Our expert separates fact from fiction on essential hydration advice.
By Kelly Pigram
Trying to down eight glasses of water a day, without really knowing why? We feel you.
Water is tipped as a miracle cure for everything, from weight loss to clear skin, good health to brain power, the works. But how do you know what it’s really doing to your body and how much water do you actually need?
We asked Carola Becker, head nutritionist at Life Is Good and founder of The Nutrition Coach, to do some myth-busting for us. Read on, then go drink a glass of water.
You only need to drink two litres of water a day
It’s always a great idea to keep tabs on your water intake, but how much you really need depends on a few different factors: your weight, activity levels and even the temperature outside.
Generally, Becker says, the amount of water a person needs every day can vary from 1.5 to 2 litres.
Did you know the body actually struggles to absorb water without essential salts and minerals, called electrolytes. If your electrolyte levels are low – perhaps due to hot climates, a hangover or intense exercise – drinking more water doesn’t necessarily mean more hydration as these electrolytes need to be replenished.
O.R.S. Hydration Tablets help to overcome this problem. Formulated to World Health Organisation standards, they will give you an instant hit of hydration through a range of salts and minerals, such as sodium, potassium and chloride. Simply drop a tablet into normal water to dissolve, and drink.
Water is the only thing that hydrates the body
Think that water bottle on your desk is the only thing keeping you hydrated? Well, think again. Our bodies can absorb water from all kinds of things, not just other liquids but food too.
‘You can definitely eat your water,‘ says Becker. ‘Fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, courgettes, tomatoes, lettuce and berries have a high water content and can help our organs to function properly.’ Yet another benefit to snacking on berries in the afternoon instead of chocolate.
While tea and coffee do contribute to your fluid intake, drinking lots of either can lead to dehydration. Bear in mind, caffeine is a known diuretic and therefore likely to make you pass urine. For your next morning cuppa, pick a herbal tea instead.
Water is the best thing to drink after exercise
You may have strayed away from sports recovery drinks, believing they’re packed with sugar (and yes, some of them are), but some offer more hydration than water.
Depending on the type and duration of your exercise, your body needs minerals and carbohydrates to replace those lost through sweat.
‘If you undertake intense exercise you could reach for a recovery drink,’ says Becker.
Sports hydration supplements such as O.R.S Sport electrolyte tablets can help to replenish the beneficial electrolytes lost through sweat that your body needs for essential functions such as regulating blood pressure.
Skipping this can have a knock-on affect for your body’s ability to hydrate, which can slow down muscle recovery. Replacing lost electrolytes also allows your body to absorb fluids more quickly. It’s also low-calorie so a win-win.
Water helps to detox the body
Lots of weight loss, detox and fitness programmes go on about maximising your water intake in order to detox the body. But according to Becker, water doesn’t actually help the detox process along.
‘It’s great to stay hydrated and drink as much water as you can, but detoxing is done by your liver, day in, day out,’ she says.
These detox and weight loss tales, Becker says, are usually based on studies featuring people who replaced sugary drinks and snacks with water, so they were fuller for longer and resisted the urge to snack.
The brain is not affected by hydration
Ever have those weird weeks where you feel outrageously tired for no good reason? Maybe you’re running the kids around or preparing for three big meetings all in the same week?
Well, you could definitely be suffering from some mild dehydration. As Becker says: ‘All our organs need water to work properly, especially our brain.’
Staying hydrated keeps the blood flowing through your body, which helps your organs and your brain to operate at their best.
A tip to get through those tough weeks? ‘If you feel sluggish and can’t concentrate, forget about that chocolate bar and reach for a glass of water,’ Becker says.
You’ll feel the hydration hit in no time and your brain will get back into gear.