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Water: why is it important?

We all know what it feels like when we don’t drink enough water, but what job does it do in the body that makes it so vital?

Water makes up two-thirds of your bodyweight and it’s essential to keep it topped up. Most of the chemical reactions that happen in our cells need water to function; from helping the brain to work at its best, to keeping body temperature at the right level and flushing out the kidneys to rid the body of toxins.

It’s important to replace the fluids you naturally lose through the lungs, skin and kidneys. If you don’t drink enough, you may become dehydrated and start to feel the effects.

Some of these – which you may have experienced before – are headaches, tiredness and loss of concentration. It’s much better that you drink enough to avoid these symptoms altogether.

It’s also important not to drink too much, as this can dilute essential body salts in your blood.

Here are a few pointers to help you stay hydrated and healthy:

How much should I be drinking?

Most experts agree we should aim to drink 1.5 to 2 litres a day (this is about 6-8 250ml cups or glasses a day). Children should drink approximately half this amount, depending on their age.

What should I be drinking?

Ideally it’s best to drink water – it doesn’t matter whether it’s from the tap or bottled. Other drinks, like squash, fruit juices, tea and coffee, also count towards the 6 to 8 cups of fluid we should be drinking each day.

It’s best not to drink too much of these though as they contain other things for the body to process. Pure fruit juices, for example, contain quite a lot of sugar, so try to drink no more than one glass a day.

How do I know if I’m hydrated?

You can check if you’re dehydrated by looking at the colour of your urine. Pale yellow is normal. If you’re dehydrated, it will be much darker.

Top Tips

  • Drink a glass of water when you wake up each day – it’s a great and refreshing way to start the morning
  • Drink little and often throughout the day rather than waiting until you feel thirsty – at this point your body is already becoming dehydrated
  • Did you know alcohol is very dehydrating? Make sure you only drink within the recommended range and drink water between alcoholic drinks
  • Keep a jug of water or a water bottle on your desk at work to make it easier for you to top up
  • Sweating is one way we lose water, so drink plenty during and after exercise – and remember to drink more during hot weather than cold