Water – the best things in life are free

Lila Bruk advocates that water should be your essential tonic for optimum health.

Over 70% of the body is made up of water, and water has many essential roles within the body. It is necessary for important body processes, such as digestion, excretion and metabolic functioning. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that drinking enough water is essential for optimum health.

Regular plain water is best

There is a huge variety of bottled water available now, including flavoured carbonated waters, as well as those that promise additional health benefits (e.g. slimming water).

However, flavoured waters often contain just as much sugar as regular sugary soft drinks, or else have large quantities of artificial sweeteners.

Similarly, those waters that claim that they boost your metabolism, or give you more energy are usually packed full of substances, which may be detrimental to your health and/or can even adversely affect your body’s response to certain medication.

For example, ginseng is often added to slimming waters and energy drinks, as it allegedly helps to boost energy levels. However, ginseng can, in fact, interact with blood thinning medications and intensify their affects, which in turn can lead to bleeding problems. For this reason, regular plain water is your best bet.

How much water do I need?

For every kilogram you weigh, you need 30ml. Therefore, to work out how much water you need, multiply your weight in kilograms by 30. So, if you weigh 60kg; 60kg x 30ml = 1800ml. You would need a minimum of 1800ml or 1,8l of water.

Then for every 30 minutes of exercise you do, you need at least an additional 250ml of water.

Therefore, if you weigh 60kg and do an hour of exercise on a given day, you need: 1800ml + (2 x 250ml) = 2300ml or 2,3l. This means you need at least 2,3l water per day.

Of course, on very hot days or when you’re doing particularly strenuous exercise, you may need even more fluids.


As mentioned previously, natural uncarbonated water is preferable. However, if you don’t like the taste, you can add lemon juice, a dash of fruit juice, orange slices, or even mint leaves. Some prefer to drink hot fluids, which is also totally acceptable, as water is good for you regardless of the temperature.

Also remember that other liquids can also contribute to your fluid intake, such as rooibos, herbal or fruit teas and vegetable soups.

For the warmer summer months, try making your own iced tea using a fruity, non-caffeinated tea as a refreshing alternative to plain water.

If you find that increasing your fluid intake leaves you taking far too frequent bathroom breaks, don’t despair. Rather, keep up with your water-drinking and before too long, your body will have adapted to the increased fluid intake.

Is it possible to drink too much water?

Yes, it is. More than approximately six litres a day can, in fact, be dangerous. If one drinks too much, it can cause the body’s sodium levels to drop (otherwise known as hyponatremia), which can have many detrimental effects on the body, such as swelling of the brain.

Can water help me lose weight?

Yes, it can aid weight loss in three main ways:

  1. Often one mistakes thirst for hunger, which results in one eating when in fact the body needs fluid. Also, in this situation when one’s body is crying out for fluids, it is usually sweet, starchy foods that one craves. Therefore, by drinking enough, one can minimise the risk of eating unhealthy snacks.
  2. Fruits, vegetables and wholegrain breads, grains and cereals are all rich in fibre and an essential part of a healthy low-fat eating plan. Fibre acts as a sponge in the body, as it absorbs water and makes you feel fuller for longer. Therefore, you’re less likely to snack on unhealthy choices. However, if you don’t drink enough, you won’t get the full ‘filling-up effect’ of fibre.
  3. Even mild dehydration has been found to detrimentally affect athletes’ sporting performance. Therefore, by drinking enough you can be sure that you’ll train at your optimum intensity. Thus, ensuring that you burn the maximum number of calories during your training session, and in this way optimising your weight loss.

So, in conclusion, look at water as your essential tonic for optimum health, rather than a good mixer or a precursor to ice cubes, and prepare to reap the benefits!


Lila Bruk  is a registered dietitian and nutritional consultant in private practice in Johannesburg, Gauteng. She is passionate about promoting health and good nutrition and thus has written in over 350 general and health-related publications. She gives regular lectures on nutrition-related topics, and appears regularly on television and radio. Her areas of interest include nutritional management of lifestyle diseases (including diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease), digestive disorders (e.g. Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome), eating disorders, food allergies and sports nutrition.

Header image by FreePik

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