Hydration is important 365 days of the year, but it’s never more essential than during the UAE’s hot summer months.
As the mercury rises above the 40ºC mark in the Emirates, coupled with energy-sapping humidity, ensuring that your family gets a sufficient amount of water should be front-of-mind, but how much do we need exactly?
How much water should children and adults be drinking?
“The estimated daily need for fluid intake is about 3 to 4 litres for men and 2 to 3 litres for women. But there are many other factors which may increase or decrease the fluid daily requirements, for instance, exercise, weather, altitude, pregnancy and the presence of certain conditions, such as kidney disease,” says Dr Ahmed Abdelhameed, specialist internal medicine at Medcare Women & Children Hospital.
“Sweat evaporation from the skin surface plays a critical role in body cooling, which increases during the summer months,” Dr Abdelhameed says. “As a general concept, the consumption of water must be higher in countries with hot climates.”
The amount of water that children are drinking should also be monitored.
“When determining how much water your child needs, you should know hydration needs vary,” says Dr Amara Omer, general practitioner at Aster Clinic Al Shaab, Dubai. "Children need more water if they are participating in physical activity or if the weather is hot. You have to ensure that your child should stay well hydrated."
She advises that toddlers should drink two to four glasses a day, children aged 5 to 8 should drink 1 litre a day and those between 9 and 12 should consume 1.5 litres.
Drinking enough water in hot climates
The importance of hydration should not be underestimated, stresses Dr Muzammil Khambati, medical director and general practitioner at Access Clinic, Dr Koya's in Dubai.
“Drinking water is essential for the proper functioning of one’s body. All the major organ systems of the body depend on water for their maintenance and optimisation,” Dr Khambati says.
“Water plays a vital role regulating the body temperature and helps the body overcome heat strain and heat stroke… As the body is exposed to external heat, the water stored in the layers of the skin rises to the surface as sweat. This evaporation allows the skin surface to cool, in turn allowing the body temperature to be cooled.
"As more water from the body gets evaporated as sweat, the body starts to get dehydrated. It starts to conserve the heat instead of dissipating it and falls prey to the effects of heat exhaustion, like headache, fast and weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, giddiness, malaise and cramping of the muscles.”
Staying fit and hydrated
If you’re working out during the summer months, the amount of water consumed daily needs to be adjusted.
Michael Sole, founder of The Den DXB in Motor City, advises people to drink 30 millilitres of water per kilogram of body weight daily. In the US, the average woman weighs 77.4kg, and therefore should be drinking 2.3 litres, and the average man weighs 80kg, so should aim to consume 2.4 litres.
That number should be added to depending on daily exercise.
Sole says: “For every hour of exercise, you should add 500ml to 1,000ml of water respective of how sweaty a person you are and the climate you are training in. Adding an electrolyte into this on very sweaty sessions will aid in the absorption.”
Staying hydrated could also enhance your performance in the gym.
“There is evidence to support that minor dehydration can lead to significant decreases in cognitive performance,” says Sole. “It could be possible that the sheer desire to work out, or your concentration levels could be affected negatively with just a 2 per cent decrease in body weight due to sweating or insufficient hydration.”
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication.
Dr Omer explains: “When you drink too much water, your kidneys can’t get rid of the excess water. The sodium content of your blood becomes diluted. This is called hyponatremia and it can be life-threatening.”
Targets to drink as much as 3.4 litres a day for an average-build man who is working out regularly may seem very high, but it’s not a dangerous amount of water to drink if consumed gradually throughout the day.
“Drinking too much water is rarely a major problem for well-nourished, healthy adults who have a good lifestyle. However, if you do end up drinking an excess amount of water, your kidneys may not be able to eliminate the water well and that may lead to bloating and abdominal discomfort and may lead to hyponatremia, which will have to be rectified,” says Dr Khambati.
What if you don’t like water?
There are many people who don’t like drinking large quantities of plain water, so to reach their hydration targets, adding sugars and flavours such as cordials or tea to their water still have the same benefits, says Dr Abdelhameed.
“Most people cannot drink water in large quantities so adding a flavour can encourage people to have a proper intake which would help them reach the proper hydration state; however, we encourage fluids from natural sources like fresh juices,” he says.
This is echoed by Dr Omer, who gives a warning against carbonated drinks.
“Fizzy drinks, squashes and juices can contain lots of added sugar and very few nutrients so keep them to a minimum,” Dr Omer says. “While water is seen as the best source of hydration, it’s not the only one. When consumed in moderate amounts, caffeinated drinks including tea and coffee are as hydrating as water.”
Sole suggests flavouring your water, to encourage people to drink more. “Most low-calorie electrolyte tablets or powders have a sweet taste to them, so that is a great combination, especially when working out. During the day, a low-calorie squash or concentrate would be a good option too if you find water a bit boring.”
Michael Sole’s tips for staying hydrated
1. Keep a full water bottle by your bedside so that the first thing you do in the morning is drink 300ml to 500ml of water.
2. Carry a refillable water bottle that is brightly coloured, that way it will catch your eye throughout the day and remind you to take a sip.
3. Add a pinch of sea salt to your breakfast. Sodium can aid with increasing your desire to drink fluids and is also an essential mineral for fluid absorption.