As the temperature rises and the sun comes out, not only does an ice cold beverage refresh and quench thirst, it’s absolutely necessary to keep your body functioning at it’s best. It’s no secret or surprise that we need to drink plenty of water and maintain hydration, especially in hot weather and during intense exercise. But what if we miss the mark? What signs should we look for to stave off dehydration? What should we do if we cross the dehydration threshold?
What is dehydration?
Quite simply, dehydration is your body losing more fluids than it takes in, and is losing the ability to perform or maintain normal functions. Dehydration doesn’t mean your body is only lacking water, but also electrolytes like potassium and sodium (electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge when dissolved in liquid. Blood electrolytes help regulate nerve and muscle function and maintain acid base and water balance.) Certain individuals with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, children or the elderly are particularly vulnerable to dehydration as they can easily miss the cues that they are working towards a hydration deficit. Dehydration ranges from mild to intensely severe and life threatening, and can often be difficult to recognize if you’re not tuned into your body and monitoring fluid intake.
What are the stages?
Mild to moderate dehydration is most often characterized by feeling thirsty, fatigued, dizzy, headaches, and constipated to varying degrees. Gaining access to water (or nearly any beverage – skip soda, coffee or highly concentrated fruit juices) can bring relief and adequately rehydrate the body. Advanced dehydration can induce vomiting, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Medical help is necessary, but water and electrolyte replenishment is crucial ASAP.
Other sneaky signs
While those listed above are the most common and recognizable symptoms of dehydration, it can also show itself in sneaky forms. Bad breath, dry skin, flushed skin, and weird food cravings (especially sweets) can be indictors of dehydration. Fever, chills, and muscle cramps can be indicators of heat illness – which can cause dehydration – as the body is unable to cool itself adequately. This occurs primarily during intense or excessive exercise, as muscles can seize from heat and electrolyte fluctuations.
How to avoid dehydration
For most of us, avoiding dehydration is easy. Simply give yourself adequate access to water or fluids at all times, especially in hot weather and during your workouts. If you’re thirsty, drink water and drink enough to adequately quench your thirst. Then drink some more. If fluid access is limited, or chugging water doesn’t align with your training or activity, then an electrolyte enhanced beverage can be helpful, or food with a high water content. Skip the sugar-filled “sports drinks,” caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, and opt for one of these healthy alternatives instead:
Lemon water, or other citrus fruits
Watermelon or cantaloupe
Cucumber, zucchini, or tomato
Make your own delicious electrolyte beverage
Simply combine the ingredients below to make your own refreshing drink. Bring a bottle along for your hike, bike ride, camping trip, river float, or any fun in the sun event! Lemon, lime, ginger and sea salt provide vital electrolytes, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium.
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp lime juice
4″ piece ginger peeled, grated and pressed over mesh sieve to a pulp (about 1 tsp ginger juice)
2 tsp agave nectar (or choice of natural sweetener to taste)
1/8 tsp sea salt
2.5-3 cups water (mineral water or coconut water for added boost)
NASM Nutrition Certification Chapter 11: Nutrition. The Physiology of Hydration.
Everyday Health. “6 Unusual Symptoms of Dehydration You Should Know About.” 29 May 2019. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/unusual-signs-of-dehydration/
Epicurious. “Lemon Ginger Electrolyte Drink.” June 2016. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/lemon-ginger-electrolyte-drink
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