Healthy Habits for High Performance: Water and Health
Our bodies need water to function properly. Between 50% and 80% of the human body is made up of water. We need water or digestion, to absorb nutrients, to help us move, get rid of waste products and to regulate our body temperature. If the body doesn’t have enough water we experience dehydration and we won’t function as well. People who don’t drink enough water every day are at greater risk of diseases such as kidney stones and some forms of cancer. Even mild dehydration can affect physical and mental performance.
Since tap water in most parts of Australia contains fluoride, our dental health benefits from drinking tap water.
Importance of water:
- Water is needed for most body functions, including to:
- maintain the health and integrity of every cell in the body
- keep the bloodstream liquid enough to flow through blood vessels
- help eliminate the by-products of the body’s metabolism, excess electrolytes (for example, sodium and potassium), and urea,
- which is a waste product formed through the processing of dietary protein
- regulate body temperature through sweating
- moisten mucous membranes such as those of the lungs and mouth
- lubricate and cushion joints
- reduce the risk of cystitis by keeping the bladder clear of bacteria
- aid digestion and prevent constipation
- moisturise the skin to maintain its texture and appearance
- carry nutrients and oxygen to cells
Some facts about our internal water supply include:
- Body water content is higher in men than in women and falls in both with age.
- Most mature adults lose about 2.5 to 3 litres of water per day.
- Water loss may increase in hot weather and with prolonged exercise.
- Elderly people lose about two litres per day.
- Water loss needs to be replaced.
What happens when you don’t drink enough water?
Severe dehydration can affect your brain function and cause dizziness, fainting or collapse.
Older people are at greater risk of dehydration because their sense of thirst is less effective and their kidneys require more water to function well.
These are the signs that you need to drink more water:
- dry mouth
- dark urine
- light headedness
- feeling thirsty
- loss of appetite
How much is enough?
The general advice is to aim to drink about 8 glasses daily, or 1.5 – 2 litres a day. This is easier said than done for most busy people. So here are some handy tips:
- Every night before you go to bed, place a full glass of water by your alarm clock. When it rings the next morning, reach for the glass and drink it before you even get out of bed. This will start you off ahead of the game!
- Drink a glass of water before each cup of tea or coffee daily. If you are taking a coffee break, use this opportunity to consume water as well.
- Drink a glass before each meal. This will help curb your hunger too and help you to avoid overeating. Add mint, cucumber and/or lime and lemon to your water to make it taste better without adding the calories!