In the heat of the summer, you sweat more. You can’t really argue with that.
You go for a walk, you sweat. You workout, you sweat. Some days, you sit on your front porch and suddenly notice your forehead is damp. You start to wonder if your chair was wet before you sat down. Nope, that’s your sweat.
Summer or not, if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
But, why should you care? You’re doing just fine…
Your body is 60% water, and it cannot perform one single function without it. Digesting your lunch? Needs water. Growing new cells? Needs water. Neurons making connections in your brain so you can learn something new? Needs water.
Your brain is 75% water! When you’re dehydrated, your brain shrinks.
Even mild dehydration from exercise impacts your short term memory. It also effects your ability to organize and plan, and even how well you’re able to manage emotions. Hmm… That’s why I snapped at my husband at the end of our hike last week!
Feel lethargic later in the afternoon? Constantly have to lather lotion on your dry legs? Feel irritable in the summer heat? Find it hard to concentrate at work? You are probably dehydrated!
Do you experience any of these dehydration symptoms?
Sleepiness and Fatigue
A Racing Heart or Dizziness
1. Sleepiness and Fatigue
If your body doesn’t have enough water, it’s going to prioritize the water it does have for
tasks that keep you alive. It doesn’t care if you need to take your daughter to gymnastics in 10 minutes! You’re tired.
Your body also wants to conserve the fluids it has, and it doesn’t want you to sweat more! No moving? More sleeping? Less sweat!
2. A Racing Heart or Dizziness
When you’re dehydrated, you have a lower blood volume. Your heart has to work harder to pump more oxygen to your brain.
If your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, this is the feeling of dizziness. Your body wants you to lay down to make its job easier to get that blood to your brain.
3. Dry Eye
It may not be your contacts drying your eyes out at the end of the day. If your body doesn’t have enough water, that includes your eyes!
4. Difficulty Concentrating
Even mild dehydration impacts your ability to concentrate and your short term memory. How did I lose my keys again already? I just had them...
Not being able to concentrate paired with your increased sleepiness could leave you
with disastrous results. Being dehydrated impairs your driving and causes lane drifting and late braking… the same amount as having a blood alcohol level of .8%!
Add a glass of wine and a bit of sleep deprivation, and you could find yourself in a dangerous situation. Drink your water!
Dehydration increases tension and anxiety, which is bound to have you snapping
at your kids when you know they don’t deserve it.
That feeling on a sticky summer afternoon when you just can’t get comfortable and nobody is happy? Yep, I’ve been there, too. Try a water break next time.
6. Dry Skin
Instead of reaching for the lotion, try reaching for a glass of water as well.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. If your body is dehydrated, so is your skin.
You need water to digest your food and help move food waste through your colon.
Your body will prioritize sending water to your brain over your colon when it’s dehydrated.
Not enough water in your colon will lead you down the path to constipation.
Even mild dehydration can result in that unpleasant, dull ache that will plague you for the entire day. Remember how I said your brain shrinks when you’re dehydrated? That shrinking causes your brain tissues to pull away from your skull, causing pain.
I know, this one is obvious. But thirst is your body’s way of yelling at you to drink something already!
There’s a problem with using thirst as an indicator of when to have a glass of water. When you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Am I Dehydrated? How to Test for Dehydration
The color of your urine has long been stated as a reliable self test for your level of hydration. While it can certainly give you a general idea, there are a few factors that could mess with your results.
For one, different toilets have different water levels. More water? More diluted pee. It’s already going to appear lighter than in a toilet with a lower water level.
Also, different medications and supplements can alter the color of your urine. If you’ve ever experienced the neon yellow pee that follows a B12 supplement, then you know what I’m talking about.
Here are a couple of more reliable methods for testing your hydration level:
1. Measure your urine
Step 1: Drink 3 cups of water.
Step 2: Wait an hour.
Step 3: Go to the bathroom with a cup. If you eliminate less than a cup of urine,
you were dehydrated!
2. The Turgor Test aka The Skin Elasticity Test
(Note: This test is not reliable for people ages 65 and up due to the decreased elasticity of skin with age)
Step 1: With your thumb and forefinger, pinch skin on your arm or stomach
Step 2: Release the skin and count.
Step 3: If the skin returns to normal within 1-3 seconds, you are within the normal range.
If it takes longer than that, it could be a sign of dehydration.
What are the benefits of hydration?
Drinking enough water not only prevents some of the doom and gloom we talked about earlier, but there are also some significant benefits to keeping your body in a state of happy hydration.
1. Increase your metabolism
After drinking 500 ml of room temperature water, or about 2 cups, your metabolism increases by 30%. This results in approximately 24 calories burned… just from drinking water!
2. Protect yourself from heart disease
Keeping hydrated decreases your risk of dying from heart diseases
like heart attack and stroke.
3. Prevent bladder cancer
For every cup of water that men drink per day, their risk of getting bladder cancer drops
by 7%. If you’re in a constant state of hydration, your risk of developing bladder cancer decreases by 50%.
4. Perform better at work and school
At the beginning of a school day, some children were given a cup of water to drink. The other group of children maintained their regular levels of hydration.
Both groups were given a test that involved visual attention and a memory task. The children that drank just 1 cup of water did significantly better on the test than the other group.
How much water should you drink in a day?
Alright, you’re convinced. You need to start drinking more water… Time to start measuring out your 8 cups of water for the day!
Ehhh… maybe not. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Maybe you read somewhere that you should take your body weight, halve it, and drink that many ounces of water per day.
Sorry, not that simple, either. In fact, this modern recommendation is based off of a single study that only had two participants.
How much water you need to drink has a lot more factors than just your body weight. How much do you exercise? What’s the temperature outside? What kinds of foods do you eat?
Food alone accounts for approximately 20% of your daily fluid intake. That number can differ a lot depending on what foods you’re eating, though. Fruits and vegetables are 90-95% water, while dry breakfast cereals are only 2-5% water.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women who exercise moderately in moderate temperatures should drink approximately 4-7 cups of water per day, and men should drink 6-11 cups.
Does it always need to be water?
Surprisingly, and much to my relief, coffee is not a dehydrator! That myth has stuck around since 1928, dating back to a single study that had just three participants.
In fact, the only liquids that actually dehydrate you are wine and liquor. All the other liquids just hydrate you less than water does.
So bust out that water bottle, set a goal for yourself, start some new habits, and become optimally hydrated for success!
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