What happens when I don't drink enough?
Drinking too little can cause mild dehydration, although most people don't realize they are dehydrated. The symptoms of mild dehydration include:
- Not as quick at solving problems or thinking through solutions (such as math problems or paper work).
- Lower your baseline muscular strength - for things as simple as opening a can with a can opener or completing your workout.
It's surprising that losing as little as three percent of your body's weight can cause the above symptoms. For someone who weights 150 pounds, that's just about 4-1/2 pounds. Losing 15 to 20 percent of your body weight as fluid can be fatal - which can happen during very hot weather and/or to athletes working out without drinking enough water.
We lose about 8 to 12 cups of water daily through respiration, perspiration, digestion and urine. Since the body does not store a lot of water, it must be replaced through food and fluids. Many foods are high in water content - most fruits and vegetables are 80 to 90 percent water. Following a balanced eating plan and drinking enough fluids both help hydrate the human body adequately.
Thirst is not always an accurate indicator of whether or not you are thirsty. In fact, the body's thirst mechanism does not kick in until you have lost that three percent of body weight that is an indicator of early hydration. Yes, the thirst mechanism is surprisingly inefficient! And, the thirst mechanism becomes even less efficient with age.
Try these tips for staying hydrated:
- Drink 6 to 8 cups of water daily. Develop a routine - drink water when you wake up, at each meal, between meals and before bed.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain loads of water. Go for those five to nine servings each day - recommended for your good health for many other reasons.
- If you don't like the taste of plain water, add lemon or lime.
- Sports drinks and diluted juices are good alternatives - as long as you keep track of your caloric intake. Limit these drinks to once or twice a day unless you exercise heavily. Also, look for reduced calorie juices and sports drinks with limited amounts of calories. There are several good varieties available on the market.
- Watch out for caffeine containing beverages like coffee, teas and soft drinks, which deplete the body of fluids. Alcoholic beverages are also dehydrating and promote fluid loss. If you do drink alcohol or caffeine containing drinks, replace each beverage consumed with the same amount of water.
- Invest in a sturdy, insulated water bottle and keep it with you during the day and whenever you workout. Have one to two cups of water around 15 to 30 minutes before working out and one cup for every 15 to 30 minutes of exercise. Weigh yourself before and after exercise especially in hot, humid conditions and replace each pound lost with 2 cups of water
Check your urine - clear and light coloured urine and frequent urination indicates adequate hydration. In other words, urine the colour of lemonade is one indicator that you are well hydrated, while urine the colour of apple juice means you might not be taking in enough fluid.