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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Can you ever really drink too much water?

A lot of water can be drunk in offices...


Some people clearly don’t drink enough water (ie. none at all), but there are plenty of people around who drink lots and lots.  Maybe much more than they need.  It’s one of those things that we’ve all been told to do and I think the message has got through – two litres a day or else.  But this magic figure – 2 litres – doesn’t take into account different body types and shapes, let alone weather conditions.  After all, you need to drink a lot more on a boiling hot day than you do when you are wrapped up warm in winter.  And there are other things that can affect our requirement for water; eating a lot of salt means you need more, as does sweating and eating lots of sugar.

There is really is no amount that we can reliably say is the perfect quantity of water to consume each day.  For every person it’s going to change from day to day anyway, depending on what you’ve done, eaten and drunk.

But my advice is the same as it is for food; listen to your body to assess what you need to drink.    Constipation can be a sign that you’re not getting enough water, as is dark urine, fatigue and headaches.  And feeling thirsty, of course.  If your urine is very pale, then you are almost definitely drinking plenty of water.

If you find yourself downing loads of water because you’ve been told it’s good for you, even when you don’t particularly want it, then you may be drinking unecessarily.  Try to decide whether you need water on the basis of how you feel, and whether you fancy it or not.  Drinking water because someone else has told you to is over-riding your body’s signals, and you may end up over-consuming.

I also feel I should note here that ‘water’ does in fact mean ‘plain water’.  It doesn’t mean water mixed with cordial or squash, or weak tea, or flavoured water, or drinks like Vitamin Water (I could devote another blog post entirely to Vitamin Water!).  But normal water that comes out of the tap or in bottles.  Plain water does not require any processing by the body – flavoured water sometimes contains artificial flavourings and sweeteners which need to be metabolised by the liver.  It is true that a glass of orange squash consists mainly of water, but so do Coca Cola and beer.  It’s just not the same as pure water on its own.  Some people avoid tap water on account of the chemicals and drug residues that it contains, and this is no bad thing, but for someone who doesn’t drink any water at all, then tap water is better than nothing.  And I also think it’s fine to drink sparkling water, which is something else that people apparently avoid on health grounds.






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