Water: Drink, Think and Feel Better!
There’s an old joke that says if you visit your doctor and she orders you to take a green pill with a glass of water when you get up, a blue pill with a glass of water after lunch, and a red pill with another glass of water just before bed, it might just be that you’re not drinking enough water! It’s not a great joke, but it does raise the valuable question: how important is it to drink the right amount of water?
Test after test shows that just getting the right amount of water can ease up to 80% of your every-day aches and pains; it optimises your recall, your short-term memory, your ability to do mental tasks – and make decisions more quickly! It aids concentration, overcomes tiredness, decreases stress, anxiety and depression… On a physical level, it boosts your immune system and combats bad skin, indigestion, congestion and headaches!
Some doctors have gone so far as to say that drinking the right amount of water improves your being in terms of cancer prevention, good blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a healthy heart. The degree to which these things are affected are subject to continual research of course – but there’s no doubt that if there was a medicine that could treat so many things so easily, people would pay a fortune for it! Now, if only there was a way to bottle it…
Water, water, everywhere… So why is water so good for you? Well, simply put, it’s because you’re made of the stuff! 92% of your blood, and 75% of your brain and muscles are made of water! Overall, women’s bodies are about 55% water, while in men its nearer 60%. If it helps, think of a healthy body as being like a grape… Then imagine that grape dehydrating – and becoming like a raisin! You have to take on plenty of water to stay a grape.
Enough is enough! Assuming that you’re moderately active, not pregnant, breastfeeding, living in an extreme temperature or in some other way physically dependent on a special intake, then there’s a very simple calculation to let you know ROUGHLY how much you should be drinking a day. Take your weight in kilograms and divide it by 30… That’s approximately how many litres you should be getting a day – BUT this is only a VERY ROUGH GUIDE, which leads us to…
Clear enough? There’s a second indicator to help see if you’re drinking enough – but not too much! It’s crude, but effective: take a look at your urine. If it’s completely clear, you may either be drinking a little too much water, or drinking too many diuretics – tea, coffee, cola, etc. A pale yellow suggests you’re probably getting about the right amount, while anything darker than that strongly suggests you need more water.
If you consistently find your urine is dark yellow, you almost certainly need to drink more. There are more alarming colours than that, though: if you find you have red, green, orange or even blue urine – waste no time: go to the doctor. Today.*
As you continue reading, you might give thought to how you can possibly fit in all this water – in two senses: first, getting into the habit of drinking what seems like such a large amount and, second, the problem of having a seemingly ever-full bladder! Well, the solution to these two issues is actually the same…
Drink little and often! One of the most common mistakes people make is noticing that they’re thirsty and then getting a drink. But thirst is a signal that your body sends to tell you that you’re already dehydrated – “you haven’t drunk enough”, not “you should take a drink”! That’s a subtle but important difference. Ideally, you should never experience a feeling of thirst because you’d be topping up throughout the day. So pace yourself: establish how much you need to get through in an hour to make your quota, then take mouthfuls over that time to get there.
Not all liquids are as beneficial as water… Even if a great many of them taste more exciting! To pep up your hydration efforts you can add a slice of lemon or lime to your still water to liven it up. Some of the other hydrating drinks that you can consume include herbal teas, hot water, fizzy water and diluted fruit juice – they’ll all help you meet your quota.
Meanwhile… Tea, coffee, fruit cordials, energy drinks and alcohol, alas, won’t help – they’re diuretic. That means they cause you to pass at least as much water as you consume. Remember, it’s not just the quantity of liquid you drink that matters: it’s how well that liquid hydrates your body.
If you’ve decided – as most people do – that the bulk of your water will come from – well, water – then set an app, computer, phone or watch alarm to remind you to fill a large glass once an hour, and drink it intermittently over the next 60 minutes! Slightly chilled or room temperature water is best, so you could also keep a large bottle on your desk. After a week or so, you should find yourself getting into the habit more easily!
Food, glorious food! Foods like watermelon and tomato are, of course, largely water, so another way to get the right water intake is to eat them… Or stick them in the blender and drink them!
Climate change: Relax! This isn’t a green issue! Rather, the awareness that – obviously – on a hot day, you sweat more and therefore need to drink more fluid. That goes for exercising, too – and even speaking a great deal causes you lose more water! So the general rule is that when your actions or environment cause you to lose more water, you need to compensate for that.
Weight loss: Happy news on two counts here! First, water is an appetite suppressant, so you might find yourself wanting to eat less as your drink more! Better still, the signal that your body sends to communicate thirst is very often mistaken for hunger. In other words, you may well discover that your new water regime actually helps you lose weight.
A final word to the wise: It’s possible to drink too much water just as it’s also possible to start drinking the right amount too quickly. Treat our consumption formula only as a very ROUGH guide, and keep an eye on that urine to see the colour’s right for you. If necessary, build up your water intake a little at a time, rather than gulp down pints and pints right away.
* Some foods can also affect the colour of your urine. Beetroot, rhubarb, sweets and carrots can all add a tint! Remember, too, that some vitamins, such as water-soluble vitamin B can give a yellow tinge to urine, or darken it. If you’re in any doubt, check with your doctor, or with NHS 111.