Continuing with my recent theme about the importance of maintaining the right levels of hydration. I wanted to continue to reinforce just how important this aspect is, by illustrating some of the more extreme consequences of failure to do so.
Without even knowing it, many of us are walking around in a chronic state of semi-dehydration. And whilst this is very rarely life threatening, there's a big difference between the amount of water you need simply to survive, and the amount of water you need to perform at your very best.
If you're even the slightest bit dehydrated, it's impossible to function at your full capacity. Every single cell in your body needs water, including those in your brain and your muscles. If you're reading this, the chances are you're physically active - and in which case, you may need more water than you realise.
Is dehydration holding you back from reaching your full potential? Here are 10 signs to look out for!
1. You get 'brain fog' or lapses in concentration.
Did you know that your brain is made up of approximately 90% water? It should come as no surprise, therefore, that your brain is the first organ to show signs of dehydration. Lack of water in the brain has been shown to affect decision making, memory, and even mood. In a study conducted by the University of East London, researchers showed how the simple act of water consumption improved exam grades in students! (source: http://www.uel.ac.uk/news/press-releases/2012/04/waterexams.htm)
2. You have dry skin, eczema or psoriasis
Our skin is the largest organ in our body, and requires water to plump up the epidermal layer and prevent dryness. When we're dehydrated, water is released from the skin's cells to be transported to the vital organs, which results in a rougher, drier complexion. Before you invest in a new moisturiser, make sure you are hydrating your skin from the inside out.
3. You have acne
Although it is often put down to hormonal imbalances, acne can also be a symptom of dehydration. Our body requires water to remove toxins efficiently. If it is not getting enough, these toxins are forced to find another way out - in this case, they escape through the skin. It's not just facial acne you should be looking out for either; if you have zits on your arms, back or shoulders, this is a potential sign of dehydration.
4. You're constipated
No one likes talking about their trips to the bathroom, but if you're struggling to pass stool at least once per day, it could be a sign of dehydration. Water is absorbed into the digestive tract, which adds moisture to the stool and makes it easier to pass. If your stools are hard, lumpy, difficult to pass or infrequent, you may need to increase your water intake. Doing so is enough to decrease your risk of colon cancer by as much as 45%. (source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10404059)
5. You're craving sugar
Lack of water leads to sluggish digestion, and sluggish digestion leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the digestive tract. These bacteria crave sugar, and as a result, so do you. Stay hydrated to keep these bad bacteria at bay! Keeping hydrated will also keep you fuller for longer, meaning less sugary snacks in between your meals.
6. Your urine is dark
Look before you flush - your urine should be straw yellow, or ideally, clear. If it's any darker, it's a sign you need to increase your fluid intake.
7. You're retaining water
Believe it or not, but water retention is often a sign that your body needs more water. This is a simple evolutionary response designed to help the body preserve fluids in times when water was scarce. If your body is not getting the water it needs, it will respond by storing as much water as it currently has available. Diuretics can provide temporary relief, but often the best approach to water retention is simply to drink more water.
8. Your performance is suffering
Are you struggling to make progress in the gym? It could be down to a lack of water. Water is needed to oxygenate the blood and transport nutrients to the muscle cells, so is crucial to maintaining high level physical performance. Staying properly hydrated will keep your muscles looking fuller - so if you want to look good in those holiday photos, don't skimp on the H2O.
9. You're getting injured frequently
Water is a vital component of healthy joints and cartilage - so if you suffer from regular sprains, strains, or weakness in your joints, this may well be a sign of dehydration. An improper balance of electrolytes can also cause muscle cramping; to prevent these, sip on coconut water or H2PRO when training.
10. You get sick often
We talked earlier about how water is needed to transport nutrients and remove waste. If this function is compromised, it affects our immune system and we get sick more often. Staying hydrated also speeds the body's natural healing process, meaning when you do get ill, you'll bounce back more quickly!
How much is enough?
As a general rule, experts recommend 0.35 litres of water per kilogram of bodyweight each day. So, if you're an 80KG male, you will need approximately 2.8 litres of water each day to stay properly hydrated.
However, bear in mind that this calculation is for the sedentary individual, and doesn't account for the fluids lost through sweat. Therefore, if you're active, you're going to need to go even higher on the H2O. Pay attention to your sweat rate, as the more water you lose, the more you'll need to take in.
As you become more in tune with your body's hydration levels, you'll soon start to realise when you are getting the right amount of water. Proper hydration should never be overlooked in the quest for health and performance - so don't neglect it!!
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