How to Tell If You're Properly Hydrated
Since both fluid recommendations and symptoms of dehydration vary from person to person, it's important to be able to measure hydration status beyond just what you drink. Luckily, there are a few easy techniques.
"The most accurate way to determine hydration status is to weigh yourself before and after a workout to see if you lose body water," Williams explains. "If you lost a pound, that's 16 ounces of fluid you need to get back into you."
Another simple test is to evaluate the color of your urine. A dark yellow to amber indicates dehydration, while a pale yellow means you're properly hydrated.
Watch for the Downsides of Dehydration
One of the best things you can do is to be aware of dehydration before it happens. Be conscious of situations that might cause or worsen dehydration, like heat, traveling on an airplane, intense outdoor activity or drinking alcoholic beverages, and the warning signs.
The effects of dehydration on the body might be as mild as a slight headache, but they can also be serious if left untreated over time.
Since the brain is about 85 percent water, dehydration can cause moodiness, lack of concentration, lightheadedness and fatigue. Loss of fluids and electrolytes can cause muscle cramping that hinders athletic performance, and even constipation can also be the result of chronic dehydration.
Your circulatory system suffers the impact as well. "Without being hydrated, your heart can't do its job," Williams explains. The combination of heat and dehydration can strain the heart, causing symptoms that may become severe, including palpitations, increased heart rate and weakness.
It's also important to keep an eye out for symptoms of dehydration in at-risk groups.
"Young children are more susceptible to dehydration," warns Williams. "They have a higher composition of water in their bodies to maintain and it's harder for them to articulate that they're thirsty." Older people who are on medications or who limit their fluid intake may also be more likely to experience dehydration.
Remember to Pre-Hydrate
To combat potential dehydrating circumstances, it's important to take precautionary measures.
Pre-hydration is an effective strategy. "If you have a long flight, a big race coming up or intend to spend your day outside, drink extra water in the hours before," suggests Williams.
Dehydration is important to guard against, but by being proactive, you can get ahead of it and stay feeling at your best.