One can endure only a few days without water. Although very often forgotten, providing the body with the fluids it needs is vital to life itself and to proper performance.
The value of hydration
Water represents 75% of body weight in infants and 55% in elderly, being essential for cellular homeostasis and life. Staying hydrated is crucial to the body’s ability to control temperature.
Adults are recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, although it also depends on the person and each individual’s characteristics, including their diet, gender (since men generally sweat more than women), and body size (larger people are more prone to sweating than thinner people). Environmental conditions are also an influencing factor: the higher is the temperature, the higher is the risk of dehydrating.
The intensity of exercise and its duration affects as well the loss of fluid. Those who enjoy physical activity should drink before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can occur in every physical activity setting, even if the temperature is not high. Well-trained athletes need to be even extra-cautious. Their bodies are used to additional stress and perspire much more than less fit people, so they are able to stay cool more efficiently than most us.
Dehydration: know the signs
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we should be aware of a few signs of dehydration.
First, the colour of the morning’s first urine is an overall indicator of hydration status.
Straw or lemonade coloured urine is a sign of appropriate hydration.
Bright urine often is produced soon after consuming vitamin supplements.
Dark coloured urine, the colour of apple juice, indicates dehydration.
Colourless urine means overhydration (happens when the body takes in or holds on to more fluid than the kidneys can remove).
Also, early signs of dehydration are thirst, flushed skin, premature fatigue, increased body temperature, faster breathing and pulse rate, increased perception of effort and decreased exercise capacity.
Later signs include dizziness, increased weakness and laboured breathing with exercise.
Don’t wait to feel thirsty
For some of us, the practice of drinking water regularly can be a tedious task and is often forgotten. Oblivious to the fact that we are not taking the necessary amount of water, symptoms of dehydration may appear.
To make drinking water a habit is extremely important. Having a glass with water at the same time each day could facilitate the adoption of the routine. You may also carry a bottle of water on the morning commute or keep a cup of water on the desk. Waiting for thirst to replenish your body’s water levels may not be the best strategy: by the time you become thirsty, you have already lost two or more cups of water from your physical structure.