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Why hydration matters more than you think

In Australia we are very vigilant about sun protection. Even as an adult, “Slip, slop, slap and wear a cap” still rings through my ears on warm days. But there’s another piece of protecting ourselves against our sunny climate that’s often overlooked: HYDRATION.

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Why is hydration important?

Water serves many vital functions in our body, and even a 1-2% drop in total body water affects many organs. Here are just a few examples of why staying hydrated matters:

  • Nutrient delivery: Water delivers nutrients to cells and removes toxins from our system.
  • Injury prevention: Water helps protect against injury by acting as a shock absorber for joints, and keeping muscles and cartilage flexible.

  • Brain power: Staying hydrated may make your sharper. Research shows that those who are hydrated have more active areas of their brain than those who are dehydrated[1].

  • Immunity: Ever picked up a bug after a day in the sun? Dehydration increases inflammation and lowers immunity, making you more likely to get sick[2].

  • Weight loss: Water plays a part in many metabolic reactions and contributes to fullness. Drinking water before a meal may help you shed extra kilos faster[3].

  • Body temperature: Water helps keep our bodies cool and prevent heat-related fatigue[4,5].

How much fluid do you need?

Fluid needs depend on a variety of factors including temperature/season, sweat rate, activity level, age, and illness.

Adults:

Most adults need 2-4L per day, plus additional litre of fluid for every hour of exercise.

Kids:

Kids are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because they sweat less and produce more heat per kilogram of bodyweight. Younger children need less fluid than older children however fluid needs increase if your child is ill or very active.

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Age Fluid Needs (cups)
<1 2-4
1-3 4-6
4-8 6-8
9-13 8-10
14 + 10-13

*Based on US Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Electrolytes and Water

Best sources of hydration

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The best source of fluid is, of course, water. However, milk, 100% fruit juice, tea, and coffee count as fluid too. We also get a small amount of fluid from foods such as fruit and veggies. If you’re not a water lover try adding fresh herbs or chopped fruit to your water to make it more interesting.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade should be reserved for after exercise. They can also be useful for replacing fluids, carbohydrate and salt after a bout of gastro or the flu.

 

What About Alcohol?

Alcohol increases fluid losses and can accelerate dehydration. If you choose to drink, make sure you top up on water before, during and after, and drink in moderation to avoid dehydration. A snack beforehand to slow down the absorption of alcohol helps too!

The Hydration Test

The color of your urine is a good indicator of your hydration status. If it’s lemon squash or lighter you’re hydrated. If it’s darker than that, it’s time to top up your fluid!

In a nutshell…

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Sip frequently throughout the day to function at your best and avoid the adverse consequences of dehydration. Choose water most of the time, and save other beverages for special occasions. If you’ve got kids, pack a big water bottle with their lunch and provide a wide variety of fruits and veggies to keep their fluid tanks topped up. 

 

Emilia

Edwina Clark MS, RD (US), APD 

Edwina Clark is a Registered Dietitian, with extensive experience counselling on health and wellness topics. Edwina has led corporate wellness programs for clients including Google, State Street Bank and Cancer Treatment Centre of America, in both the US and Europe. She is a seasoned public speaker, with writing featured in Teen Vogue, Adidas MiCoach Blog, and Sheraton publications. Edwina is also a former Australian athletics representative, sun-lover, and self-confessed chocoholic.

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Disclaimer: This article provides general advice only. Readers should seek independent professional advice from their general practitioner or dietician in relation to their own individual circumstances or condition before making any decisions based on the information in this article.