When the weather outside is frightful… we tend to reach for hot tea, mulled cider, even warm whiskeys to thaw our chilled bones.
Sometimes we forget to stay hydrated, and those bad habits continue well into the summer months.
We reach for iced tea instead of water. Cold fountain soda. Icey beers in koozies at cook-outs.
And even though most of us have lived through enough summers to recognize the signs of dehydration, there are actually plenty of surprising symptoms that we might not recognize!
The days are longer. They’re hotter. Because of coronavirus, we’re spending more time at home and with higher gas bills than we’re used to. Not to mention, it’s more vital than ever that we keep our bodies hydrated and fueled.
First, let’s talk about how much water you should actually be drinking – you may be shocked to find out how far below the standard a lot of us are falling.
Then, we’re going to look at some of the ways dehydration can manifest, and how much time you have to do something about it once you notice!
How Much Water Do We Need?
Think about this: Almost every moment of the day, you’re losing water. And during the summer, you’re losing even more of it to perspiration. Even breathing causes you to lose bits of your body’s water supply.
You may have heard that to stay hydrated, you need to drink 8 cups of water per day. That’s not necessarily incorrect – but experts estimate that you actually need much more.
Men should be ingesting 15.5 cups of water per day, while women need 11.5, at least according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
And if you:
- Live in a hotter-than-temperate area
- Are pregnant or breast-feeding
- Exercise regularly
- Or get sick often…
You should be drinking even more water than that. A helpful metric to gage your water intake is to try to drink half of your weight in ounces every day. (If you weigh 200 pounds, try to drink 100 ounces of water per day.)
How Will You Know You’re Dehydrated?
Most of us, at the very least, drink when we’re thirsty. But by the time we’re thirsty, we’ve usually already lost 1 to 2% of our body’s water content. At that point, your mood, memory, focus, and coordination is already affected.
If we’ve already lost that much water by the time we register that we want water, think about how much water you’ve lost by the time you notice that your urine is darker, that you’re having chronic headaches, that your lips and skin are dry and constantly in need of chapstick and lotion.
You see, water functions as a lubricant for your body. It helps nutrients travel throughout your bloodstream, regulates your temperature, and greases your joints so they bend and perform smoothly.
Without it, lots of things can start to go wrong which, disconnected, don’t necessarily add up to dehydration.
Look out for these signs…
- Lowered immune functionality. Do you tend to catch every virus and infection that goes around? Drinking water flushes out toxins and keeps them away from your immune system.
- Sore muscles and joints. Does your body ache without your being able to point to a physically strenuous event? Drinking water provides joints with the safe-casing they need, while also helping to prevent seizing attacks in muscles caused by heat. Water will cool them down!
- Fatigue and brain fog. Do you find it difficult to focus, even in the best of conditions? Lack of water flow means lowered blood pressure, which means restricted blood flow to the brain. Plus, your brain is 75% water. Depriving it of the substance from which it’s made causes it to function at a diminished capacity.
- Craving sweets or carbs. Are you often hungry for carbs or chocolate? The liver uses water to release the glucose it has stored, which is called glycogen. Drinking water helps the liver do its job, and without it, the body may be tricked into thinking it doesn’t have enough glycogen, sending signals to the brain that it needs some!
- Bad breath. Is your breath often stale and offensive? That may be because saliva has natural antibacterial properties that help to starve bacteria that cause bad breath. Without enough water to create saliva, this doesn’t happen, and you end up with dry mouth and morning breath.
If you think you’re drinking enough water, drink more.
And if you notice any of these signs and symptoms, especially in tandem with each other, drink twice as much water as you think you should.
Studies have shown that bodies can return to full hydration in around 45 minutes, if you drink about two bottles’ worth.
Don’t let your attention waver – drink water before you’re thirsty, and throughout the day!