We all know that we are all about 70% water and that adequate water intake is vitally essential for life. But how much is enough and how do you calculate your daily water intake? How and when should you drink water? Does it help to add herbs and lemon, etc to your drinking water?
Water really is the elixir of life. When thirsty, it tastes like nectar and none of us can survive without it. We need water to transport nutrients to different parts of the body, to discard waste, to keep the body cool by sweating. We need it to digest food and to make saliva and also to keep the brain functioning normally.
Let’s look at some facts and tips about optimal hydration.
How much water should you drink and when?
Most blogs and health websites tell you that you should drink about eight glasses of water a day, which is about two liters (via liquids and food). Now remember, many of these are write-ups authored by non-Indians living in cool/climate-controlled climes. For Indians sweating buckets in our awful summers, the story can and should be different.
Many experts advise that you should drink about two to three glasses of water first thing in the morning after getting up. They also advise that water should be drunk about half an hour before a meal and also before a bath (to regulate body temperature). You should also drink water before going to sleep to last you through the night. Water is also important to drink before and after workouts because actual physical activity is when we lose the most amount of water via sweating. Water also helps you feel less tired and drained after a workout.
After this, even if you’re in an air-conditioned environment for most of your work day, try and drink water regularly throughout the day. If you tend to sweat a lot, ensure that you consume about three liters of water in a day. It is important to remember that your water intake should conform to your lifestyle and the amount of activity in a given day rather than trying to drink a fixed amount of water.
How much is too much?
While water is wonderful and vital, and even delicious, there is such a thing as drinking too much of it. Experts warn that drinking too much water (beyond bodily requirement) may cause it to collect in the kidneys and lead to edema (swelling and accumulation of fluids in some parts of the body).
The important thing is to drink water as per the climate, your body type and your lifestyle. Drink water as and when you feel like it. However, there is some evidence to show that you should not wait until you are very thirsty. Extreme thirst could be an indication that you’re close to becoming dehydrated and that your systems are already falling short of the amount of water they need to function properly.
What counts as water?
Most items that are largely liquid can be counted as water: coconut water, juices, soup and other beverages. Even some watery fruits such as watermelon, citrus fruit and veggies such as cucumber, tomatoes and so on count as water because they provide water as well as essential nutrients to the body. Milk of course is also a good way to get hydrated.
The tea and coffee that you drink can also be added to the total tally of your daily water intake. While experts earlier cautioned against this because caffeine, a diuretic present in tea and coffee, was thought to offset hydration, later research showed that this is a bit of a myth. Tea and coffee also counts as liquid consumption for the day so long as you don’t add much sugar to your cup.
Many experts advise against caffeine-laden drinks not merely because of the caffeine content, but because the sugar content makes them so unhealthy. So don’t rely on carbonated, sweetened drinks to meet your daily water intake; they are simply extra calories that add no nutritional value.
Should you add anything to water?
You have probably seen lemon, mint and so on being added to jugs of water at some restaurants; or maybe you’ve seen a colleague or neighbor doing this. Some people do this to vary the taste of water and to make it more tasty or palatable. It is also thought that adding slices of lemon and other citrus fruit, cucumber and herbs such as mint to a jug of water to sip through the day helps to add nutrients and to detox the body and reduce inflammation. It may also improve digestion.
Here is what you can do: It is a good idea to add thin slices or one medium cucumber, about two lemons and about 10 to 20 mint leaves to a jug of water. Use organic cucumber, lemons and mint leaves if possible. Cover and refrigerate the jug of water for at least four hours, or overnight if possible. Drink it in the morning and then keep sipping through the day. It is best to keep the water refrigerated so it stays fresh and healthy.
What about the temperature of the water that you drink?
Traditional wisdom tells us that drinking cold water is very bad for us, while on a hot day, we crave a glass (or several) or chilled water! In fact, drinking warm water is highly recommended early in the mornings, a little while after a meal, or even after having something greasy or very cold in order to clear the food pipe and avoid any throat-related problems later. Many of us also enjoy drinking water with our meals whereas traditional wisdom tells us that this is bad for digestion because it dilutes stomach juices; many of us experience acidity as a result. It is advised to stick to room temperature water most of the time, with lukewarm water intake at certain times during the day.
Now while there is anecdotal evidence to support the traditional view, some research seems to point in the other direction. According to some western researchers, cold water is better absorbed by the body and is not bad for you.
So when it comes to water consumption, you need to do what is right for your body and lifestyle. It may take some trial and error but soon you will get it right!