It’s amazing how many maladies like headaches and fatigue can be attributed to dehydration. And considering how simple it is to drink more water, hopefully this article will give you a little kick in the butt to ensure you’re getting enough.
After all, the human body is predominantly water and thrives when it is properly hydrated. But what is “proper hydration?” Well, that’s what I’m about to answer for you.
The Uber Simple Hydration Equation
The first thing you need to do is calculate how much water your body needs at rest. That’s working at a desk, puttering around the house, reading and doing all of the other things you do throughout the day. This is your bare minimum water requirement – what your body needs to function.
The basic equation for determining this is by dividing your body weight in half. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you would need 100 ounces of water per day if you’re not doing anything strenuous. If you’re working out, hiking, at a high altitude or outdoors a great deal, you’re going to need to add to those 100 ounces
Why Dehydration Is Dangerous
When you don’t get enough water, every cell of your body is affected. When you sweat, you lose a lot of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium and chloride, which are essential to your body’s functions. Pretty much all of your cellular communications revolve around sodium and potassium, including muscle contractions and action potentials. This is why you’ll often get a cramp when you work out without proper hydration.
Thirst and a dry mouth are not the first signs of dehydration. In fact, by the time you notice these symptoms, your body’s cells are already craving water. Thirst is your body giving you a heads-up, but your body is already feeling the effects of too little water.
Fatigue, lethargy, headaches, inability to focus, dizziness and lack of strength are all possible signs of dehydration. When in doubt about the reason for these symptoms, go ahead and down a glass or bottle of water.
One of the best ways to see how hydrated you really are is to look at your urine. If your urine is anything but clear, you need to get more water into your body. Yellow and orange are not the normal colors of healthy urine, and if your urine is brown, you need to get to the hospital.
If you’re urine is yellow or darker, then be sure to throw back a few glasses of water. The next time you use the bathroom, you should notice clearer urine, which indicates better overall hydration. You’ll also notice those symptoms of dehydration disappear as you replenish your body’s water reserves.
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
It’s rare, but yes. As much as you need water, it is possible to get too much. Having too much water in your system in relation to sodium is called hyponatremia, and it’s not actually from too much water as much as it is from an imbalance between water and electrolytes.
When you lose water (through sweating and elimination), you lose electrolytes. If you replenish your body with just water, you dilute the electrolytes that are already running low in your system. If this occurs, your interstitial sodium levels can get so low that you can actually die. It’s not extremely common, but it does happen.
This is why sports drinks or electrolyte drinks are so important. I don’t really care for Gatorade and other sports drinks that are loaded with artificial colors and flavorings, but a very simple thing you can do to ensure proper hydration is to add half a teaspoon of sea salt to one of your glasses of water. It really doesn’t get much easier than that.
So remember, half your body weight (pounds) in ounces is how much water you should be drinking each day, and if you’re exercising and sweating profusely, add another liter of water with half a teaspoon of sea salt to ensure proper electrolyte replenishment
Chris Thompson, MS, CSCS
Chief of Staff, Fitness Director