We’ve heard it from our doctors, teachers, trainers, nutritionists, parents, and friends. The advice to stay hydrated can even seem preachy or redundant at times. So what’s the deal? What happens if you don’t drink enough water? How can you tell? and do you really need to drink the recommended 8 glasses per day?
What is dehydration?
Ask the average person what dehydration is, and it’s likely they would respond that it is what happens when you don’t drink enough water. Specifically, dehydration is what occurs when you lose more fluids than you take in; it causes an inability for your body to perform basic functions. Your body requires water to function because the human body is made up of mostly water! 75% of both your brain and muscles are made up of water, while over 90% of your blood is water. Our bodies are so reliant on it, that while the average person could survive for over three weeks without food, one could only survive for around seven days without water.
But how can I tell if I’m dehydrated?
Your urine is changing colors- While bodily fluids are not something we like to normally think or talk about, your urine is a great indicator for your general health, especially when it comes to dehydration. Your urine should be a light yellow and mainly odorless. If your urine is dark or has a strong odor these are warning signs that you should drink more water. Check out this infographic from the Cleveland Clinic to learn more about what the color of your urine is telling you.
You are thirsty- Thirst is the most obvious sign that it’s time to drink some water, but you may have already reached a state of dehydration if you’re experiencing thirst. Furthermore, thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of exactly how much water you need.
Your heart is racing- For every quart of sweat that your body expels, your heart rate can increase by up to 8 beats per minute. This is because as you become dehydrated the volume of blood decreases in your body (remember, blood is made up of over 90% water). Your heart then speeds up to try to pump the same amount of blood as it normally would. As you exercise you sweat much more than you would doing any stationary activity. If you find that you’ve caught your breath and recovered after intense exercise but your heart rate is still elevated, it may be time to hydrate some more.
You’re dizzy or tired- We often think of reaching for food, coffee, or an energy drink at the first signs of fatigue and dizziness but your body may just be telling you that it needs more water. In fact, caffeine can act as a diurectic and actually increase dehydration. Because your heart is working extra to compensate for a lower volume of blood, you’re more likely to fatigue quickly and experience symptoms like dizziness.
Your muscles are cramping- As muscles are made up of mostly water, they need water in order to replenish nutrients, grow, and maintain elasticity. Muscle cramps may be your body telling you that you need to drink more water.
Other important signs of dehydration include: constipation, headaches, dry skin, irritability, and a loss in appetite
So how much water do I really need?
Every day we lose water through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. How much water each individual loses is dependent on factors such as diet, weight, and activity levels. This is why there is no one size fits all answer to how much water you need, although most medical professionals agree that 64oz of water a day is a good general guideline or starting point for water intake. Looking for a closer estimate? Check out this hydration calculator from Hydracoach that suggests hydration based on your weight and activity levels.
If you have a hard time remembering to drink water, try carrying a water bottle around with you. It can often make it easier to get the recommend amount of water in for the day.
But I hate the taste of plain water!
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, there are different types of waters to help you stay hydrated such as flavored water, sparkling water, electrolyte water, and coconut water. There are a wide variety of flavored and sparkling waters brands, including La Croix, Pellegrino, Perrier and Hint. Electrolyte water is water with added minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium) to replenish the ones that are naturally lost throughout the day. Lastly, coconut water is full of carbohydrates and electrolytes that can aid in muscle recovery and hydration. Coconut water is slightly sweet and nutty, and is made of the liquid from the center of young green coconuts.
In the case of all the alternatives above, some brands use only natural ingredients, some use artificial ingredients, and some add sugar so sure to check the ingredients list before purchasing.
If you’d rather spruce up your water yourself, try these flavored water recipes from The Yummy Life for a tasty way to get your fluids in!
1. All Citrus Flavored Water slice 1 orange, 1 lime, 1 lemon into rounds, then cut the rounds in half. Add to jar, press and twist with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon. Press enough to release some of the juices, but don’t pulverize the fruit into pieces. Fill the jar with ice. Pour in water to the top. Stir it with the handle of a wooden spoon or a chopstick. Put a lid on it, put it in the fridge, and chill.
2. Raspberry Lime Flavored Water Quarter 2 limes; with your hands, squeeze the juice into the jar, then throw in the squeezed lime quarters. Add raspberries. Press and twist with a muddler to release some of the juices (don’t pulverize the fruit). Fill the jar with ice, then add water to the top. Stir, cover, and refrigerate.
3. Pineapple Mint Flavored Water Add a sprig of mint to the jar–you can throw in the whole sprig; or, remove the leaves from the sprig, if you prefer to have the mint swimming around and distributing in the jar. Muddle the mint–the goal is to bruise the leaves and release their flavor–don’t pulverize them into bits. Add pineapple pieces, press and twist with the muddler to release juices. Add ice to the top and then water. Stir, cover, and refrigerate.
4. Blackberry Sage Flavored Water Add sage leaves to jar and bruise with a muddler. Add blackberries; press and twist with muddler to release their juices. Fill jar with ice cubes, add water to the top, stir, cover and refrigerate.
5. Watermelon Rosemary Flavored Water Add a sprig of rosemary to jar and muddle gently (rosemary releases a strong flavor without much muddling). Add watermelon cubes; twist and press gently to release juices. Fill jar with ice cubes, add water to the top, stir, cover and refrigerate.