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Are you chronically dehydrated?

Are you drinking enough? Water that is! When living and training in a warm climate, it is easy to underestimate how much you need to drink and it doesn’t take long to become dehydrated.

Your body is approximately 60% water (1), and whilst you might be able to survive a relatively long time without food, most people will only survive a few days without water. Most of us are not at risk of dying from dehydration in day to day life, but even mild dehydration, especially if it is chronic, can impact cognitive function and physical performance significantly. Internally, all your cellular and bodily functions require adequate hydration, without enough water your kidneys and other organ functions can become compromised (2). Staying well hydrated will keep your skin, joints and digestive system healthy and functioning at their best.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • thirst
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness/fainting
  • nausea
  • flushing of the skin
  • rapid heart rate
  • low motivation for training
  • feeling weak

How much do we need?

This can vary hugely depending on many factors such as environmental temperature and humidity, exercise, eating certain foods, drinking alcohol and how much you sweat.
On average, we need 30-40ml of water/kg of body weight, yet these needs are increased based on the above factors. Again on average, adults need around 3L a day as a baseline, with about 1 L of that coming from food, and 2L coming from drinking. Give or take depending on your size, remember this is just a guideline (3).

In very hot environments, it’s important to consider electrolyte replacement. This is particularly important for athletes exercising in the heat, and sweating out a lot of salts. Or for those suffering with vomiting or diarrhea. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium and every process in our body depends on these. Obviously, we consume a lot of these in the food we eat, but in certain circumstances we may consider supplementing these in the water that we drink. In the case of severe dehydration, rehydration should be approached with caution, slowly in small amounts and usually with electrolytes included. This is best guided by a suitably qualified health professional.

Day to day, when you hydrate, make sure you use a glass bottle, not plastic, as this can leach harmful toxins into your water. Glass, unlike some plastic bottles, does not contain chemicals such as BPA, phthalate, PVC, or polycarbonate, so nothing can leach into your water from a glass bottle. Plastics made from polycarbonate resin can leach bisphenol-A (BPA), a strong endocrine disruptor (4), into its contents. Studies suggest that BPA may negatively affect reproductive organs, such as the breasts and prostate, as well as causing potential heart problems. You can save money and Earth’s resources by utilizing an eco-friendly, reusable, recyclable glass water bottle. Glass is taste-neutral, so no plastic or metallic taste will affect your beverage.

Many people just “forget” to drink so a great place to start is to invest in a large glass (or stainless steel) water bottle, fill this with water and make sure you sip it throughout the day so you know how much you’re consuming. Herbal teas are another great way to increase your intake. Consuming certain foods can help you stay hydrated too, some examples of foods that have a high water content include:

  • spinach
  • cucumber
  • melon
  • celery
  • berries
  • capsicum
  • soups and broths
  • milk
  • yoghurt

Take Home Message

Staying hydrated is essential for your health. You will perform better at work and play if you are adequately hydrated. Depending on your size, environment and activity levels, aim to drink 2-3L of water per day as a baseline and consume foods high in water. If you are an athlete, you are an active person in a warm climate, or you are suffering with diarrhea or vomiting, you should consider an electrolyte replacement formula, and it is best to seek professional advice.