How to Tell if You are Dehydrated


Dehydration is something everybody should take seriously, not just athletes.


An estimated 75% of Americans today are chronically dehydrated, but you wouldn’t really know it from looking at them (unless of course, you know what to look for).

You may think that dehydration is something you will only ever have to worry about if you find yourself marooned on a desert island, but you would be wrong. Dehydration affects many Americans today, causing daily symptoms of fatigue, memory issues, irritability, and decreased cognitive functioning. A study conducted in 1990 found that chronic dehydration is a key factor in the development of kidney stones, and that subjects in the study who hydrated themselves properly saw a drop the reoccurrence of stones.

READ MORE: The Effects of Alcohol on Athletes and Sports Performance

We are supposed to drink eight servings of hydrating beverages a day, and even though most of us are doing our best, that hydration is often offset by caffeinated beverages and sodium-rich diets. So the bad news is that dehydration affects almost everyone on a daily basis. The good news is that dehydration is highly preventable.

So how do you tell if you are dehydrated?

Thirst is one of the main signs of dehydration, as being only 1 or 2% dehydrated automatically triggers the body’s thirst response.

Dark urine is a surefire sign of dehydration, since the body is actively trying to preserve water by slowing the kidneys down, resulting in more concentrated urine.

Bad breath can be a sign of low hydration levels, since one of the first things to go in a dehydrated body is saliva production, which helps kill bad bacteria in the body.

Headaches and trouble with concentration can mean you are dehydrated as well. Even mild dehydration can alter mood levels, affect your energy and make it difficult to think.

Food cravings can alert you to your own dehydration, because when the body isn’t getting the fuel it needs to create energy, it automatically craves food (especially sugary food), which is a slippery slope from mild dehydration to weight gain.

Severe dehydration happens when your body starts taking water from within, and can cause your bodily systems to malfunction. The symptoms of severe dehydration are:


Extreme thirst

Sunken, dark circles around the eyes,

Dry skin

Low blood pressure

Inability to sweat/cry

Lack of urination

To combat this, try the following tips:

First thing in the morning, drink two full glasses of water. I have found it helps to keep a full (reusable) bottle of water on my bedside table.

Keep water on you at all times, especially if you are spending time outdoors or in the sun.

Drink water before every meal. This will not only keep you hydrated, but it will curb your appetite too, which is a great weight-loss bonus!

Add sliced fruits to your water to dress it up a little. Who doesn’t love some spa water in the middle of the day?

Eat lots of fruits that are high in concentrated water, such as melons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, greens, and grapes.

The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. But when it comes to dehydration, you really should pay attention, because dehydration can wreak havoc on your body, and it is super easy to prevent.

Published by karenmsutton

HSS Orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine | Mother of 4 amazing children | Team physician for USA Women's Lacrosse | ACL injury expert

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