You’ve no doubt heard about how important it is to drink plenty of water, especially in the summer or while exercising, in order to stay hydrated. However, you may not be quite so familiar with the reasons behind this oft-repeated warning. What makes it so important that you stay as hydrated as possible?
Hydration vs Dehydration
Your body operates best when properly hydrated. A state of full hydration will help you to stay healthy and even feel happier. Drinking enough water also helps you to perform at your best, both mentally and physically.
Dehydration, on the other hand, is a potentially serious condition – and it’s a lot easier to let yourself become dehydrated than you think. Even a slight lack of water which isn’t serious enough for you to particularly notice, it can still start to cloud your thoughts or drag down your performance in physical tasks. According to a study by the US National Institutes of Health, it can also negatively affect your mood and mental abilities. Over time, symptoms can worsen and even lead to health problems. In the long-term, health issues caused by dehydration may include loss of kidney function, high cholesterol, and constipation or urinary infections. It can also result in damage to your muscles, joints and liver.
How To Tell If You Are Dehydrated
The NHS warns of several symptoms that could show you are not fully hydrated. The first sign will obviously be thirst. Thirst is such an everyday thing it’s easy to ignore, but our bodies tell us we are thirsty for a reason; to warn that dehydration is approaching and we need to take on some fluid. If this is accompanied by dizziness or a feeling of being light-headed, this is a definite sign you have gone beyond thirsty and stepped into dehydration territory.
The colour of your urine is also a good indicator. Dark-coloured urine means you should be drinking more, whereas almost-clear urine shows that you are well-hydrated. As dehydration progresses, you will find yourself urinating less frequently and passing smaller quantities of urine. You may also experience dryness of the mouth, lips and eyes, headaches, and tiredness.
If you find you are dehydrated – even moderately serious dehydration – you can still reverse
the problem by simply drinking plenty of fluid, most companies and schools own a mains fed water cooler, so be sure to use it regularly. Only when you encounter very serious hydration problems, or if symptoms are persistent even if you do drink more, will you need medical attention.
As for how much water you should aim to drink in a day, the general recommendation is 6-8 glasses. This is a good guideline, but is also a very approximate figure as the real amount varies a lot between individuals and depends on your activities and surroundings. The best thing to do is simply make sure you keep a drink on-hand, drink when you are thirsty, and watch out for the symptoms of poor hydration.