How Do I Know If I’m Dehydrated?

“Dry mouth, headache, and dizziness may occur.” Sounds like the fine print warnings on a medication bottle, right? But these symptoms can also indicate dehydration. Yikes! Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much fluid and can’t adequately replace it. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it’s most commonly due to fever (more water evaporates when body temperature goes up), diarrhea, vomiting, or long periods of exercise with excessive sweating (especially in hot or humid climates). When fluid levels get low (no, not like Lil’ John), the body goes on high alert. Read on to find out what signs to look out for, and how to avoid the dry-time blues in the first place.

Body of Water — The Need to Know

The body is approximately two thirds water, and losing some of it throughout the day in sweat, tears, and urine is totally normal. That lost water can be easily replaced by sipping on some good ol’ H2O or other drinks (sorry — not the alcoholic kind!) and many foods.

But when the amount of water drops too low for normal body functions (like maintaining temperature, protecting organs, and getting rid of all the bad stuff in the body through urination, perspiration, and… other things), it can lead to dehydration.

Especially as summer approaches, it’s essential to be on the lookout for the common signs of dehydration (or what’s medically referred to as “volume depletion”):

  • Dry mouth. The mouth may be first on the scene by becoming dry or sticky. Saliva is 99 percent water, after all.
  • Lowered blood pressure, headaches, and dizziness. Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s actually about 83 percent water, and less water circulating around the body means less blood, too. This can lead to lowered blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, and even a rapid heartbeat as the heart needs to pump faster to make up for having less blood.
  • Muscle fatigue. Lean muscle tissue contains about 75 percent water, so when the body’s short on water, muscles are more easily fatigued.
  • Dry, cool skin. When the body’s dehydrated, it does what it can to hold onto to whatever fluid is left — even stealing water from Peter to pay Paul. The skin is the first place to be robbed of water, resulting in dry, cool skin.
  • Thirst. Duhh…
  • Feeling lethargic and irritable.
  • Lack of urine. When the body’s short on fluid, no wonder it doesn’t want to expel even more! If the yellow tide (too much?) stops for more than 12 hours (or there’s only a very small amount of dark yellow urine), something’s definitely wrong.

Eat, Drink, and Stay Hydrated — Your Action Plan

The surefire way to beat dehydration? Start hydrating before that thirsty feeling hits. Drink plenty of fluids every day, and even though everyone is a little different when it comes to water requirements, 1.5 liters per day is a good rule of thumb .

Mild and moderate dehydration can usually be cured by drinking fluids to replace lost salts and fluids. And while getting enough fluids during the day is important, not all beverages are created equal. Water is always a good go-to drink. Juice, milk, and coconut water are other great options . And after intense workouts or activities, sports drinks are a good choice too, not only to replace water loss, but also to replenish electrolytes and sodium, which are just as essential to replace . Don’t be afraid to eat salty foods after a hard hot-weather workout, either — serious athletes can suffer just as much from low salt levels as from low water levels! Two things to definitely steer clear of are alcoholic and caffeinated beverages (such as coffee, teas, and sodas), which tend to pull water from the body and may actually fuel dehydration.

As far as avoiding dehydration, the proof is in the pee. Clear, pale, or straw-colored, urine is good. If it’s darker, keep on drinking.

It’s important to drink more during hot weather, but even humid weather, high altitudes, feeling ill, and even cold weather necessitate some seriously hydrating action. And don’t forget to hydrate during exercise and activities! For every hour of strenuous activity or exercise drink one additional liter of fluid.

Expert’s Take

We asked two of our experts to weigh in on the topic. Here’s what they had to say:

Dr. John Mandrola:

“If I had a dollar for every case of heat-related heart problem that I have seen over the past two decades… well, I’d have plenty of money for a new Retina MacBook. As our summers grow hotter, heat-related illnesses are becoming more commonplace. People, even young healthy people, need to take the summer heat seriously. Here are a few tips.

  1. Start the day topped off: One morning a few years ago, I had to drink 30 oz of water for a kidney ultrasound. It was hard to drink that much water, but I learned something that has stuck with me. I felt so good that day. My workout went better and I had better energy through out the day. Most of us don’t get enough!
  2. On the dangers of caffeine: Though it is true that caffeine may help exercise performance in some cases, I have little doubt that caffeine impedes exercise in the heat. Not only is it a diuretic, which promotes fluid loss, but also, caffeine’s stimulant properties increase body temperature — a real negative in the heat.
  3. Pre-workout hydration: Not enough summer exercisers start the workout topped off. Before I leave for a bike ride in the summer, I usually chug an entire bottle of water. Again, it’s hard to drink that much fluid, but when going out in the heat for a few hours, your body will thank you. One negative side effect: An early pee stop.”

Dan Trink:

“As critical as hydration is for regular, day-to-day activities, it is even more important when exercising to optimize athletic performance and body composition. As little as a two percent loss in hydration will affect performance in the weight room, so you want to make sure that you hydrate before and during your session.

A good general recommendation for both weight training and endurance athletes (assuming they are fully hydrated before training or the competitive event) is to drink 7 to 10 oz. of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes. If you are someone who perspires more than average or if you are competing in extreme climates or altitudes those amounts should increase.

Finally, keep in mind that hydration effects muscle growth, recovery and weight loss in a big way. As mentioned above, approximately 75 percent of muscle tissue is water. So it’s not hard to see how critical proper hydration is to gaining lean muscle mass. Water is used for countless metabolic processes, many of which effect recovery. From muscle repair, to protein synthesis, to nutrient absorption (digestion), water and hydration levels play a huge role. To put it simply, you cannot recovery properly without adequate hydration. Lastly, staying hydrated is a key component to a smart weight loss plan as it flushes toxins out of your system, keeps your digestive tract healthy and can even help you feel fuller, cutting down the risk of binge eating or consuming excess calories.”

Source: ~ By: Kristine Lockwood

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

Water is the best thing you can put in your body, yet so many of us ignore it throughout the day. Here are some great ways to trick yourself into developing a healthy habit of drinking lots of water every day.

Why You Should Be Drinking More Water

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

We need water to survive, but drinking enough to get by isn’t ideal for your body. Water is required to cushion and lubricate your joints, protect your brain and other internal tissues, regulate your body temperature, and remove waste from your body through urination, bowel movements, and perspiration.

When you don’t have enough water, dehydration comes out to play. When you’re dehydrated you’ll experience dry mouth, low blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, dry skin, and worst of all, fatigue.

A simple way to tell is by taking a look at the color of your urine. A light-to-medium yellow (or clear) is what you want to aim for. If that yellow is more of an amber, it usually means you’re not getting enough.

So how much do you need? While it’s hard to determine an ideal amount exactly, we previously consulted with Dr. Pamila Brar and there are some guidelines you can follow:

  • Men should drink about 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total fluids a day.
  • Women should drink about 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total fluids a day.

Men need a little more because they tend to be larger on average and naturally have a little more muscle mass—which holds water better than fatty tissues. Of course, pregnant women and nursing mothers need more water as well. If that seems like a ton of water to you, that’s a bad sign. It actually breaks down to just four to eight sips of water per hour, but remembering to drink it can be hard—especially if you’re busy at work and don’t have time to worry about that lingering feeling of thirst, or if you have a workout later in the day and don’t want to feel like crap.

Not only do you have to remember to drink it, but you also have a lot of other tasty beverages out there competing to make their way inside of you. While a soda or sports drink may sound thirst-quenching, the sugar and other extras aren’t going to do you any favors—and they might even make you more thirsty. If you can help it, stick to water. But if you really want a different beverage, at least drink water in addition to it. Remember, water is the cheapest drink out there! According to Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar, choosing to drink water instead of soda could save you about $312 every year.

Keep your daily activities in mind, too. If you’re exercising or doing any strenuous work, staying hydrated beforehand can ensure you feel good during that workout later on. The same goes if you’ve been drinking a lot of coffee, caffeinated tea, or alcohol. They act as diuretics, causing you to urinate more and lose some water. Also, if you’re in a warmer climate, you perspire more and need more water than you would in a temperate zone. It is possible to drink too much water, so don’t overdo it, but your body can process 15 liters of it every day. The “happy medium” range is pretty wide.

Hide It In Your Daily Routine

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

If you already have a good morning and bedtime routine, make drinking water a part of it. You can still have your morning coffee, but add a glass of water in beforehand. The Natural Choice blog recommends having a glass at the same time and in the same place during your routine every day:

…get in the habit of drinking a glass of water right after you get out of the shower, or right before you wash your face at night. This is an easy way to add at least two glasses of water a day to your routine.

Wake up, have a glass of water. Get ready for bed, have a glass of water. Just by doing that you get a head start on the rest of the day. If you’re having a hard time remembering to incorporate it in your routine, find ways to make your water more visible. Put a glass of water on your nightstand so you see it before you go to bed or have a glass waiting by the coffee maker so you remember to have a glass while your joe brews.

Get a Decent Water Bottle and Mark It with Time-Oriented Goals

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

Water bottles are an excellent way to increase your water intake. Get a high-quality one, even if it costs you a little more. A good stainless steel or heavy-duty plastic bottle should do the trick. Once you’ve found one you like, take it with you everywhere.

You can take your water bottle usage to the next level by coming up with your own timed drinking goals and marking it on the bottle. Get some tape or a label maker and start marking how much water you’d like to drink by a certain time every day. This way you can actually see your water drinking goal and you’ll know whether you need to play catch up or if you’re ahead of the game.

It doesn’t hurt to really make your water bottle your own, either. Cindy Dyson at SparkPeople suggests that the more you like your water bottle, the more likely you’ll want to use it:

Whether it’s your favorite color or a unique design, the more you bond with your bottle, the less likely you’ll be to lose it. Slap an inspirational sticker or image onto it, or even write on it with a permanent marker. Now you’re ready to drink from it throughout the day—don’t forget to refill it as soon as it’s empty.

There are a lot of good options for water bottles out there, but the most important thing is that you like it. You’ll never stay on track with a water bottle you hate using or are embarrassed to be seen with.

Make It a Game

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

Gamification is an effective way to get yourself to do a lot of things, and drinking water is no exception. Incentivize your new water habit by rewarding yourself when you reach milestones. Go a whole week drinking your goal every day? Treat yourself to something you don’t normally get. It goes both ways too. Forget to drink enough water yesterday? No Netflix or video games until you’ve made up for it.

Competition is a great way to keep your drive too, and on her blog, the “Tri Sport Girl” suggests a race is the perfect way to compete with yourself:

Everything is more fun as a competition…. Apply the same concept to water consumption, and suddenly you’re racing to see how much water you can drink by lunchtime (my current PB is 1.25L) or how soon in the day you can finish 2L (my PB is 2:36pm).

Just be sure you’re not just drinking a bunch of water in the morning and none for the rest of the day. It’s best to spread it out, but a challenge is always a good way to keep yourself engaged. However you like to gamify your life, find a tool that works for you and track what you do. When you can see how well you’re playing your own game it can only help you.

Set a Timer and Create Mental Triggers

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

If you’re still having a hard time remembering to drink water, set a timer on your phone. Create a few alarms set to go off throughout the day and when one goes off chug a big glass of water. This might seem like overkill, but nothing snaps you back into a routine like a phone screaming at you to drink.

Part of building a new habit is finding a way to do things without the need of outside help, however, so it’s a good idea to create your own mental triggers. For example, if you start to feel hungry, have a glass of water. This does a few things for you: it’ll help your stomach and intestine on the digestive front, keep you hydrated, and possibly even curb your hunger. In fact, you may not even be that hungry and your brain just sent you the wrong signals for what it needed.

You can also make mental triggers for other things like having a glass of water every time you use the restroom or taking a sip of water every time you stop working. Have a sudden craving for junk food? Grab a glass of water instead. Triggers can be requirements you have to meet as well. Lauren Conrad—yes, that Lauren Conrad—made a rule that she can’t start each meal until she’sfinished a one liter bottle of water. It sounds kind of extreme if you don’t spread out your drinking, but it’s a great way to force yourself to focus on water first and food second.

Jazz Up Your Water Drinking Experience

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

You might be more inclined to drink water if it was a little more interesting. If that’s the case, there are plenty of ways to go beyond plain, boring H2O. Some fruit or cucumber in your water adds a little flavor without adding in the sugar you’d find in straight fruit juice. Freeze some lemon slices in ice cubes for an easy water upgrade or try a little ginger and herbs to switch things up a bit. If you’re missing the fizz from your soda, try some sparkling water or club soda. You’ll get the bubbly without the other not-so-great stuff.

Just like a personal water bottle, having a good water glass that fits you is important too. Use a glass you love and you’ll feel better about drinking from it. For example, I drink my water from a large Spider-Man glass (seriously, it’s awesome). It reminds me that super heroes drink their water, so I should too.

If super heroes aren’t your thing, consider a fun straw. If a crazy straw will get you to drink more, do it. Plus, drinking from a straw can help you drink more in the long run. You’ll sip and sip, not realizing how much you’ve actually had. Sure, you could probably drink just as much by chugging, but sipping from a straw takes less effort so you’re more inclined to do it.

Eat Your Water

How to Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water Every Day

Yes, food has water in it too. It may not have enough for you to only eat your daily intake of water, but there are some foods you can snack on that can help. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of water, and also make for a healthy alternative to chips or candy. Here are some of the fruits and veggies with the highest water content:

Cucumber, Lettuce, Celery, Radishes, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Cauliflower, Watermelon, Spinach, Strawberries, Broccoli, Grapefruit, Apricots, Cherries, Grapes, and Zucchini.

Pick your favorites and keep those around. It’s important to note, however, that when you cook these things, they lose a lot of their water, so they’re best eaten raw.

Drinking more water can literally change your life for the better. When you’re properly hydrated, you can digest easier, sleep better, and think clearer. Learn to love the taste of water, because every single sip is good for you.

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