We all know we should drink plenty of water, but it really surprises me the number of people I speak with who are not drinking enough water.
Pretty much my whole adult life I have been very good at consistently drinking water, and because of this if there is ever an occasion where I go without water I can really feel the difference. I hate the feeling of being dehydrated, the fuzzy head and lethargy I feel are not nice.
Unfortunately for a lot of people the feeling of dehydration is now their default position and they are just in the habit of getting by in this state. However if you can get to a place where you are sufficiently hydrated you will be able to contrast how great feels when you are adequately hydrated!
Here is a list of symptoms you might experience if you are dehydrated. Many of these are often overlooked or attributed to something else.
- Headaches – Dehydration headache can feel like a dull headache or an intense migraine headache. Pain from a dehydration headache can occur at the front, back, side, or all over the head. Moving the head may cause more pain.
- Muscle Cramps – When you are dehydrated your body reacts by storing water for the vital organs like your heart and lungs. So therefore your muscles are starved of water and electrolytes. This can cause the muscles to experience small muscle spasms or more severe cramps (when I used to drink alcohol and run on the same day I would be awakened in the night with terrible calf muscle cramps). Stomach Cramps/Constipation -Your stomach may also cramp if you are dehydrated. That’s because your digestive system uses fluids and electrolytes to store nutrients and create waste. When dehydration sets in, constipation can occur since you don’t have enough water to create stool. This can lead to stomach cramps, bloating, and abdominal pain.
- Increased Hunger Signals – One of the reasons you are encouraged to drink more water on most diets is because, the part of the brain that detects a lack of food is very closely linked to the part of the brain that detects having a lack of water. So we often mistake thirst signals for hunger signals and therefore end up eating more.
- Decrease In Performance – This can be both cognitive function and physical function. If the brain or muscles are starved of water, they are going to struggle to perform to their maximum. If you are sitting at your desk suffering from brain fog or have limited focus then maybe a glass of water might just be what you need.
Drinking water when you exercise is not the most effective way to hydrate for physical sport. What you drink the day of/day before your performance is more important than hydrating during a session (that said if you are doing prolonged exercise in hot conditions, getting adequate water is pretty important. So bear that in mind when we get our 6 days of summer…)
How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated or if It’s Something Else
- If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. But lack of thirst doesn’t necessarily mean you’re well hydrated. Here are two other ways to check whether your body is dehydrated:
- Try this skin test. Use two fingers to pinch up some skin on the back of your hand, and then let the skin go. The skin should spring back to its normal position in less than a couple of seconds. If the skin returns to normal more slowly, you might be dehydrated.
- Check your urine. If you’re well hydrated, your urine will be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow. Darker yellow or orange are the “warning” colors to watch for.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
When it comes to daily water intake, hard-and-fast rules are difficult to apply because it depends on so many variables, including your age, gender, and whether you have any underlying medical conditions.
Yet 2004 guidelines from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — the most recent available — advise that getting 2.7 liters per day for women and 3.7 liters per day for men. You can reach this amount by consuming foods and fluids.
Here are some tips for getting all the fluids you need and avoiding dehydration:
- Keep Your Water Bottle Handy At All Times – If it’s right next to you, you’ll likely get into the habit of sipping it without even realizing it. I very rarely go anywhere without a water bottle in my hand.
- Try Spicing Up Plain Water – If you don’t love plain water, a splash of fruit juice or a slice of fresh cucumber or frozen fruit, may make it more appealing for you
- Have Hot Drinks – Herbals teas and even normal teas and coffee are great ways to increase your water intake in the colder months if you don’t want to drink cold drinks
- Eat More Fruit & Veg – It is important to note that vegetables and fruits are hydrating, just like beverages. A good rule of thumb is to aim to make at least half your plate vegetables and to aim to eat fruits as snacks throughout the day. All those vegetable and fruit servings will supply water as well as a hearty dose of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some fruits and vegetables are more than 90 percent water — including cantaloupe, cucumber, strawberries, watermelon, celery, lettuce and leafy greens, courgettes, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
PS. Don’t worry if the first few weeks of increasing your fluid intake you are running to the toilet more frequently. This is your body getting right of that old water that has been hanging around in your system for too long. Also if you are over 50 and are awakened more in the evening to go to the toilet, aim to hydrate earlier in the day and taper it off as the evening approaches.
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