Some of the latest recommendations suggest that we can satisfy our thirst with any beverage (except caffeinated or alcoholic ones). Of course, water is still the ideal beverage of choice. And half of the 8 to 12 cups of fluid that we should be getting daily should come from pure, clean water.
Sweating it away
You could lose a great deal of water per hour of exercise. Of course, this depends on how much you weigh and how much, and how quickly, you perspire. The more intense the exercise or the more extreme the temperatures, the greater the fluid loss.
If you don’t replenish your fluid losses during exercise, you will fatigue early and your performance will be diminished. Dehydration can increase your risk of developing heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Illnesses can also increase your fluid needs. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids if you are ill and see a doctor if your fluid losses are excessive or prolonged.
Not just for athletes
Dehydration can be a serious problem for anyone, but children and older adults are at greater risk.
Tips to avoid dehydration:
- When exercising, drink water early and often. Exercising in warm and humid conditions can cause dehydration in as little as 30 minutes.
- Don’t wait until you’re dehydrated to start drinking.
- When active, don’t rely on your sense of thirst. When you are hot and sweaty, your thirst mechanism can shut off and you may not realise you need fluids. Drink on a schedule.
- Check the colour of your urine. If your urine looks like the colour of apple juice, you are probably dehydrated. Aim for the colour of light lemon juice.
Making it easy
- Rely on visual reminders. Keep a jug of water on your desk.
- Make it convenient. Keep a water bottle in your bag to drink on the way to and from work.
- Freeze water overnight for hot summer days.
- Start your day with a glass of warm water with lemon slices or sliced ginger or mint.
- Drink from a larger glass.
- Try adding mint or mint tea, to water to make it more “exciting”. Adding slices of fruit such as strawberry or peach, and refrigerating until the water is delicately flavoured is a great trick.
- Add low calorie fruit cordials for flavour.
- Add just a splash of fruit juice.
- Buy herbal teas (e.g. apple and cinnamon, chamomile or peppermint). Just don’t add sugar and milk if you can help it.
- Water in soups is counted as fluid intake.
- If you really don’t like the taste of water, the solution may be as simple as buying a water purifier that filters lead and other contaminants from tap water.
- Cold rather than room temperature water may be more appealing. Serving the water in a glass (rather than a plastic or paper cup) will help it stay cold for longer and retain a fresher taste.
- Sparkling water is another alternative. Make sure if you buy sparkling, flavoured water that it’s not loaded with sugar.
Drinking water is a great, no-calorie way to satisfy your thirst. If you’re trying to drink more, consider upping your water intake gradually to allow your body to adjust. Running to the bathroom every 15 minutes could cause you to throw in the towel.
Christine is a registered dietitian with a private practice in Benoni, Johannesburg called Food4Life. She is also a well-known speaker on nutritional topics, specifically to the corporate market.