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It’s very important to get the right amount of fluid to be healthy. However, there are lots of mixed messages about how much, and what to drink and this can be confusing. 

Do you really need to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water on top of all my other drinks? Is it true that tea and coffee do not count towards your fluid intake? The answer to both these questions is no!

Why do you need water?

Your body is nearly two-thirds water and so it’s important that you drink enough to stay hydrated and healthy. If you don’t get enough fluid you may feel tired, get headaches and not perform at your best.

How much do you need?The amount of fluid you need depends on many things including the weather, how much physical activity you do and your age, but the Eatwell Guide suggest six to eight glasses of fluid per day.

This is on top of the water provided by food you eat. You can get water from nearly all fluids that you drink, apart from stronger alcoholic drinks such as wine and spirits.

Does it matter which drinks you choose?

Sugary drinks provide calories and can harm teeth

Water is a great choice

Tea and coffee count towards your daily water intake.

In moderate amounts caffeine does not affect hydration but caffeine affects some people more than others, and the effect can depend on how much caffeine you normally consume.

Pregnant women should limit their intake of caffeinated drinks because of their caffeine content. Caffeinated drinks are also unsuitable for toddlers and young children. 

Milk contains lots of essential nutrients such as protein, B vitamins and calcium, as well as being a source of water. However, it can also contain saturated fat so it’s a good idea for adults and older children to choose semi-skimmed (less than 2% fat), 1% or skimmed milks.

Fruit juices and smoothies give you water plus some vitamins, minerals and natural plant substances from the fruit.

Smoothies may also contain pureed fruit, which adds fibre. These drinks can also count towards your five a day. However, they can contain quite a bit of sugar so don’t have too many.

Alcoholic drinks contain water, but drinking alcohol increases the amount of water you lose as wee.

How can I tell if I am getting enough water?

Your body has ways to make sure you stay hydrated. Feeling thirsty is your body’s way of telling you that you need to drink more.

However, the easiest way to spot that you might not be getting enough water is if your wee is a dark yellow colour during the day.

If you are getting enough water your wee should be a pale straw colour. So if it is darker than this or if you are going to the loo infrequently or passing very small amounts of urine, then you probably need to drink some more fluid.

You also need to drink more if it is hot, or if your temperature is high due to physical activity or illness.

What happens if I don't drink enough?

If you don’t drink enough water you will become dehydrated. The first thing you will notice is increased thirst and a dry sticky mouth. Other effects include tiredness, poor concentration, headache and dizziness or feeling light headed.

Having regular drinks throughout the day will help you stay well hydrated especially when it is hot or you are exercising.

Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to dehydration and may need to be encouraged to drink more.