Dehydration happens when your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to function properly. Unfortunately, thirst is not always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water.
Did you know that serious conditions such as blood clots, seizures, and other potentially fatal complications can result from dehydration? Even mild dehydration can have significant adverse effects on energy, mood and athletic performance.
This is why it is SO important to catch dehydration before the obvious signs like thirst and fatigue.
How, do you ask?
Here Are 7 Surprising Indicators That You Might Be Dehydrated:
1. Dry Skin
Think only sweaty people are losing fluid? Think again. If your skin is dry, it could be a sign that you are dehydrated. The difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin is that dry skin generally refers to skin that is lacking in oil, whereas dehydrated skin lacks the moisture.
It’s important to note that even oily skin can experience dehydration. The next time you have dry, dehydrated skin, try hydrating your body with fluids and electrolytes before reaching for the lotion.
2. Bad Breath
Halitosis, (aka bad breath), is caused by bacteria in the mouth. Typically, your saliva has natural anti-bacterial properties that fight off bad breath, but when you are chronically dehydrated, you don’t produce enough saliva. The bacteria flourish in this dehydrated environment and cause bad breath. Yuck!
3. Food Cravings
Your organs need water in order to release glycogen, which is the fuel reserve meant to keep our bodies running optimally. When you are dehydrated, you actually get food cravings for sweet or salty snacks because you are experiencing difficulty with glycogen production.
If your body is dehydrated, you may feel a hunger sensation, which is actually your body asking for hydration so the energy stores can continue running smoothly.
The brain is encased in a sack of fluid that protects it from trauma and from bumping up against your skull. When you are dehydrated, that fluid sack is depleted, and your brain can actually press against your skull, which causes headaches. Yikes!
5. Muscle Cramps
When you exercise, your muscles have to work harder than normal, which in turn creates a lot of heat. When your muscles get hot from exercising, you are more likely to get muscle cramps.
So if the muscle tissue is dehydrated, it will seize up and cramp. Low electrolyte levels in the body – especially sodium and potassium – will also trigger muscle cramping.
Water is essential for keeping all the moving parts moving! The food you eat makes its way from your stomach to the large intestine. If you don’t have enough fluid in your body, the large intestine is forced to use water where it can, and will actually soak up water from your food waste. This lack of water in your intestinal tract can in turn cause constipation.
The body tries to maintain a steady cardiac output of blood that is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body. If the fluid in the intravascular space is decreased, the body compensates by increasing the heart rate and making blood vessels constrict in an effort to maintain blood pressure and blood flow to the vital organs.
If you are dehydrated, the experience of “lightheadedness” is a result of this heightened shift in blood pressure.
Here Are 5 Tips to Help You Stay Hydrated:
Anyone who exercises can become dehydrated, especially in hot, humid conditions or at high altitudes. Athletes who participate in endurance sports are at even higher risk. In short, the longer you exercise, the more challenging it is to stay hydrated. During exercise, your body loses more water than it can absorb. With every hour you exercise, your fluid debt increases.
Dehydration is also cumulative over a period of time, so you can become dehydrated with even a moderate exercise routine if you don’t drink enough to replace what you lose on a daily basis.
1. Know How Much to Drink
It is important to hydrate well in advance of any activity. Starting two hours prior to activity, consume about 16oz or 500ml of fluid. A half hour prior, drink another 8oz (or 250ml) of fluid. It’s crucial to hydrate before you engage in any activity; otherwise you might be starting out dehydrated (particularly if your activities are in the morning).
2. Know When to Drink
Have lots of fluid during the early stages of your chosen exercise. You will absorb water better during this time. We’ve all experienced the uncomfortable sensation of water bloat after chugging in the middle of exercise. Avoid this by planning ahead and drinking the above-mentioned amounts at the specified times.
After an hour of relatively intense activity, you will NEED electrolytes. At that point in time, it becomes essential to replace the minerals you have lost through sweat. If you are a heavy sweater, or you lose a lot of salt when you sweat, you’ll see white marks on your shirt or bra after engaging in intense activity.
Pick a high-quality electrolyte drink or supplement. Many low-quality sports drinks are essentially high fructose corn syrup and dyes and are not advisable for optimal performance or your healthy lifestyle.
4. Know What to Avoid
Stay away from caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic and can actually dehydrate you. Sugar is not your friend either. It will lead to a sugar high, followed by a crash, and neither will serve your fitness goals.
5. Beware of the Sun
Keep in mind that even when you are swimming, you still need to hydrate. Many people get sick at pool parties because they don’t feel hot during their time in the pool, yet the problem is they are not putting fluids inside their bodies.
This can be compounded by all that time in the sun, and even more so if you are old enough to have alcoholic beverages (since these are also dehydrating). Be sure that you’re staying hydrated any time you are outside for long periods of time.
Why Do I Need Electrolytes? The Takeaway on Dehydration
As an athlete or fitness enthusiast, you might be wondering why there is so much hype over electrolytes. “Why can’t I subsist on water alone?” you might ask. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge. They have an impact on how your muscles function, how alkaline your blood is, and how much water you have in your body.
In addition to their individual roles, electrolytes often work in harmony with vitamins and other minerals in the body to keep you feeling good and performing at your best.
It would be fairly impossible to achieve peak performance without proper hydration (which includes balanced electrolytes), so pay special attention to your individual hydration needs, and stay healthy while getting the most out of your fitness regimen!
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