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Dr Jean-Marc Parisaux is a doctor of sports medicine and traumatology with expertise in manual medicine, osteopathy and rehabilitation. He is a specialist at the prestigious Monaco-based sports medicine center, IM2S, which helps world-class athletes and ordinary folk with their goals towards attaining optimal physical performance. Send your health and fitness questions to: askthedoc @

About those eight glasses...

Dear Dr Parisaux,

I always hear experts recommending that you should drink eight glasses of water per day. I've never been able to do that. For one thing, I'm never sure what size of glass they're talking about. For another, drinking eight glasses of water each day sounds utterly boring. Just how important is this rule anyway?

- Sharon

Dear Sharon,

Don't get hung up over the number of glasses. Just know that we should drink at least 1.5 litres per day and even more according to the situation (environmental conditions, physical activity, etc). Unfortunately, most people hardly drink a litre per day during meals and only when they feel thirsty!

Water is a vital component of the human body and takes up as much as 75 per cent of the body's weight. We are continually losing water when we breathe, or perspire or eliminate waste products from the body. It is essential, therefore, to replace the lost water so that the body's organs can continue to function properly.

So, to answer your question, it is very important to have a healthy intake of fluids throughout the day -- especially in the summer when loss of water is often greater. This is especially so for the elderly and children, who are more exposed to the risk of dehydration.

I asked Severine Oilvie, our diet expert at IM2S to give her opinion and she offered the following suggestions:

How to optimize hydration

--Always drink before you get thirsty.
--Drink small amounts as frequently as possible throughout the day.
--Avoid drinking during meals for better digestion.
--Drink a large variety of mineral waters to improve your intake of micronutrients (calcium, magnesium, etc).

Considering that a glass contains approximately 150 mL and a cup about 200 mL, here is an example of a daily program providing the minimum fluid intakes:

Breakfast (8.00 am) : 1 cup of coffee or tea
9.45 am : 1 glass of water
Morning snack (10.30 am) : 1 glass of orange juice
11.15 am : 1 glass of water
Lunch (12.15 am) : 1 glass of water maximum (according personal tolerance)
2.15 pm : 1 glass of water
3.00 pm : 1 glass of water
Afternoon snack (4.00 pm) : 1 cup of tea
5.45 pm : 1 glass of water
6.30 pm : 1 glass of water
Dinner (7.15 pm) : 1 glass of water maximum (according personal tolerance)

Other beverages can be useful to increase fluid intake for persons who find it difficult to drink water, such as elders:

A bowl of soup is generally well appreciated by elders and can provide the equivalent of two glasses of water.

A glass of sugar-free fruit juice can replace a fresh fruit. It can be useful for elders with dental disorders, but as juices contains sugar, it is not recommended to exceed one to two glasses per day.

Sparkling waters, if well tolerated, are sometimes well appreciated. Some of them contain a high concentration of sodium and are not recommended regarding cardiovascular diseases and certain medical treatments.

Flavoured waters and sugar-free soft drinks contain sweeteners and should be used only occasionally. Some flavoured waters can also contain a little amount of added sugar.

Coffee and tea contain caffeine, a heart stimulating substance that can alter the quality of sleep and result in many side effects. The consumption of two to three cups of coffee per day is considered to be moderate, but adverse effects have been noticed for a consumption of two cups. This mainly depends on personal sensitivity.

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