Hydration is a key to being healthy, but what’s the right amount of water to drink, and can drinking too much of it be harmful? James Jackson finds out.
Water is a great fat-loss tool, with the fatty acids in your fat cells more readily available to be broken down if you’re consuming enough of the good stuff. And for those who exercise, water is important in fighting muscle breakdown.Dehydration is very damaging to the body.When dehydrated, the body releases higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which slows metabolism and tells the body to store fat while eating away at muscle.
Hydration: How much?
The rule of eight glasses (two litres) doesn’t take into account diet, activity level and environment, meaning many of us going by this rule are dehydrated. Coffee and tea are diuretics, which means they cause us to lose fluid without absorbing the nutrients we need from it. In our hot climate, water consumption should be higher. But for those who think they’re safe from fluid loss in their office, think again: air-conditioned areas promote dehydration as much as a hot summer’s day due to the dryness of the air pumped out. This causes the skin to lose moisture that needs to be replaced, lowering fluid levels.
Hydration: How much is too much?
Water intoxication is a rare occurrence that usually arises in endurance athletes. When drinking large quantities of water (more than 8L) while sweating profusely, the sodium concentration in your blood is thrown out, leading to nausea and delirium. When exercising and drinking large amounts of water, take along a sports drink to increase your blood-sodium concentration.
Taking these factors into account, the rule should be to drink close to three litres of water a day. But timing is everything, so here are a few pointers on when to drink:
- Drink a glass of water (200ml) after you wake up in the morning. This kick-starts your metabolism, prepares your stomach for nutrient uptake and gives you overall stimulation.
- Drink a glass every hour. This ensures you’re not waiting until you’re thirsty to drink more, because thirstiness is your body’s way of signalling dehydration.
- Drink an additional glass (200-500ml) in the half hour before exercise to promote energy and efficient hormone release.
- Drink 200ml for every 20 minutes of exercise you do to replenish fluid loss.
- Drink 200ml before bed to create a prime environment for the repair work that takes place while you sleep.