We all know that water is integral to our lives. Even though its role in maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle is indisputable, few things are debated as fiercely as the right way to drink water. Every day, there's new research and a new story that rubbishes all previously held beliefs. The result? Confusion reigning supreme. Here, in a 2-part series, I will try to dispel myths and the confusion around water consumption.
How much to drink?
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The amount of water your body needs varies depending on a person's activity level, body size, any disease that a person may be suffering from, climate and altitude and special conditions like pregnancy or breastfeeding. The Institute of Medicine recommends 2.7 litres of total water from all beverages and foods per day for women, and an average of 3.7 litres of total water for men. The Mayo Clinic translates this to roughly 3 litres (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day for men and 2.2 litres (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day for women.
Men generally need more water than women. Roughly 500 ml of extra water for short bouts of exercise and more fluids if the duration is longer-like a marathon-in which case it is important to replenish the salts lost with the sweat using drinks with electrolytes and sodium. Those who live in extremely hot and humid climates need more water than people living in cooler climes. People working in heavily air-conditioned offices often feel little or no thirst and therefore don't reach out for water. Research shows that drinking water can improve brain function and reaction times, after all the brain is nearly 80% water. Illnesses like fever, vomiting, diarrhoea that cause loss of water from the body need appropriate replacements as directed by a physician. The colour of your urine is a good indicator of whether your water intake is enough. Normally, the colour should be pale yellow. Any sign of constipation or hard stools could also mean that the water intake needs to be upped.
Kids' water intake
Between school, naps and playtime, it is tough to regulate the water intake of kids-whether they are pre-schoolers or teenagers. The best thing to do is to inculcate, early on, the habit of reaching out for their water flasks the second they start feeling thirsty, instead of opting for sweetened or carbonated beverages. Giving them water-rich foods such as cucumbers, watermelon, salads, etc. through the day also ensures they stay hydrated, in addition to providing some excellent nutrients.
Newborns, however, do not require any water in the first 6 months of their lives. During this period, they must be exclusively breastfed, as far as possible. Breast milk has just the right amount of water to keep infants optimally hydrated. Giving them extra water not only runs the risk of infection and diarrhoea due to contamination, but also kills their delicate appetite during feeding times.