Water makes up more than half of your body and is essential for it to work properly. Staying hydrated:
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.
How to stay hydrated over Christmas
- Get your day off to a good start by drinking a large glass of water before you have breakfast or leave the house.
- 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.
- 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.
- For every alcoholic drink you have, balance it out with one glass of water.
- 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.
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.