Hydration

The Eatwell Guide recommends aiming to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid each day.

We all need water and other fluids so that our bodies can remain hydrated in order to work properly. Water makes up about two-thirds of the weight of a healthy person, and each day we lose around 2.5 litres of water from our body. This needs to be replaced so that we avoid becoming dehydrated.

How much do we need to drink each day?

It may surprise you to learn that we get about 1 litre of fluid each day from the food we eat. Another 0.3 litres is recycled each day by our bodies. This means we need to drink around 1.2 litres each day (roughly six to eight glasses), although if you have sweated a lot, the weather is hot, or you have been exercising your requirements may be greater than this. As a rule of thumb, we need an extra litre of water for every hour of strenuous exercise.

How can I tell if I’m adequately hydrated?

Take a Pee-k! The simplest way of knowing whether you are well hydrated or not is to look at the colour of your urine. Pale, straw coloured urine is a sign that you are well hydrated. If your urine is dark, or you are not passing much urine you would benefit from drinking more.

Why should I make sure I drink enough?

Dehydration means that your body does not have enough water. Being dehydrated can make you feel tired and nauseous. Headaches are another common symptom of dehydration.

Which drinks count?

All drinks count, but it is best to offer healthier drinks such as water, milk, and fruit juice. Be aware that many drinks are very high in sugar and can make a significant contribution to your daily energy intake. Pure fruit juices and smoothies contain vitamins that are good for our health and one small (150 ml) glass counts as one portion of your five a day.

However, fruit juices and smoothies can only count as one portion each day, no matter how much you drink. Fruit juices and smoothies are high in free sugars and this can this can damage our teeth if consumed in large quantities. It is better to drink fruit juice with a meal as this can help protect our teeth. It is best for people to keep their intake of fizzy drinks and squashes to a minimum as these drinks contain a lot of free sugars and little else of any real nutritional value.

The high sugar content of many of these drinks means that they are high in calories and can contribute to weight gain. The high sugar content also means that they can cause tooth decay. Diet varieties of fizzy drinks don’t contain sugar and therefore contain few calories, but can still cause dental erosion and contain very few nutrients.

What about tea and coffee?

Although these drinks contain caffeine, which is a mild diuretic (meaning it makes you need to pass water), tea and coffee both count towards our daily fluid intake. In the same way that it is important to eat a varied, well balanced diet, the same is true for the drinks that people consume. Whilst tea and coffee both count, make sure that caffeinated drinks are not people’s only source of fluid each day.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks are now widely available and very popular at all levels of sports participation. The aim of sports specific drinks are to provide a convenient way of meeting fluid, fuel and electrolyte (to replace the salts we lose through sweating) needs before, during and after exercise. Although a large amount of time and money is spent developing these drinks, the evidence shows they are only really of benefit for exercise lasting more than one hour.

This means that for many of us sports drinks are not an essential part of our exercise routine. Plain water is the simplest way of replacing any fluid losses that occur through exercise. Like other sugar containing drinks, such as soft drinks and fruit juices, sports drinks contribute towards our energy intake. For people who are exercising to lose weight, it is important to bear in mind the sugar content, and therefore the calories that are in sports drinks.

Government strategies on sugar sweetened soft drinks

The government launched plans to implement a sugar levy, nicknamed the ‘sugar tax’ by the media, from April 2018 in the 2016 Budget. The levy will make soft drinks companies pay a charge for drinks with added sugar, and total sugar content of five grams or more per 100 millilitres.

That is about 5% sugar content. There is a higher charge for the drinks that contain eight grams or more per 100 millilitres, or about 8% sugar content. This means that pure fruit juices won’t be taxed, because they don’t contain added sugar. Neither will drinks that have a high milk content, because they contain calcium and other nutrients that are vital for a healthy diet.

The government have targeted soft drinks as they are a major source of sugar for children and teenagers, and sugar intake drives obesity. Obesity is a huge problem in the UK, costing the NHS over £6 billion per year. It is predicted that by 2050, over 35% of boys and 20% of girls aged 6-10 will be obese unless firm action is takenthe sugar levy is one such action being taken by government.The money raised from the levy will be invested in giving school-aged children a brighter and healthier future, including programmes to encourage physical activity and balanced diets.