7 Things You Should Know About Hydration
Each and every cell in your body needs water to complete its proper function. With rising temperatures, it’s extra important to stay hydrated. Read on for more information about common dehydration myths so you can stay healthy during the hotter months.
Dehydration May Be Uncomfortable, But It’s Not Dangerous
Most people will only experience mild dehydration symptoms like headache, sluggishness, or decreased sweat/urine output. Adults can generally bounce back to normal levels by drinking some extra fluids. However, serious dehydration can require medical attention and complications include swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, or even death. In children and older adults, dehyration is riskier, and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, irritability, and confusion.
You’re Already Dehydrated If You’re Thirsty
Thirst is your body’s way of telling you to drink water. You are not at risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated the minute you feel thirsty. Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, says, "When you get thirsty, the deficit of water in your body is trivial -- it's a very sensitive gauge. It might be only a one percent reduction in your overall water. And it just requires drinking some fluid." Drinking when you feel thirsty is a nearly fail-proof method of staying hydrated.
Drink Eight Glasses of Water Per Day
So how much should you be drinking? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that men drink about three liters of fluids per day, and that women drink about two liters. Others say there is no need to force a certain amount of water if you do not feel thirsty. And, about twenty percent of your daily water intake comes from food. You may need to drink more the more you exercise.
You Are Hydrated if Your Urine is Clear
The color can provide a measure of how hydrated you are. Pale yellow is actually best. However, certain foods and vitamin supplements can change the color of your urine.
There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Water
Overhydrating is also dangerous, but rare. Drinking too much water dilutes sodium levels in the body so much that your cells begin to swell. However, it takes seriously copious amounts of water to cause this condition. If you are really worried, Shape.com recommends not drinking to the point where you feel full from water alone.
Sports Drinks are Necessary for Exercisers
If you are working out for less than an hour, regular water is fine. Electrolyte and glycogen reserves do not get depleted unless you’ve been exercising intensely for over an hour.
Coffee is Dehydrating
Caffeine is dehydrating, but the water in coffee (and tea) pretty much make up for it. However, you could dehydrate yourself if you overdo it by consuming more than 5 cups of coffee per day, so don't do that.
Consult your primary care physician with any questions or concerns you may have.