Hydration seems simple, right? Drink water whenever you’re thirsty, and you’ll be fine. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Waiting to be thirsty is already a sign that it is too late. Protima Tiwary discusses dehydration, and how to combat it.
If you’re working out regularly, chances are that your body needs more water than what is necessary. If you’re a runner, waiting to be thirsty and parched is the wrong way to go about hydrating yourself. Sometimes, athletes and runners are dehydrated even before they start working out because it’s possible that their hydration game is not on point.
Dehydration occurs when your body does not have enough water. This is not only because you didn’t drink enough; the fact that your body is losing water during running and exercising is another strong factor to consider. Experts say that the average runner is already working from a deficit the moment they start running, and most of the people are already 2% dehydrated in their daily lives! (Source- The Korey Stringer Institute) Just a @% deficit is enough to cause a negative effect on your cognitive functions (Source- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal) From endurance to speed and even brain functioning, everything is affected by water.
An interesting fact to note here is that waiting to drink until you’re thirsty is too late, because thirst only kicks in when you’re about 2% dehydrated! (Source- research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise) Plus if we’re running and feeling the cool air on our faces, there’s a high probability that we think we’re not thirsty. In reality, our muscles are tiring themselves out, and are crying out for water!
So how does one combat dehydration? The first step is to recognize your body signs when it’s telling you that it needs water. Once you identify these, it’s easy to up your hydration game. Here are five signs of dehydration to watch out for—and how to deal.
You have a headache
A headache is a hallmark of dehydration since the brain cells shrink due to lack of water. That’s why you get a soft pounding in your head when you’re doing intensive exercises or long runs.
Combat this- drinking lots of water in intervals, and other fluids like ORS, glucose etc.
You feel lethargic
Dehydration compromises your focus, executive function, and motor coordination, so it is imperative to keep yourself well-hydrated if you wish to enjoy a good run with great energy.
In fact, a study from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly.
Combat this – by hydrating before you start your run, and keeping a bottle handy during your run.
Your urine is too dark
This is an easily identifiable sign of dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your kidneys reabsorb water back into your body, resulting in a high concentration with a very low volume of fluid.
Combat this- keep a bottle on you at all times, and make sure you drink 3-4 litres of water daily!
You start experiencing cramps
As you lose fluids, the body concentration of electrolytes (like potassium, sodium) that are responsible for muscle contractions changes. While you run, your body heats up, and the hotter you get, the more likely you are to get muscle cramps. As the muscles work harder and harder, they can cramp from the heat itself. Muscle cramping is mainly due to sodium deficit and dehydration in fluid spaces around certain muscles.
Combat this – by drinking sports beverages that contain sodium. You can also snack on low-fat cheese or salted peanuts or even bread/pickles.
You start feeling dizzy
If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded during your run, immediately stop! There is a serious risk of crashing if you continue without rehydrating, so give your body a break.
Combat this- by prioritizing your electrolytes! Drink a solution of water, salt and sugar. You can opt for juice too.
Here are some pointers on how you can maintain hydration levels-
- Keep a bottle handy during your runs
- Spruce up plain water by adding chunks of fruit for flavour
- Switch over to fresh fruits and nuts and give up the packaged snacks
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
- Cut down on caffeine, and turn to sugar free herbal tea