Your body is 60% water. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in. This can be caused by an illness or, more commonly, simple things like not drinking enough fluids on hot days or while exercising (hey, we’ve all been there). Dehydration can lead to fatigue -- and occasionally, worse. With temperatures rising across the country, we thought it was a great time to review dehydration symptoms. Here’s how to tell you’re dehydrated and steps you can take to stay cool all summer long.
Signs You’re Dehydrated
The old saying is true -- if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink water as soon as you feel thirsty. Better still, drink water even before you start to feel thirsty, taking care to drink more than you normally would if it’s a hot day or if you plan on exercising or being outdoors. Alcohol and overconsumption of caffeine can also cause dehydration, so make sure you’re drinking water between alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
Tired? Moody? It may be due to more than lack of sleep. Researchers from The University of Connecticut found that even mild dehydration -- which they defined as a 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume in the body -- can impair your ability to think clearly while lowering energy and mood. Yikes!
If you feel a migraine coming on, ask yourself if you’ve gotten enough water. Dehydration can cause also cause dizziness and muscle cramps, especially if you’re exercising without adequate fluid intake.
Water is critical to carrying out many of the bodily functions we take for granted -- like regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, sweating, keeping your bowel movements regular (it takes more than fiber, people!), and protecting sensitive tissue.
Do I need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
While this is a solid baseline that’s been used for years, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Age, body weight, the climate you live in, and activity level all impact how much water you need. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
If those numbers sound scary, don't panic! About 20% of that daily intake comes from food. The rest can come from a wide variety of drinks.
How to Stay Hydrated
Drink water before, during, and after your workouts. Remember, there is more than one way to get your daily intake; certain foods, like watermelon and spinach, are nearly 100% water.
But I Don't Like Water
That's OK! Seltzer and sparkling water can add flavor without adding calories. Juices and caffeinated drinks in moderation can also count toward your daily intake.