Are you fed up of reading conflicting advice about how much water we should be drinking every day, and what the benefits of drinking water really are? Us too!
We all know the obvious benefits of drinking water, but with a new report from Loughborough University showing that being dehydrated whilst performing everyday tasks like driving could lead to twice as many mistakes behind the wheel, we know that not drinking enough water can be a big problem.
However, other recent research has said that there’s such a thing as too much water (it can apparently lead to excessive sweating, insomnia and even death) – so we decided it’s high time to get to the bottom of it all and round up the facts on how much water to drink every day straight from the NHS.
How much water should I drink every day?
The NHS has detailed how much water we should be drinking on their website:
The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink about 1.6 litres of fluid and men should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid per day. That’s about eight glasses of 200ml each for a woman, and 10 glasses of 200ml each for a man.
Yet although government guidelines say that we should all drink eight glasses of water a day, your size, the temperature and how active you are can all make a difference to how many litres of water a day you need (so, for instance, if you’re exercising a lot on a hot day, you’ll need to drink more).
You get about 20% of your water every day through food so a general rule is to drink 2 litres of water a day. This is the equivalent to a large bottle of fizzy drink or three-and-a-half pints.
If you’re feeling thirsty you’re already dehydrated so don’t wait until you need a drink, sip small amounts throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated.
Do tea, coffee and fizzy drinks count?
You can get a certain amount of water from tea, coffee and fizzy drinks but they’re all what’s called diuretics – in other words, they make you wee a lot more as well as increase the amount of water your body uses. Water is also much healthier for you – it has no calories or sugar which can damage your teeth.
And how much water is everyone else drinking?
According to a study last year, out of 30,000 people less than one per cent drank eight glasses of pure water each day – the NHS recommended daily intake.
Kantar Worldpanel conducted the study into the drinking habits of 30,000 people as health officials try to deter people from only drinking tea, coffee and sugary drinks. The study found that six in ten people drank just one glass of tap water or bottled water, two in ten drank two, whilst only one in ten said they drank three.
We’ve rounded up the top 10 benefits to drinking lots of water – you won’t believe how good it is for you!
1. Water helps with weight loss
Great news for anyone trying to lose a few pounds – water naturally reduces your appetite.
A lot of people confuse feeling thirsty with feeling hungry so they eat when their body wants them to drink something. When you’re dehydrated, fat cells become harder to break down and so anyone actually trying to diet will find it a lot harder if they don’t drink very much. Research has shown that drinking 500ml water prior to each of your daily meals could cause you to eat fewer calories per meal, triggering weight loss.
2. Water is a natural wrinkle-buster
According to a recent study, almost 1 in 5 women who drank 1.5 litres of water per day saw a reduction in wrinkles after 6 weeks without making any other changes to their diet.
As well as wrinkle-busting, it’s said to give us sparkly eyes, clear our skin of spots and make us look glowing and healthy – sounds like a one of the most promising benefits of drinking water to us!
3. Water stops headaches and dizziness
Don’t reach for the pills straight away, your headache could be a symptom of being dehydrated so drinking water should make it go away.
Even tension headaches and dizziness, which can be brought on by fatigue can be cured or helped by drinking water – this is because fatigue is also a sign of dehydration.
4. Water clears your skin
Most people know that drinking more water can be good for clear skin and it can also help the symptoms of acne.
If you’ve got dry skin, drinking water will give it more moisture but that’s not all. Water flushes toxins out of your body and anything else that shouldn’t be there so it clears your skin of any dirt and bacteria.
5. It fights infections
Drinking water can help fight infections all over your body, not only because it flushes out toxins but because when you’re dehydrated you’re more likely to catch a bug.
It’s especially good for getting rid of and preventing urine infections and kidney stones.
Being well hydrated is also great for allergies and colds, because it clears the airways. Even cold sores can be reduced by drinking more water because they tend to pop up in places where your skin is particularly dry.
6. It keeps you regular
If you suffer from constipation or piles you might have been told to increase how much fibre you eat. This is definitely one way of getting rid of the problem but you’ll need to drink more water for the fibre to work properly. Otherwise it could have the opposite effect and make you worse.
7. It makes you exercise better
It’s common sense to replace the fluids you lose when you sweat with water, but what might not be obvious is that your body works better and harder during your workout if you drink water.
8. It improves concentration
Because your brain is made of around 85% water if you get dehydrated it can affect your concentration and even your short-term memory.
It has a particularly strong effect on your maths skills and it’s all because lack of water causes your brain’s energy levels to decrease.
9. It boosts your energy
In the same way that not drinking enough water makes your brain slow down it has the same effect on your body.
For example, your muscles are around 75% water, your bones are about 22% and your blood is around 83%.
If you’re dehydrated, all these body parts don’t work as well as they should meaning you lack energy and feel tired or lazy.
10. It supports your heart
The hardest working muscle of all needs a lot of water to keep it going at full speed.
When you get dehydrated your blood gets thicker so the heart has to work even harder. And if your heart is weak it can lead to more serious heart problems later in life.
A study by Eden found that drinking more than five glasses of water a day could cut your chances of having a heart attack by 41%, compared with people who drank less than two glasses a day.
If you’re worried you’re not drinking enough:
– Measure how much you’re drinking for a few days to see if it’s anywhere near the minimum amount – Check your wee. If it’s pale and clear then you’re drinking a healthy amount. If it’s dark yellow and cloudy you might be dehydrated or not drinking enough.
If after all this you’re still getting thirsty a lot but going to the loo more, there might be an underlying problem, like diabetes, so speak to your doctor.
How do I get more water in my diet?
These five simple rules will help you get more water into your diet. And you don’t even have to buy expensive bottled water so it’s great for your wallet as well as your health.
1. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.
This will wake you up and help your body replace any fluid lost when you were sleeping. It’ll also give you a headstart on your 2 litres.
2. Carry a small bottle of water around with you.
This will not only remind you to drink more but it’s also an easy way of keeping track of how much you’re drinking. If you fill it up from the tap you can reuse it as well – brilliant for the environment!
3. Add some flavour.
If you really can’t stand the taste of water on its own try adding a small amount of fruit juice, sugar-free squash or a squeeze of lemon or lime. The lemon can even help with weight loss.
This is because its sour taste helps your liver get rid of toxins. Your liver plays a really important role in helping you lose weight and if it’s full of toxins it doesn’t do its job properly.
4. Set an alarm.
If you’ve got a watch that beeps on the hour it can be a good reminder. Every hour fill up a glass of water, or drink from your bottle, and make sure you finish the glass before the next hour. You could even set a reminder on your computer at work, or on your phone.
5. Eat water-rich foods.
This table shows you which foods have the highest level of water in them. This can also help you get your five-a-day.