Water accounts for 50-70 percent of our body weight and is necessary for most body processes.  Even a slight dehydration can cause thirst, fatigue and even a mild headache. Dehydration can progress to an elevated state of irritation and even a decline in physical ability.

But it is not just hot days or after heavy exercise that we need to give this vital nutrient its attention.  We are constantly losing water through our breath, urine, faeces and skin.  Without proper attention just everyday activities can lead to dehydration and the symptoms listed above.

Effects of Dehydration

If you feel thirsty, drink.  You are already behind.  Our body’s thirst mechanism is a lagging indicator of our actual dehydration level.  Our brain actually senses your body cells shrinking from lack of water to trigger the thirst reaction.

Research has proven that just a one percent dehydration affects your attention, memory, motor coordination and mood.  It appears that brain fluid decreases with dehydration, decreasing brain volume and negatively affecting brain cell function.

As you become dehydrated, your blood thickens and concentrates.  Thicker blood is harder on your cardiovascular system.  Your heart must pump faster to maintain your blood pressure.  Ever get dizzy just from standing up?  You might want to check your hydration level.

It also reducing your body’s ability to regulate its body temperature, creating an increased likelihood of experiencing heat stress.

How much should I drink?

There is no one right answer for how much you should drink.  It varies drastically because of a number of factors including, body composition, metabolism, diet, climate and even the clothing you wear.

It was not until 2004 that any official recommendation of water intake was released.  It showed 3.7 liters a day for men and 2.7 liters a day for women.

Here is where it gets a little more complicated.  80% should be in liquid form, including caffeinated drinks and alcohol, while the remaining 20% should be obtained through food.

But everyone’s needs are different use this guide to really monitor your hydration level.

  1. Track your body weight and stay within 1 percent of your normal baseline. You can work out your baseline by averaging your weight (just out of bed, before breakfast) on three consecutive mornings.
  2. Monitor your urine. You should be urinating regularly (more than three to four times per day) and it should be a pale straw or light yellow colour without strong odour. If less frequent, darker colour or too pungent, then drink more fluids.
  3. Be conscious about drinking enough fluids. Your fluid consumption should prevent the perception of thirst.