The silly season is well and truly here and so with it comes the festive food, drinks and hot weather in Australia. Combine salty foods, alcohol and heat together and you’ve got yourself a recipe for dehydration.
Dehydration manifests in different ways; the most common being a headache, increased thirst and darker coloured urine. However, confusion, fatigue, muscle cramps and mood swings are other signs of dehydration too. Remembering that the brain is 75% water, it’s no wonder dehydration affects cognition and performance. The brain literally shrinks even when we’re mildly dehydrated.
How much water is enough?
It will vary from person to person, depending on weight and activity level, but a general rule of thumb is to consume a minimum of 33ml of water per kilo of body weight. To calculate this, simply multiply 0.033 by your body weight in kilos and this will give you the amount of water you should be consuming in litres. Eg. If you weigh 60kg: 0.033 x 60 = 1.98, so you will need to drink roughly 2 litres per day.
Water is absorbed quite rapidly by the body; as soon as you take a sip, it takes about five minutes to get absorbed into the bloodstream. Interestingly, the temperature of the water affects the absorption rate as well. The colder the water, the more rapidly the body rehydrates – about 20% faster compared to drinking water at room temperature.
How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?
It appears that urine specific gravity and saliva osmolality tests are a couple of the best methods for assessing hydration status. But, lets face it, you’re not going to get these tests. A doctor would just tell you to drink water even at the slightest suspicion of dehydration. So how can we tell? Researchers have formalized a way to tell if your body is dehydrated by drinking 11ml water/kg body weight within three minutes. After an hour, if you pass out less than a third of what you drank, chances are you were dehydrated. Confusion, decreased alertness and fatigue are other signs of dehydration as well as an increased heart rate. Our blood is 90% water, so imagine the effects of dehydration on your heart; your blood becomes more viscous and it takes more effort for the heart to pump the thicker liquid around the body. This is also important information for people with high blood pressure as dehydration is one of the contributing factors.
The Caffeine Myth
There is also a belief that caffeinated beverages dehydrate the body which simply isn’t true. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that black tea with up to 252mg caffeine hydrated the body just as well as regular water in controlled conditions. Although I couldn’t find a study for coffee, you could infer from this research that coffee made with water would have similar hydrating effects. Note that the average cup of coffee contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of black tea, possibly even less.
Tips for Keeping Hydrated
Drinking water isn’t the only way to keep hydrated; fresh juices, soups, teas, coconut water and high water content fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumbers all count. It’s important to look after your body during the festive season so here are some tips for when you’re out celebrating or enjoying the hot weather:
- Drink glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage
- Carry a water bottle around with you during the day
- Keep salty foods to a minimum
- Avoid soft drinks
- Keep a bottle of coconut water in the fridge to have on very hot days*
- Top up your drinks with plenty of ice
- Make your water enticing by adding slices of lemon, mint and ginger to it
I hope you all have a wonderful and very Merry Christmas this year. I have enjoyed reading your comments and feedback and can’t wait to see more of my cherished clients and some new faces in the new year. I am still taking bookings next week for consultations and will be available in January as well, so if you would like to visit me, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my bookings page.
Lots of Love,
*I like Nudie Juice’s and Celebrate Health’s coconut water from the supermarket. You could also try a cracking open a fresh one!