Dehydration means that the body does not have enough fluids in the cells and blood vessels as it should. If we are losing more fluids than we are taking in, we can become dehydrated. When this happens, our bodies are designed to send a thirst signal to the brain and our kidneys begin to concentrate our urine to preserve fluid, thus, the dark urine color associated with dehydration. In the summers in NC with the heat and humidity, dehydration can show up quickly.
Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, headache, dizziness or confusion, muscle cramping, and increased heart rate.
Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise is also important for maintaining blood pressure and improving blood flow and circulation. This improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to working and recovering muscles.
Water does more than just keep our body hydrated. It plays a role in electrolyte balance, blood sugar maintenance, body temperature regulation (enabling proper cool down after exercise), nutrient transport, and toxin removal. Try to drink 8 oz. of water before exercise and 4-6 oz. every 15-20 minutes during exercise. When exercising for over an hour, or in very hot and humid temperatures, it may be a good idea to add electrolytes to your hydration plan. Electrolytes are charged particles responsible for fluid balance. The common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and chloride. This can be in the form of a sports drink mixed with water or a balanced meal after your workout.
It is also important not to drink too much. Over-hydration, can cause serious health risks as well. Like dehydration, overhydration can cause a dangerous imbalance of electrolytes. Symptoms of over-hydration include confusion, nausea, cramping, vomiting, headache, disorientation, and clear urine.
The standard recommendation calls for 8 cups of water per day, BUT most health professionals believe that health hydration is not a one size approach. Our fluid intake is one of the most highly regulated systems in our bodies. That is why it is so important to recognize any signs of over- or dehydration, check the color of your urine (ideal: light straw color), and keep track of the amount of water you are drinking.