Five tips to stay hydrated over the festive season

Health Adviser and Nutritionist at Bupa UK
05 December 2017

It’s that time of year again – the Christmas decorations are up and the festive season is about to hit full swing. So if you’re donning your best Christmas jumper, dodging the mistletoe and getting merry at the Christmas party, you might indulge in a glass or two of your favourite festive tipple. To help you stay healthy and feeling jolly over the holidays, it’s important to check in with your body so you stay hydrated. Read on for my top tips on how to spot the signs of dehydration and how to rehydrate over the Christmas period.

Image of friends clinking glasses at the table.

Why is hydration so important?

Water makes up more than half of your body and is essential for it to work properly. Staying hydrated:

  • helps to control your body temperature
  • keeps your brain working to the best of its ability
  • has a positive effect on your mood
  • allows your kidneys to remove waste products from your body
  • can help to keep your blood pressure and heart rate stable
  • is thought to be good for your skin and complexion

How much water should I drink a day?

How much water your body needs every day will depend on things like:

  • how old you are
  • your gender
  • how much physical activity you do
  • the climate – for example if it’s hot or cold
  • if you’re pregnant

On average, your body needs around:

  • two litres of water a day if you’re female (roughly three and a half pints)
  • two and a half litres of water a day if you’re male (roughly four pints)

Most of this comes from the fluids you drink and the rest comes from food. So it’s recommended that you drink about 1.6L of water a day if you’re a female, 2L a day if you’re a male and eat plenty of water-rich foods to make up the rest.

Fruit and vegetables such as watermelon, strawberries, lettuce, cabbage and celery contain lots of water. Cooked pastas, rice, legumes and fish such as salmon are also high in water.

Why does alcohol cause a hangover?

If you have a hangover, you might feel sick, light-headed, have a headache, have difficulty concentrating or trouble remembering things. Scientists don’t fully understand why they happen, only that they’re probably due to a combination of things. A bad night’s sleep, dehydration, changes to your immune system and certain chemical messengers in your body are all thought to play a part.

Alcohol causes dehydration because it affects a chemical in your body called vasopressin. Vasopressin (also known as anti-diuretic hormone) helps your kidneys conserve water and prevents it from being removed from your body when you wee. This mechanism helps keep the balance of fluid in your body just right. Alcohol, however, stops vasopressin from doing its job. This means more urine is produced, making you need to wee more often, causing dehydration Being dehydrated is thought to be one of the main causes of a hangover.

If you do find you wake up feeling a little worse for wear after a few too many drinks, check out our hangover myths and tips.

How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?

If you’re dehydrated, it means that your body has lost more water than it’s taken in. This could cause you to get a headache, feel thirsty, tired, less motivated or less able to concentrate.

You might also wee less often or only pass a small amount when you do go to the bathroom. You might notice that your wee is more concentrated and darker in colour. So a good way to find out if you’re dehydrated is to check the colour of your wee. Use this infographic to help you decide if you need to drink some more water.

Image showing hydration level by urine colour

How to stay hydrated over Christmas

  1. Get your day off to a good start by drinking a large glass of water before you have breakfast or leave the house.
  2. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times as a reminder to drink throughout the day, and fill it up every time it’s empty.
  3. Flavour your water with fresh fruit, lemons and limes or sugar-free cordial if you’re not keen on the taste of water alone. Milk, one glass of fruit juice, tea and coffee all count towards your daily water intake too.
  4. For every alcoholic drink you have, balance it out with one glass of water.
  5. Pace yourself. For every unit of alcohol you drink, it takes your body around one hour to digest it. So be mindful of how fast and how much you’re drinking and try to space your drinks out.

Happy holidays!

Even healthy people become unhealthy sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance.

Emily Walters
Health Adviser and Nutritionist at Bupa UK

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