We can live without water for only around a week at most. So why is it so important, and how much do we need each day? Our experts give the reasons and top tips for staying hydrated this summer.
Keep topped up
Each day, you not only lose water when you go to the toilet, but also through sweating and your breath, so it’s important to ensure your intake is at least matching these losses. The EFSA – the European Food Safety Authority – recommends women have around 2 litres of water a day, and men around 2.5 litres. However, these guidelines will depend on various things, for example if it’s a hot day or if you’ve been for a run, you’d need far more.
Around a third of your total water intake actually comes from food, so when you’re on a weight-loss plan like Total, Lite and Fast, you’ll need to drink more to make up for all the fluid you’re missing when you’re restricting your food intake. While it would be handy to say ‘drink x amount’ on our plans, the quantity you’ll individually need will depend on lots of factors, including your gender, how physically active you are, your weight, how warm/cold it is and what your particular eating plan includes.
Drink to thirst
Research by nutrition expert Barbara Rolls three decades ago showed that a fall in water content of less than 2% creates thirst, whereas you’re not officially classed as being dehydrated until you’ve lost at least 5% of your total bodily fluids. Paying attention to your thirst is the easiest way to manage your water intake.
When your body’s water content falls, your pituitary gland secretes anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which activates receptors in your brain and makes you thirsty. It also results in less frequent urination and makes your urine more concentrated and a darker yellow – so this is a good sign to watch for if you think you might be dehydrated.
Any fluids count
You don’t need to drink pure water. More or less any fluid counts, as long as it’s on your plan. While alcohol is a strong diuretic (suppressing production of ADH so your bladder fills up more quickly, and with every gram of alcohol you drink increasing urinary output by 10ml), studies suggest that caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee don’t have any effect on overall hydration levels. Having your Foodpacks and Lite foods at regular intervals can be helpful, too, as the mineral salts they contain help to regulate your fluid balance.
Take in little and often
Treat your body like a waterwheel – take in fluid little and often to keep it turning smoothly. Plus, remember you can jazz up your water intake with LighterLife drink mixes, available in Sunrise Orange, Pink Grapefruit, St Clements and Fruits of the Forest flavours. Ask your LighterLife Counsellor about these.
For more handy health advice, check out our health page.