We’ve all heard the old rule of thumb “8 glasses of water per day”. We shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is an approximation for the average person and doesn’t consider gender or lifestyle. In fact, eight glasses a day might actually be leaving us dehydrated and the average intake for blokes might have to be revised upwards to about 13 glasses.
Men generally require more water than women due to their (on average) higher fat free mass and energy expenditure. Physical activity is a major influencer of water consumption in the body, the more physical activity we do the more we need to hydrate. We get thirsty once we start to dehydrate so, during exercise its important to keep up our liquid intake prior to feeling those pangs of thirst.
Climate is another consideration. Obviously, someone with a desk job has lower hydration requirements than a boilermaker working in a confined space in summer in the Pilbara. What is not so obvious is the fact that the desk jockey may have elevated water requirements due to air-conditioning; the dry air increases the body’s water needs.
We do get some of our daily water requirements through our food, as many fruits and vegetables have a high-water content, i.e. watermelon, tomato, cucumber etc. We can also count flavoured drinks as some of our intake, but water is the preferred option. Drinks with a high sugar content should be avoided, and before anyone says, “Well, three beers is a litre!” there’s an important distinction to make. Coffee and beer are examples of diuretics (substances which make us pee) therefore regardless of the intake there may be a nett loss happening. For example, for every 200ml of full-strength beer consumed, you pee around 320ml. That works out to drinking a six-pack and peeing 10 stubbies!
What Can We Do?
- Assume we are dehydrated; it is so common as to almost be the norm.
- Drink around 13 glasses of water per day, more if you are doing physically demanding work or sweating profusely.
- During exercise drink every 15 minutes to pre-empt dehydration.
- Use your pee as an indicator. Pale or straw-coloured is ok; yellow means dehydrated, and dark or verging on a brown colour is a sign of severe dehydration.
- Water is by far the best form of hydration. The electrolytes in sports drinks are also present in a balanced diet. Sports drinks only have a role for endurance athletes who, during an event, push beyond the body’s natural stores of minerals.
- When calculating water intake, consider the effects of diuretics like alcohol and caffeine. Remember “Drink 6 Pee 10”.
Keeping on top of dehydration is more than just drinking heaps of water. We need to understand that at different times, our hydration demands fluctuate. We need to be active observers of our bodies and take responsibility for keeping it in peak working order.
Glen and the Team
Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277