For this week of Be Healthy we’re taking a closer look at hydration – why staying hydrated is good for us, signs of dehydration and what exactly should we be drinking.
It’s pretty common knowledge that being healthy includes making sure you stay hydrated, making sure you drink enough water and limiting your caffeine intake. But why?
Why drinking more (water) is good for us
Water makes up two thirds of the human body – the average is around 60% of body weight in men and 50-55% in women. Therefore its essential that we drink enough fluids to maintain a healthy balance. The functions of water in the body is to regulate temperature, transporting nutrients and compounds in the blood, removing waster products and acting as lubricants and shock absorbers in the joints.
Throughout the day we lose water through sweating, going to the toilet, breathing and even small amounts are lost by evaporating through the skin. Therefore each day we need to make sure we replace the fluids we lose.
Not only does staying well hydrated keeps your body systems going but good hydration prevents;
- Dizziness and Confusion
- Aids digestion
- Kidney stones and UTIs
And benefits of good hydration include, better concentration and improved skin complexion.
So how do you know if you’re well hydrated? Even just being 1% dehydrated (equivalent to 1% of your body weight) there are negative affects on your mental capacity and physical functions. Mild dehydration can cause poor concentration, dry mouth and headaches. Definitely not what you need during prolonged revision periods!
Following on symptoms of serve dehydration can include:
- feeling unusually tired or confused
- not peeing for 8 hours
- weak or rapid pulse
To avoid severe dehydration make sure your drinking enough throughout the day. One easy way to know if you’re hydrated enough is checking the colour of your wee. Not the nicest thing to look at but simple and effective!
The first thing your body does if you’re not replacing the water you lose quick enough will be to reduce the amount of water lost through the kidneys, which means the darker your urine the more water you need. If you’re well hydrated your wee should be a straw to pale yellow colour. See chart below.
What to drink?
So how much and what should you be drinking? The recommended amount to drink each day is between 6-8 glasses (according to the NHS website) or between 1.5 litres to 2 litres a day. It also depends on things like the weather, and how much physical exercise you’re doing. If its hot or you are doing more exercise you’re likely to sweat more and therefore will need to replace more of the water your body has lost. All non-alcoholic drinks contribute towards hydration, however some are better than others as they contain less sugars and essential vitamins and minerals. Other drinks can be high in sugars or acidity and are not good for your teeth.
Natures natural elixir
Water is the top choice when it comes towards maintain your body fluid. It doesn’t have any calories, and its easily accessible across the university and free (if you drink from a tap!) In the UK tap water is safe to drink and nutritionally no different from bottled water – not to mention its also better for the environment using a refillable/usable water bottle and filling it up from a tap, or water fountain.
- If you find water tasteless or hard to drink you can always add fruit to change the flavour. You can also add cordial as to add flavour but remember many cordials have added sugars and therefore aren’t as good for you in large amounts.
- Tea, Coffee and other hot drinks count, but contain caffeine so its best to limit the amount of hot drinks you have. Better alternatives include fruit teas. A glass of milk is also worth considering as they contain sources of nutrients, however lower fat alternatives are better.
- It may surprise you but fruit and vegetables are not something you should be having all the time. Although smoothies are better alternatives to drinks with ‘added sugar’ fruit smoothies contain natural sugars which can be bad for your teeth so its best to limit smoothies to one 150ml glass a day.
- Lastly energy drinks should be avoided or limited as they are high in sugar and caffeine. And Sports drinks should only be consumed if you’re doing more than 60 minutes of continuous exercise.
- So there you have it why staying hydrated and drinking water is good for you – not really rocket science but that doesn’t always make it easy. If you’re trying to increase your water in take why not start of small, substituting one chai latte, flat white, hot chocolate, or tea a day with a glass of water, and throughout the month gradually increase the amount of water while limit other drinks.
To encourage you to drink more we’ll be giving out Be Healthy re-usable water bottles across campus during the week, so keep an eye on Students at Manchester to see when we’ll be out and about.
And finally given the benefits of hydration included better concentration think about filling up that water bottle before reaching for the energy drink during revision and exams, it might just make your study session more productive!
To find out more about Be Healthy and the University’s Six Ways to Wellbeing visit the Student Support website.