Like most people, you probably believe that you are drinking enough water. However, drinking water is not the full hydration picture. It’s all about taking in as much as you’re losing. Losing more fluid than we realize is what we’ll call stealth dehydration.
Don’t let perception be your reality – track your water intake over a few days. First, identify how much fluid you’ll need under ordinary circumstances.
To estimate your daily fluid needs: 33 ml / kg body weight.
How much water we each need depends on four factors:
- How much we perspire.
- How much we urinate.
- How much we defecate.
- How often we breathe.
Situations that require increased water intake:
- Hot weather
- Hot baths and showers
- Consuming certain foods and drinks, like alcohol or caffeine
- High altitude
- Illness (cold, flu, fever, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Air travel
Fluid replacement does not have to be from drinking eight glasses of water. Some sources recommend a mix of beverages and water-intensive foods. The Mayo Clinic reports that about 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food
There are two ways to easily monitor your fluid intake:
1 – Track It
Using an app like Daily Water, check off every time you consume a full glass or bottle of water, coffee, juice, tea or soda. Do this for three days and add it up, taking an average.
2 – Set a Goal
Fill water jugs with your goal amount. Your goal is to empty your jugs each day. Repeat a few days until it feels natural.
Boost your hydration level with water-intensive fruits and vegetables. All plant-based foods are 60-80% water, and they release that water into your system on a delayed basis, much slower than a beverage. Think cucumbers, melons, apples, and leafy greens.
10 Signs of Dehydration to Look Out For
1 – Thirst
As soon as you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Thirst is the most common and most obvious sign that your body doesn’t have the water it needs.
Try to start your day with a glass of water, and keep drinking small amounts throughout the day. If you’re going to be exercising or out in hot weather, be sure to increase your intake. The easiest way to prevent dehydration is to drink up at the first sign of thirst.
2 – Changes in the Color of Your Urine
Your urine can tell you a lot about your hydration level. If your urine looks darker than usual, you need to drink more water.
Aim for urine that is clear, pale yellow, or straw-colored. That’s a sign that you’re well-hydrated. Anything darker in color is a sign of dehydration .
Keep in mind that certain foods and medications may affect the color or odor of your urine. Riboflavin, also called vitamin B2, can turn your urine the color of lime Gatorade. B2 is commonly used as a supplement for natural Migraine prevention.
3 – Changes in the Amount of Urine
If you’re passing less urine or not going to the bathroom as often as you usually do, these could be signs of dehydration. Having dark-colored, strong-smelling urine and passing urine less often than usual are signs you need to drink up .
4 – Headaches or Migraine Attacks
Dehydration may trigger headaches or Migraine attacks in some people. A 2004 study in the journal Headache proposed that dehydration headache is common enough to be a primary headache disorder.
5 – Skin Elasticity Changes
Water is responsible for keeping your skin healthy (12). Skin elasticity, also known as skin turgor, can be a sign of dehydration. The journal Nursing recommends using skin elasticity as a test for dehydration.
Try it on yourself “by gently pinching a fold of skin between your thumb and forefinger. The skin you select, such as below the clavicle or on the abdomen, sternum, or forearm, should feel resilient, move easily, and quickly return to its original position when released after a few seconds.” If not, you may be dehydrated.
6 – Constipation
Water is necessary for keeping your digestive system moving and working. According to Harvard Health, stools that are dry and hard are signs of dehydration. Drinking enough water every day can help keep stools soft and passing comfortably.
7 – Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps may be among signs of dehydration. Cramps usually happen when your body is low in electrolytes like potassium and sodium . This can happen when you’ve been excessively sweating, like during or after exercise.
It’s extra important to stay hydrated during times of high endurance or high temperatures.
8 – Fatigue, Sleepiness, or Dizziness
Just like a car running low on fuel, feeling worn down and less energized is a sign of dehydration. If you feel unusually fatigued, like you’re lethargic, it’s best to contact your doctor .
When you are dehydrated, your blood pressure can potentially drop. Low blood pressure and a weak pulse are severe signs of dehydration. Low blood pressure can make you feel weak and tired. You may feel dizzy or light-headed when you stand up.
9 – Irritability or Confusion
Your brain needs water to operate, and dehydration can have serious impacts. If you suddenly feel unusually tired, lethargic, or confused and suspect you may be dehydrated, it is wise to contact your doctor.
10 – Dry Mouth, Lips, and Eyes
When your body starts to lose more water than it takes in, you may notice dry mouth, lips, and eyes. Dry eyes and mouth are among the tell-tale, easy to recognize signs of dehydration.
How to Prevent Dehydration
The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink water before you notice the signs. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, along with other unsweetened beverages. Eat whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
Use the formula at the beginning of this article to determine how much water you need to stay healthy. Set a goal to drink that much every day for 7 days. Then extend the goal to 14 days. Then a whole month!
Some tips to stay hydrated include:
- Drink when you are thirsty: Thirst is one of your body’s first signs of dehydration. Don’t ignore it!
- Pay attention to your pee: You want to be heading to the bathroom fairly often, and you want your urine to be clear or pale in color.
- Drink plenty of water (+electrolytes) before exercising: You lose more water through sweat, especially if temps are high. Drink water before you lose it to prevent dehydration.
- Replace fluids lost through sweat: Try to pay attention to how much you sweat. If you sweat a lot, drink more water.
- Replace fluids lost through vomiting or diarrhea: Sadly, an upset stomach is really common with a Migraine attack. If you are vomiting or having diarrhea, you need to make sure to drink even more water. If you’re unable to keep fluids down for more than 24 hours, seek medical attention.
- Don’t forget electrolytes: Regular water is enough to prevent dehydration for most people most of the time. If you are exercising hard or if the humidity is high, you might want to choose a sports drink with added electrolytes. Watch out for added sugars and calories, though.