Did you know that by the time you are thirsty you are probably already dehydrated? It's true. Dehydration – as little as a 2% – negatively impacts your body and your mind. Dehydration can cause confusion, irritability, constipation, drowsiness, fever, and thirst. Other signs and symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include dry, sticky mouth, muscle weakness, stiff joints, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, cramping, decreased urine, cool extremities, slow capillary refill, and sunken eyes. Fortunately, you can usually reverse many of these symptoms by increasing your fluid intake.
For athletes or those with physical jobs, the inability to perform and focus as a result of mild dehydration may increase the risk of injury.
Athletes and may suffer a loss of athletic performance of up to 30%.
They may experience flushing, low endurance, rapid heart rates, elevated body temperatures, and rapid onset of fatigue. It is imperative that you drink enough fluid before, during, and after your workout or work shift.
Severe dehydration is the loss of 10-15% of body fluids and is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care.
The signs and symptoms of severe dehydration include:
- extreme thirst
- irritability and confusion
- very dry mouth
- dry skin and mucous membranes
- lack of sweating
- little or no urination
Any urine that is produced will be dark yellow, sunken eyes, shriveled and dry skin, rapid heartbeat, fever, coma, and even death. Dehydration of any kind will not correct itself
How much fluid should your drink? It is recommended that you drink the number of ounces in fluid that is equal to half your body weight each day. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, your hydration goal would be approximately 50 ounces per day with normal activities. You would adjust accordingly for days that you exercise intensely, drinking more.
Most active individuals have some level of dehydration at the end of a workout or work shift. Here is another hydration tip… It is recommended that you drink enough fluids to replace approximately 150% of the weight lost during exercise.
How do you know of you are dehydrated? One easy way to detect dehydration is to check urine color. It should be clear or very pale yellow. If it begins to darken in color, fluid intake should increase.
Another way to check for dehydration is to weigh yourself immediately before your workout and immediately after your workout. It is important to use a scale at the gym to be sure your weigh in occurs at the correct time.
If you have lost weight during your workout, you are dehydrated. If you have gained weight during your workout, you may have taken in more than enough fluid. If your weight is unchanged, GREAT JOB! You likely drank an appropriate amount of fluid.
It is important to replace fluids lost when exercising, but drinking pure water exclusively isn't always the safest choice for those who participate in very strenuous or long-duration exercise. When significant amounts of fluid are lost through high-intensity exercise, just replacing water can lead to a chemical imbalance in the body and deficiencies in electrolytes (hyponatremia).
Sports drinks, like Gatorade, can help restore electrolytes. These drinks should contain carbohydrates, sodium, and some potassium. The electrolytes in our body include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and phosphate, but sodium is the substance of most concern when replacing fluids lost through exercising.
Electrolytes are essential for proper organ function. The loss of electrolytes may contribute to dehydration headaches. It is imperative that you take in the proper balance of water and electrolytes, especially during exercise.
How do you prevent dehydration?
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially before, during, and after exercise. Sports drinks can encourage active people to drink more fluids because they are flavored and are higher in sodium.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol because both will cause dehydration.
- Avoid carbonated beverages because the carbonation may cause bloating or a feeling of fullness and prevent adequate consumption of fluids.
For most of us, being aware and prepared is the easiest way to prevent dehydration from occurring.
Karen Goeller, CSCS, is an athlete, gymnastics coach, personal fitness trainer, and business owner. She has educated thousands with her books, articles, and in person. Her education includes training in emergency medicine, physical therapy, and nutrition. She is the author of the Swing Set Fitness books, the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning books and has written more gymnastics books than anyone in the USA. She worked for world famous gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, owned a gymnastics club for ten years, and has been featured in newspapers, magazines, on radio, and on television. For more info and to see her gymnastics products visit www.KarenGoeller.com. Sign up for her Get Fit newsletter or see her fitness books at www.SwingSetFitness.com.