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Why you need to stay hydrated

Plain water is best for staying hydrated . / Photo: Net

Hydration, medical experts say, is necessary for good health as it affects one’s overall wellbeing.

Performance, body composition, sleep, mental focus and even joint health are all affected by one’s level of hydration.


Water makes up to 60 to 75 per cent of the body’s weight, serving as an important part of one’s nutrition and wellbeing.


Experts note that water is also involved in nearly every part of the body and helps blood flow, encourages chemical reactions in cells, cushions muscles and regulates body temperature.


When dehydrated, these functions become impaired which can affect the flow of oxygen, performance ability and cause fatigue, which are all detrimental to one’s health


Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of the nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says each cell in the body needs water to complete its proper function, and that with rising temperatures, it is extra important for one to stay hydrated.

He notes that every human being needs different amounts of water depending on their condition and the environment.

Uwiragiye adds that it’s important to listen to our bodies, and pay attention as the body will tell you if you are hydrated or not.

For example, he says, when thirsty, this is one way the body communicates that you are dehydrated.

“When you feel thirsty, it might be only a one per cent reduction in your overall water. And it just requires drinking some fluid,” he says.

Uwiragiye advises that drinking eight glasses of water a day is crucial for everyone.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that men drink about three litres of fluids per day and that women drink about two litres.

About 20 per cent of your daily water intake comes from food. And that the more one exercises, they will need to drink more water as well.

What to drink to stay hydrated

While plain water is best for staying hydrated, Francis Kazungu, a general practitioner in Kigali, says other drinks and foods can help, too.

For instance, he says, fruit and vegetable juices, milk, and herbal teas can add to the amount of water one gets each day.

He says that even caffeinated drinks (for example, coffee, tea) can contribute to one’s daily water intake.

However, Kazungu notes that there are drinks that should be avoided at all costs when it comes to hydration.

These include; soda, beer, sweetened ice tea, energy drinks, flavoured milk, among others.

Kazungu says staying away from such drinks is vital because they can dehydrate someone instead of helping with hydration.

He advises that eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables is important when it comes to hydration.

“These particular foods contain large amounts of water, salt, and vitamins and can help prevent dehydration,” he says.

What to pay attention to

Kazungu says if one is hydrated, it can be seen in the colour of urine.

If the urine is clearer, he says this is a good indication that one is well hydrated.

However, certain foods and vitamin supplements can change the colour of your urine.

In most cases, experts say to stay hydrated, plain water is best and that water with added electrolytes don’t provide any additional benefit.

Kazungu says sports drinks are best for people participating in high-intensity or hot weather sports.

“They contain a fair amount of sugar, which is not what most people need. If you’re actively burning calories and need energy during a sport like running, a sports beverage is fine,” he adds.

However, experts caution that when exercising, one should be mindful of how much water they are losing through sweat and waste, particularly as vigorous exercise can be demanding on the body.

If not replaced, they say a significant loss of water can result in serious implications for your health and performance.

Food alternatives

Several studies have proven that food can also provide a substantial source of water for hydration. Products such as fruits and vegetables can be used as reliable sources of both water and electrolytes.

Not only are fruits and vegetables a valuable source of nutrition, minerals, and energy, but they also assist your body in staying hydrated and functioning properly.

Also, studies show that a lot of fruits also contain a high dose of carbs which are essential for long bouts of exercise, therefore serving as a useful pre-workout snack to keep you fuelled and hydrated.

Being aware of your body’s signs of dehydration is essential to keep your body at its optimum level, as these mechanisms are in place as a warning of when you need more water.

According to health websites, water breaks and just sipping water before, throughout, or following a workout can gently restore your system of its water.

It is said that water or other types of drinks will help one perform more efficiently and avoid serious effects of dehydration.

Uwiragiye says drinking a glass of water around 30 minutes before a meal will help the body identify how hungry it is and concentrate on hydrating itself.

He says this is beneficial to keep the body at a healthy water level, not only enhancing one’s performance, but preventing overeating.

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