Fortunately, the “8 glasses of water every day” recommendation does not include only water, but also other fluids (e.g. tea and coffee but not alcohol, sorry!), as well as the water content of foods consumed (NHMRC 2006). For example, fresh fruits and vegetables have a high water content and will contribute to your overall fluid intake.
This recommendation is also only general in nature. Your fluid requirements change according to the season or climate in which you live, your level of activity and your general health.
Benefits of Adequate Hydration
Water is part of every cell of the body with approximately 50-80% of body mass being water (Mahan et al 2012). Adequate hydration is needed to:
- ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients
- assist with elimination of waste
- help regulate body temperature
- work alongside dietary fibre to ensure healthy bowel habits
- prevent fatigue associated with dehydration
- dehydration (as little as 2% fluid losses) can also decrease your sporting performance (AIS Sports Nutrition 2009)
In otherwise healthy individuals, the best indicators of hydration status are thirst and the colour of your urine. Weighing in before and after physical activity will also give you an indication of fluid losses (Sports Dietitians Australia 2009).
It goes without saying that if you’re thirsty, you’re likely dehydrated and should drink more water! Similarly, aiming for light straw-coloured urine would also indicate that you are well hydrated (Kavouras 2002).
- try infused water if plain water is unappealing (add mint leaves, cucumber or slices of citrus fruits such as lemon, lime or orange)
- sparkling water can also be a nice change from regular tap water
- increase your intake of warming fluids in the cooler months if you find plain water too difficult to drink - teas (black and herbal), coffee and soups all contribute to your fluid intake
- in warmer climates, milk, smoothies and juices also contribute towards your fluid intake
AIS Sports Nutrition (2009), Fluid – Who Needs It?, available from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/hydration/fluid_-_who_needs_it.
Kavouras (2002), ‘Assessing hydration status’, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 5(5): 519-524.
Mahan et al (2012), Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, Elsevier, United States of America, 13th edition.
NHMRC (2006), Water, available from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/water.
Sports Dietitians Australia (2009), Fluids in Sport Fact Sheet, available from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Fluids-in-sport.pdf.