water needs through our own production, so the remaining 92% needs to be consumed either through drinking fluids or eating water-rich foods. We can’t store water (it’s all being used in one way or another), so proper daily intake is crucial.
Dehydration can happen with as little as a 2% drop in your body’s water content and this can already cause fatigue or other signs of early dehydration. Did you know that the “dry-mouth” or thirsty feeling is actually one of the later signs that you need to drink more? Up to a 10% drop in water content in the body can cause significant health issues, and more than 10% can result in death. This is why you may have heard you can survive weeks without food, but only days without water!
Early signs of dehydration could manifest as fatigue, anxiety or irritability, depression, cravings, cramps, or headaches. Some of the more mature signs could be joint or back pain, migraines, heart burn, or constipation.
Electrolytes are key for your body to use water properly. They are minerals that when dissolved into water become able to conduct electricity – which allows the water to preform all its necessary functions in the body. Think of minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, or calcium as examples of electrolytes our body needs.
In general, if you are eating a real food, nutrient-dense diet, you should be getting the electrolytes you need. For example, using a quality sea salt when cooking! If you’ve been sweating a lot, or perhaps sick with vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to look into taking some electrolyte supplements.
Diuretics are substances that actually deplete your body of more water than they are contributing to it. So drinking a large quantity of these beverages could be causing your dehydration without you even realizing it! Diuretic beverages include:
Some herbal teas, such as peppermint
Sugary drinks including processed fruit juice
This is not to say that you have to cut all the above out of your life (although I would generally advocate for cutting out soft drinks or sugary drinks!), but you do need to be aware of how they might be affecting your body. For example, while you can up your water intake to offset your morning cup of coffee, if you are drinking 5 – 6 cups a day, just increasing your water on top of this probably won’t be a sustainable option.
How much do you need?
As with everything, you need to find the right balance for your body. The amount of water you need per day can differ depending on various factors like your climate, activity level, water-rich food intake, or current health.
But as a general rule, you can use the following rough formulas (up to a daily maximum of 100oz / 3L):
mL of water needed per day = (body weight (kg) * 33) + (# of mL of diuretics * 1.5)
ounces of water needed per day = (body weight (lbs) / 2) + (# of oz of diuretics * 1.5)
So if you are 60kg (132lbs) you would need approximately 2L (66oz) of water or other hydrating beverages per day, without any diuretic intake..