As we move towards summer, nothing appeals more to me than a cold drink. I'm thinking of a big glass of lemon water or an iced tea. As a runner, one of my chief concerns this time of year and on through September (sometimes October, depending on how hot Tennessee wants to stay!) is hydration. We can be dehydrated any time of year, but summer heat really accentuates our need for adequate H2O.
Dehydration isn't just a concern for athletes, however. Athletes are just more at risk.
We can be mildly dehydrated and not even know it. While this may not send you to the hospital, it can impact your body and your health in other ways, including your skin, headaches, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
These are some signs of dehydration that you might not even be aware of. If you know them, you will be better equipped to care for yourself and your health!
6 Subtle Signs You May Be Dehydrated
1) That Nagging Headache
A lingering headache that just won't go away is often a subtle sign of dehydration. Instead of going straight for the ibuprofen, go for a bottle of water first. The brain is a highly sensitive organ. When you became dehydrated, a lot happens to your body. One key effect is a drop in your essential minerals, like potassium and sodium. This is why athletes often turn to electrolyte replenishing drinks pre- and post-workout.
The subsequent chemical reaction in the blood causes blood vessels to constrict, causing a headache. The headache will only worsen as hydration decreases and blood vessels constrict further.
2) Your Bad Skin Day
Struggling with dry, flaky, or rough skin? How about excessive redness? You might be dehydrated. A lack of hydration can cause premature skin aging, too. Remember, hydration is key to maintaining elasticity and youth in the skin. Need another test? Try "the pinch." If your skin bounces back into position immediately, you've got hydration. If it stays in a pinched position, you're dehydrated.
3) You Just Want to Keep Eating
Have you been eating all day but you still feel hungry? You might really be thirsty. Your body may be after water rather than food, especially if you find yourself craving water-rich foods like fruits, melons, or berries. If you know you've had enough to eat in your day but you still feel like snacking, try drinking 8oz first.
4) Bedtime Can't Come Fast Enough
Fatigue is a red flag for dehydration. Remember, our bodies are made up of 80 percent water. Part of this water in our bodies is in our bloodstream, helping sustain our blood pressure. When we are dehydrated, our blood volume and blood pressure drop. This decreases the oxygen content in your blood, which makes your muscles feel weak and heavy. Nerves slow down. You'll find yourself feeling fatigued and just wanting to crawl back into bed!
5) You're Hot Under the Collar
Humans are sweaty. That's just a fact. Sweating is an essential process that helps us regulate body temperature by a process called evaporative cooling. When we're dehydrated, we can't produce as much sweat. Therefore, our bodies aren't as able to regulate temperature. We overheat, which can be very dangerous. Some people believe that sweating causes dehydration, and while excessive sweating can, it's a lack of sweat during heat and exertion that can be a sign that you're already dehydrated!
6) Ouch! Your Muscles!
Muscles cramps are likely the most common symptom of mild dehydration that runners notice. This is especially true during the summer, as heat makes us particularly susceptible to cramping. Your muscles are just overheating. If you're dehydrated, it's more difficult for your body to regulate its temperature. Remember those electrolytes I mentioned? A drop in potassium and sodium in the body can lead to muscle cramps, too.
While there are many potential causes for muscle cramps, dehydration is a high possibility.
Dehydration is possible year round. During the heat of the summer, however, it's critical that we take special precautions to protect ourselves from its dangers.
How Much Water Do I Need?
While there has long been a universal standard touted, the truth is, different people need different amounts of water daily depending on their level of activity, height, weight, sex, age, medications and medical conditions, and climate. There is still debate around how to calculate what we really need.
The conclusion is that, for most adult men between the ages of 19 and 30, 3.7 liters (130 fl oz) is adequate. For women, 2.7 liters (95 fl oz) is recommended.
Again, it fluctuates based on a multitude of factors. Rather than going by any one chart, it is better to speak for your physician if you have hydration concerns.
Do you have any experiences with dehydration? Let us know what signs tipped you off in the comments.