Hydration: always drink water after and during physical exercise | Photo: Noboa/Creative Commons

Drinking water is one of the best ways to keep your body functioning at its best. But how do you tell if you're dehydrated?

Humans need to stay hydrated, but figuring out how much water they need to drink is really difficult.

A person's hydration needs depend on so many different factors. Ideally, you should start the day with a generous glass of water.

But that's obviously not enough.

Four out of ten people in the United States don't drink enough fluids, meaning that many people are getting through the day without enough water.

Soda drinks and alcoholic beverages are not the same things as still mineral water.

Dehydration: Signs and Symptoms

Have you been feeling slightly tired, lightheaded, with headaches, and slightly off? Are your mouth, eyes, and lips dry?

Instead of reaching out for pills, try to drink a glass of water and see if that goes away in half an hour.

But there are more signs that indicate you could be dehydrated.

You may also need to check the color of your urine because it's a really good way to figure out if you're hydrated or not.

The color should be a pale straw color - anything darker than that means you're dehydrated.

For instance, if your urine is brownish-yellow and strong-smelling, then you are severely dehydrated, so you must get some water in your system.

Also, if you're peeing fewer than four times a day, that could mean dehydration.

Interestingly, you can also be overhydrated. If that's the case, you might notice clear urine, and that's not a good thing.

A constantly clear, colorless urine is a sign of a lack of electrolytes (salts and minerals) in your body, which may lead to muscle cramps.

However, it's always better that we drink a little more water than a little less.

People suffering from diabetes will dehydrate faster than everybody else.

Also, if you've been in the sun for a long time, drunk too much alcohol, or have been experiencing fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, you will need to increase your water intake.

In children, you may notice signs of dehydration when they are crying, and they are no longer making any tears.

Also, if children are not making a lot of urine, they need to increase their water intake.

In babies, the most common signs of dehydration are unusual drowsiness or sleepiness, a dry diaper for three hours or longer, high fever, and fussiness.

Drink water: humans can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without water | Photo: Spanic/Creative Commons

Skin and Nails: Two Dehydration Tests

There are two very simple hacks you can do to yourself to determine if you're dehydrated.

The first one is called the skin turgor test. Here's how to do it:

  1. Pinch a little bit of skin on top of your hand to see how fast the skin retracts down;
  2. If you've drunk enough water, the skin should retract down pretty quickly in one or two seconds;
  3. If your hydration levels are down, your skin will be tented up and will only return to normal slowly;

Skin tenting is one of the several signs of dehydration.

To make sure the previous test is working well for you, do it when you know you're fully hydrated - then you have your baseline.

If the skin stays in the folded position for a while and it takes some time to move down, you're probably dehydrated.

The second hydration/dehydration test is the capillary refill test (CRT).

Here's how to perform it:

  1. Hold your testing hand above the heart;
  2. Pinch or press a nail bed until it gets white;
  3. Release the pressure on your nail bed;
  4. If it returns to its normal pink shade in two or fewer seconds, you should be hydrated;

Consequences of Dehydration

Good hydration levels help balance the chemicals that keep our bodies working harmoniously.

Water fills the cells, regulates body temperature via respiration and sweating, flushes waste, generates saliva, lubricates the joints, and cushions the spinal cord and brain.

Water also metabolizes and transports carbohydrates and proteins in the blood.

The human body is 75 percent water, but different organs have different percentages of water.

The brain is 73 percent water, the skin is a little less at 64 percent water, and the muscles and kidneys are a little more at 79 percent water. Bones, however, are only 31 percent.

The truth is that our bodies are constantly consuming water.

Whether sitting, working in front of a computer, walking, or even sleeping, our body constantly uses and loses water.

That is why humans can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water.

Athletes can lose up to 10 percent of body weight simply from losing water, so they must stay hydrated all the time, not only when they're thirsty.

Mild dehydration - a 1.5 percent drop in water levels - can negatively impact focus, alertness, and short-term memory.

Severe dehydration leads to type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity, altered mood states, and increased error rates while driving in men.

In women, the lack of water results in fatigue, tension, and anxiety.

Full dehydration is a severe condition. The human body immediately stops sweating, stops urinating, and attempts to conserve as much water as possible.

As a result, it causes the blood to thicken, increases blood pressure, and increases the chances of cardiac arrest and cognitive impairment.

Surfers: prolonged sun exposure requires constant hydration | Photo: Red Bull

Ideal Water Intake Levels

Watch your fluid intake. It's really easy to restore your hydration levels fast.

Water on an empty stomach can be absorbed through the intestine and hit the bloodstream in less than five minutes compared to 45-to-120 minutes if you've eaten.

Remember that drinking water during and after a strenuous surfing session, a long run, an exhausting tennis match, or vigorous physical activity will help your body recover from all fluid losses and help you cool off.

How much water should we drink a day?

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a male adult should drink around 3.7 liters (about 15.5 cups) of water, while a female adult should keep her fluid intake at around 2.7 liters (about 11.5 cups) of water.

Children aged 4-8 should drink around 1.2 liters of water per day, and children aged 9-13 should keep their daily intake at 1.5 liters per day.

A person's water needs may vary depending on the place where you live, the diet you've adopted, the average season temperatures, how active you are, and your overall health condition.

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