With the weather heating up, we’ve been gulping down water like it’s going out of fashion. There’s nothing like a heatwave to concentrate the mind on water consumption. And no feeling is quite as satisfying as the feeling of slaking a thirst with a cold beverage when you’re hot. But why is it so important to keep hydrated? And what can happen if you don’t?
Why is it important to drink enough water?
You’ve probably heard that humans are 65% water. It’s true. In fact, most living things are mostly water. Water is the primordial element, and we need to keep topping up on it if we’re to survive.
Dehydration comes on quickly, and it’s very bad for you. Water is an absolutely vital factor in every single thing that our bodies do. Without it, our systems start to fail. That’s why thirst feels so urgent – your body is telling you that it needs water RIGHT NOW, or bad things will happen.
Early symptoms of dehydration can include:
- A dry or ‘sticky’ feeling in your mouth and/or throat
- Muscle pain and/or cramping
Luckily, these symptoms disappear within minutes of having a drink. But you should never ignore a thirst. Worse things will happen if you don’t rehydrate as quickly as you can.
How much water should you drink a day?
8 cups, right? Everybody knows that!
Well, no, actually. The old ‘drink 8 glasses of water a day’ thing is a myth. Lots of people still believe it, but it was in fact a marketing scam. So that’s a relief. No need to put your bladder through quite that much of a workout.
Having said that, you do still need to drink a reasonable amount of water daily if you want to keep yourself hydrated and healthy. The exact amount depends on lots of things, including the ambient temperature, your activity levels, your weight, your general state of health and so on.
Drinking little and often is advised by the UK government. Rather than forcing down litres at a time, take a few sips of water every half hour or so. And remember, most non-alcoholic liquids count as ‘water’. Tea, milk, even the liquids found in juicy fruit and veg all count towards your daily water intake. A slice of cucumber is just as good as a gulp from a water fountain.
As a general rule, you probably need more water than you think you do. Maybe not the full eight cups’ worth, but it’s still worth consciously trying to grab the odd extra sip whenever you can.
However, don’t overdo it! There is such a thing as water poisoning. It’s called Water Toxemia, and it happens when your body is so full of water that your blood gets too diluted. Don’t worry – you have to drink uncomfortable amounts of water in order to give yourself Water Toxemia, so it’s not something you can really give yourself by accident. A ten stone person would have to drink four to six litres of water over a short timeframe in order to put themselves in danger from water consumption.
So, consume water little and often – but don’t force it! If it feels uncomfortable to drink more water, leave it until you’re thirsty.