Growing up, when we complained of aches or pains, many of us got the age-old advice: “Drink more water.” Drinking water may not be the solution to everything, but keeping hydrated is certainly important for our health.
Over the past few months, I noticed that I wasn’t drinking enough water, and I decided to track my water intake daily for 21 days. Before I started, I did some research to figure out how much water I should be drinking daily, and why it’s important to stay hydrated.
How much water should you drink daily?
The British Dietetic Association recommends taking around 2 litres (8 to 10 glasses) for men, and 1.6 litres (6 to 8 glasses) for women every day. However, it’s important to note that these are just guidelines, and an individual’s actual water requirement will depend on a variety of factors including their level of physical activity, the weather and humidity.
You may need to drink more water if you exercise regularly to replenish the fluids lost through sweating, or if you live somewhere with a hot, dry climate.
The recommended intake here includes all fluids from water and other sources such as beverages (e.g. tea, juice) and food (e.g. soup, fruits). So, in addition to drinking water and other beverages, you can snack on water-rich foods such as watermelon, cucumber, celery, and oranges to get your daily dose of H2O.
Why drinking enough water is important
In addition to quenching your thirst, drinking water has various health implications.
Hydration affects brain function. Drinking adequate water can have positive effects on memory, mood, and alertness.
Water ‘keeps things moving’ in the gut. Staying hydrated may help to prevent constipation.
Drinking enough water could reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, bladder infections, and urinary tract infections.
Alternatively, if you don’t make a conscious effort to drink enough water, you could suffer from negative effects such as headaches, low levels of energy, slower metabolism (which could deter weight-loss efforts), and worse still, a higher risk of stroke.
Is there such as thing as too much water?
Yes, there is. As they say, everything in moderation – including water.
While hydration is important, overhydration can be very dangerous. In extreme cases, it could even lead to water poisoning.
Drinking too much water dilutes electrolytes such as sodium in the bloodstream. When sodium levels in your blood drop, fluids begin to travel from outside to inside your cells, causing them to swell.
When this happens to brain cells, the pressure inside the skull increases and leads to headaches, nausea, and in more severe cases, seizures, brain damage, and even fatality.
Of course, this only occurs in extreme cases when someone drinks much more water than the kidneys can eliminate through urine. On average, our kidneys can remove up to 0.8 to 1 litre of water every hour.
So, when we talk about drinking too much water, it isn’t just the quantity of water that matters, but also the time frame over which you drink the water. Hence, pace your water intake. Avoid drinking too much water over a short period of time.
How to know if you’re drinking enough water
Too little is bad, and so is too much. So, how do we figure out whether we’re drinking enough water? One good indicator is the colour of your urine.
When it comes to urine, you want to aim for a pale-yellow colour. Dark-coloured urine can be a sign that you’re not drinking enough water, whereas clear or colourless urine could mean that you’re drinking too much.
So, start with the recommended daily water intake of around 1.6 to 2 litres and adjust accordingly.
Also, look out for any signs of dehydration including thirst, constipation, headaches, and reduced alertness or concentration. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms coupled with dark-coloured urine, it’s probably a good time to increase your daily water intake!
What I learned from tracking my water intake daily for 21 days
Armed with the above knowledge, I started my 21-day challenge. My goal was to drink 2 litres (around 8 glasses) of water each day, and I tracked my daily water intake with an app called Hydrillo.
Prior to this challenge, I would often wake up in the morning with an uncomfortably dry throat. After I started making a conscious effort to drink my 2 litres a day, I noticed that the dryness in my throat disappeared.
This might seem pretty obvious for some, but for me, it was a real wake-up call. My body was sending me clear signals that I needed more water, but I ignored it. More often than not, our body sends us signals when something isn’t right. If we pay close attention to those signals, we can remedy our ailments long before they develop into bigger problems.
So, when your body sends you signals like a dry throat, headaches, or brain fog, pay attention!
Tips for drinking water
When I started this 21-day challenge, I asked my Instagram community to share their tips and tricks for drinking enough water. Here are some helpful gems that they shared:
Keep a 1-litre bottle on your desk where you can see it. Remember, out of sight, out of mind! Take sips regularly and try to finish your first bottle of water around lunchtime.
Use apps like Hydrillo to track your water intake. The app periodically reminds you to drink water.
If you get bored with plain water, make flavoured water with your favourite fruits, vegetables, and herbs (e.g. strawberry, basil, cucumber, lemon, lime, and mint). You can change the fruit + vegetable + herb pairing every day to keep things interesting!
To avoid waking up in the middle of the night to use the washroom, start drinking water early in the day, and limit your water intake a couple of hours before bedtime.
Drink more water if you’re engaging in exercise, or spending a lot of time in dry environments, such as an air-conditioned office space.
If you feel you haven’t been drinking enough water lately, consider this your personal reminder! Staying hydrated is important to ensure optimal brain function, and to prevent problems such as kidney stones and constipation.
Start by downloading the Hydrillo app on your phone, and keep a full bottle of water on your desk every day. Cheers!
For more 21-day challenges that you can try, check out my 21-day meditation challenge.
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