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What happens when you get dehydrated


Feeling thirsty, fatigued, dizzy or even confused? We all know these can be symptoms of dehydration. But how much do we know about water and how important it is for daily maintenance? Take the test and find out!

What is your score? Even if you've got 10/10, you might want to refill your cup. Read below some facts you might not know about hydration and what really happens if you don't.

The basics

According to the NHS, dehydration happens when your "body loses more fluids than you can take in". This deficiency of water in the body causes symptoms such as thirst, headaches, dark urine, dizziness for adults. It is often caused by excessive sweating, illness, fever and urination. In most severe cases, we can experience fainting, the absence of sweat production, low blood pressure or rapid heart rate/breathing and even kidney failure.

Where is water held in the body?

As most of you know, adult bodies contain 60% of water. This water is spread between organs, bones, muscles and joints to help us digest, allow body cells to grow, reproduce and survive, flush out body waste, manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters and even deliver oxygen. You can guess it: water wears many hats a day to help our bodies function.

You might also be surprised that the lungs contain the most water - made of 83% of water. Muscles and kidneys come second with 79% of water, then the brain and heart with 73%, and skin with 64%. Even bones contain 31% of water.

I am dehydrated, what do I do?

Don't panic! Dehydration is not dangerous if you treat it sensibly. According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, your body will be able to recover from a mild dehydration within 45minutes with a 600mL water intake.

However, if you are severely dehydrated, you might need an emergency solution such as an IV (intravenous therapy) - which is mostly delivered in hospitals, or specialised businesses.

Be aware that drinking large amounts of fluids might not be a straight answer to water deficiency. Water intake, if performed on its own, can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. This happens when the concentration of sodium in blood is dangerously low and can become very dangerous, especially for long-distance athletes.

Find a good balance between water and sodium with electrolytes

To avoid this, our best tip would be to start consuming Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) called electrolyte solutions. They usually contain:

  • Sodium, helping your body to absorb essential nutrients

  • Glucose, helping itself to absorb sodium and boost your energy

  • Potassium, chloride and other electrolytes, helping you to prevent cramps and maintain fluid balance

What helps improving hydration? What doesn't?

Although your usual water intake usually comes 80% from beverages, mineral water is not the only way to stay hydrated. Some specific foods are also extraordinarily high in water:

  • Cucumber (95% water)

  • Tomatoes (95% water)

  • Watercress (95% water)

  • Celery (95% water)

  • Lettuce (95% water)

  • Watermelon (92% water)

  • Peaches (85% water)

  • Zucchini (90% water)

On the contrary, some drinks might not be your best bet to maintain hydrated due to their diuretic effects like soda, coffee or alcohol. To avoid this, make sure you follow the famous one-to-one rule and alternate one diuretic drink and one glass of water. Of course, even with this trick, these drinks need to be consumed in moderation.

Tips to drink more on a daily basis

  • Make it taste good. We all know how hard it is to continue drinking water even if you don't feel thirsty. Think about adding a slice of cucumber, or fresh fruits in your water to give it a flavour. You can also try to drink more infusions and more tea to build a sustainable drinking habit.

  • Drink regularly. Instead of drinking a whole bottle of water at once (which might sit very uncomfortably in your stomach), it is advised to take small sips very regularly during the day.

  • Build this habit on top of existing habits. The best proven way to build habits isn't to try out a whole new routine, but build up on your current routine. Do you always make a coffee in the morning while checking social media? Or do you have a 45-min underground commute everyday? Drink a glass or water while you're listening to the coffee grinding, or bring a water bottle with you to drink on your journey.

  • Make water available. Although this might seem like a very common piece of advice, when you're out and about, it is always easy to get caught up and only realise after a few hours that you're dehydrated. To avoid headaches and feeling more and more tired during the day, don't forget to pack a refillable bottle in your bag or prepare one you can carry around the house. It will then be easier to take a sip every now and then.

  • Get high tech! Another great way to drink more is to track your intake. Sports watches like Garmin offer features allowing you to track how much you've drunk throughout the day. You can also find specific apps reminding you to drink throughout the day.