Do you only drink water when you’re thirsty? If so, you may be unknowingly living in a dangerously dehydrated state.
How Do I Know if I’m Dehydrated?
Logically our body should tell us when it needs water. And it does. However, according to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, people commonly mistake a “dry mouth” as an initial sign the body needs water, but this is too late. He believes the human body perceptively knows it’s dehydrated when it starts to feel tired without reason. In other words, if you haven’t been working hard and yet you feel tired, this is an early sign of dehydration.
Other common indicators of dehydration include infrequent urination, constipation, and yellow colored urine.
Why isn’t Thirst a Reliable Sign?
According to the Mayo Clinic, one’s sense of thirst – having cravings for fluids and a dry mouth – can be obscured based on factors such as age and environment. This is especially true in children and older adults, who typically have a less acute sense of thirst.
Active individuals are also at risk if they rely on thirst to determine their fluid replacement needs. According to American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) President W. Larry Kenney, Ph.D., water quenches the sensation of thirst before the body fluid replacement is achieved. Therefore athletes who gauge their hydration based on thirst may not drink enough. This is particularly noted in hot climates and with heavier exercise.
Other factors can mask your thirst mechanism. For example, cold conditions can trick you into thinking you’re not sweating as much, and can also shut off your desire for fluids.
Why Dehydration is Dangerous
According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration is “a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.” Mild to moderate dehydration can also cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness and constipation. In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness can result.
For athletes, dehydration of as little as 1-2% of one’s body weight has been shown to impair muscle endurance. At 3-4% dehydration, muscle strength and endurance significantly drop and performance is impaired.
For infants, dehydration is a major cause of illness and death throughout the world.
Best Practice Tips for Hydrating
Developing a habit of drinking water throughout the day – instead of in response to the body’s thirst signals – reduces the risk of becoming dehydrated. It’s a good practice to drink plenty of water first thing in the morning; with meals; and before, during and after exercise. Athletes have additional hydration requirements. If you’re not sure if you’re drinking enough, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian.
Don’t wait until your body cries out for water to hydrate!
Source of Information
Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” and “You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty!”
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