What You Need To Know About Staying Hydrated

What You Need To Know About Staying Hydrated

Most of us know how many glasses of water to drink per day, but what about the benefits of sparkling versus still or whether there’s an optimum temperature at which to consume it? We went to two nutritionists to answer these rarely asked questions…

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First, how much water should you be drinking daily – is eight glasses adequate?

“The NHS states you need between six to eight glasses of water per day. However, the problem with advice about water is that it’s always going to be very general. For example, it’s tricky to determine individual water requirements as it can vary greatly on a day-to-day basis due to differences in physical activity, climates, and diet. In 2010, The European Food Safety Authority set the daily adequate intake for water as 2000ml/day for women and 2500ml/day for men. More recently, a 2018 study to review this advice concluded that around 1.8 litres maintains good health and optimal function. Going back to the NHS’ advice, six to eight glasses of water should be adequate but for accuracy, it would be helpful to go by millilitres.” – Jennifer Walpole, registered nutritional therapist

What temperature should drinking water be?

“Ultimately, it’s down to personal preference, but within reason. A recent study suggested that 16°C was the optimal temperature for rehydrating after exercise, which would be the approximate temperature of water from a cold-water tap. Some cultures encourage drinking warm water to aid digestion, such as in Ayurvedic medicine. Drinking warmer water can be a handy option for people who struggle to drink up to two litres of plain water per day as herbal tea can be included in the daily requirement.” – Jennifer 

Is there an optimal way to spread water intake throughout the day?

“Yes – you should drink little and often, and preferably from a glass. When you drink from a bottle, which is common practice these days, people tend to drink just enough to satisfy the immediate thirst, but it’s best to drink a whole glass sip by sip. Gulping water from a bottle or drinking a full glass very quickly can leave you bloated and uncomfortable. Ideally, sip water throughout the day to stay adequately hydrated.” – Lorna Rhodes, registered nutritional therapist qualified from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition

Is it bad to drink water during meals?

“Often, people forget to drink water until mealtimes, at which point they then glug down a few hundred millilitres of liquid, diluting stomach acid in the process. This can impact digestion, leading to bloating and digestive discomfort. One small glass of water should be fine with a meal, but ideally no more. If you feel like you need a larger amount of liquid with a meal, check whether you are chewing your food properly, as some people may be using water to help move food along without realising.” – Jennifer 

Avoid drinking water during meals, which can dilute stomach acid and lead to bloating and digestive discomfort.

Is adding squash to water considered a bad habit?

“Unfortunately, yes. Adding squash to water is essentially adding sugar to water, which isn’t good for dental health, blood sugar balance and weight control. Often the fruit content of squash is also very low, so it doesn’t contribute much from a nutritional viewpoint either. Squashes that substitute artificial sweeteners in place of sugar are no better, as they disrupt the gut microbiome, so can then lead to digestive problems and can be counterproductive if you are trying to lose weight.” – Lorna

What about infused water – is this a better option?

“Adding slices of lemon, orange and cucumber to your water makes it more interesting and is therefore a good option for those who struggle to drink plain water. Citrus fruits also contain good levels of vitamin C, so adding a slice to water can add some health benefits, although you should be mindful of their acidity, which can cause corrosion of the teeth. Cucumber and mint, which are equally as refreshing and come without the acidity of citrus fruits, would be a better option.” – Jennifer

Is sparkling water as hydrating as still water?

“Yes – the only difference is the fact that the water has been carbonated, which means it contains carbon dioxide. Therefore, two litres of sparkling water may be slightly under two litres to account for these air bubbles.” – Jennifer

Are some types of fizzy water better than others?

“Something like San Pellegrino, which is a natural mineral water, is better than buying soda water, which usually has no information on its origin or quality. However, these drinks should be consumed on occasion and not in replacement of still water due to the carbon dioxide content, which we should be mindful of. Carbonated beverages have an acidic pH and are associated with symptoms such as heartburn and acid reflux.” – Jennifer

Studies suggest that 16°C is the optimal temperature for rehydrating after exercise – this is equivalent to the temperature of water from a cold-water tap.

Should you filter tap water?

“By law, tap water in the UK has to be safe to drink and is regularly tested to ensure its quality. However, there still may be trace contaminants present, which you should be mindful of. In addition, some older properties have lead pipes that bring mains water to your kitchen sink, which should be a consideration if wondering whether to drink your tap water. Tap water is also fluoridated, and prolonged exposure may have an impact on the thyroid gland as fluoride supresses its function. Other contaminants include chlorine and limescale. A water filter is a good option to avoid single-use plastic – The Berkley and Brita water filters get my vote.” – Jennifer

How much water do you really need to drink after exercise?

“Two hours before working out, hydrate with 400-600ml of water; add a sports drink one hour before if you’ll be working out for more than 90 minutes or if it’ll be a high intensity, very sweaty session. If your workout is low to moderate intensity and lasting up to 90 minutes, you don’t need additional water, assuming you are adequately hydrated before you start. If you are doing a high-intensity workout, consider an isotonic sports drink or rehydration fluid (something that contains around 8g of sugar per 100ml) if your session lasts longer than one hour. Continuous exercise of four hours or more requires 800ml of fluid per hour, and during hotter times and more humid weather, you’ll also need to drink more during a workout.”

How many times throughout the day should you be going to the loo – what’s considered normal?

“There are no set rules. If you suddenly start drinking more water, you will be needing to urinate more often, but eventually the body self-regulates and the frequency lessens. The best indication to check if you are well hydrated is to observe the colour of your urine – it should be pale straw in colour. If it’s dark, you need to drink more water. If it’s continually dark, seek medical advice, as this could suggest a kidney problem.” – Lorna 


For more information visit Ion.ac.uk and JenWalpole.com

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