Nutrition and Hydration Week 2019

This week (11-17 March 2019) marks Nutrition and Hydration Week – an annual event to highlight just how important food and drink are for health and wellbeing, especially within the health and social care setting.

In light of this, we want to talk all things hydration.  In the UK, adults are recommended to have 1600ml (women) and 2000ml (men) of fluid per day – which equates to approximately 6-8 glasses.  However, if you are pregnant (+300ml), lactating (+600-700ml), or exercising then your requirements will increase1.

If you haven’t had enough to drink, you will become dehydrated – you should notice this if you start to feel thirsty, and your urine becomes darker in colour and you notice it has a strong smell.  Sometimes when you’re dehydrated you may get a headache, feel dizzy and tired, and find it harder to concentrate2.

You can use the Urine Colour Chart to check how hydrated you are – if your urine matches 4 – 8 on the chart then you will probably want to have a drink2.

Importance of hydration

Being hydrated is important for many of our bodily functions, some examples include3:

  • Kidney functioning – regulates fluid balance and removes waste products from the blood via urine
  • Cognitive performance – dehydration can disrupt mood and concentration, and can impair performance on tasks
  • Physical performance – dehydration can result in reduced endurance and motivation, and increased fatigue and perceived effort


Another important role is in gastrointestinal function, specifically constipation.  Research suggests increasing your fluid intake can be beneficial, but only if you are inadequately hydrated to begin with3.

What counts as ‘fluid’ – is it just water?

Fortunately, no.  Researchers have developed the ‘Hydration Index’, which evaluates how hydrating different drinks are.  In their study, they found that several drinks were at least as hydrating as water.  This means that most drinks (excluding stronger alcoholic drinks) can contribute to our recommended daily fluid intakes4.

However, unlike water these drinks also contain other components, some of which are good for us but others not so much.  This just means we have to be more mindful of how much we’re having them…

  • Milk – contains protein, vitamins (B2, B5, B12), minerals (calcium, iodine, phosphorus) and also fat, so perhaps opt for a lower fat option5.
  • 100% fruit juice, for example orange juice – contains vitamin C, potassium and folate. But due to its high sugar content ,it’s best to limit yourself to a 150ml serving a day6 to avoid causing any damage to our teeth.
  • Tea and Coffee – contains caffeine. We should restrict our intake of caffeine to 400mg a day for adults (~4 cups of instant coffee)7.
  • Sugary drinks, including fizzy drinks, squash and flavoured water – again these contain sugar which not only can be harmful to our teeth but also contributes to our daily energy intake. So limit/avoid consumption of these drinks if you can, or switch to sugar-free or no added sugar alternatives.

Useful tips

This week is about good nutrition as well as hydration, and the UK government has some useful tips to help us all achieve a more healthy and balanced diet8:

  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
    • 1 portion = 80g of fruit / 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables / a dessert bowl of salad
  • Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates (e.g. potatoes, bread, rice, pasta), choosing wholegrain options where possible
    • Wholegrains contain more fibre – and we should be consuming 30g of fibre each day
  • Have some dairy or fortified dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options where possible
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
    • Including 2 portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel)
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small amounts

By following these steps, you should be able to meet your recommendations for all nutrients, with the exception of vitamin D.  During Autumn and Winter, we should all take a daily supplement that contains 10µg of vitamin D8 as we don’t get enough of it through sun exposure alone during these periods.

Also, if you are trying to get pregnant (or are pregnant) you should take a folic acid (400µg daily) supplement until the 12th week of pregnancy8..


If you want to find out more about Nutrition & Hydration Week and see how you can get involved, click here.


  3. Popkin et al. (2010) Nutr Rev 68(8): 439-458
  4. Maughan et al. (2015) Am J Clin Nutr 103(3): 717-723