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Signs And Symptoms Of Dehydration

Have you ever been exercising and just as you feel you’re about to hit a wall you take a sip of water and like magic you have another 20 minutes in you? That is water doing its thing – making sure everything is working as it should.

A lack of water (or dehydration) can make training and competing much more difficult. Every stroke, every sprint, every jump feels harder because your body is out of balance. Your body does not like being dehydrated and it has many ways of telling you so. Learning to read the signs and symptoms of dehydration are key to delivering your best performance. 

Mild To Moderate Dehydration

The signs and symptoms of dehydration depend on how long you have gone without fluid – how severe your dehydration is. In the earlier stages of dehydration, our body tells us by making us thirsty, giving us a dry mouth and maybe a slight headache. If we ignore these cues, we may begin to feel tired, dizzy or light headed, confused and even cranky with a worsening headache. As time goes on you may also notice that you’re needing to pee less. If you do pee it is likely to be a darker colour and strong smelling.

These are the first cues that your body will initiate to get you to reach for water. Under normal circumstances, these symptoms will make us feel uncomfortable and we will consume the fluid that we need to stay hydrated. However, there are some cases where drinking fluid is just not possible, or the conditions are such that you struggle to stay hydrated.

For instance, picture this; you are competing in a long race, or a long game, in full sunshine and searing heat. It is 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and you have already consumed all of your fluid. It is getting to the point where you can no longer focus on anything but your thirst. It is starting to affect your performance. With no way of drinking fluids, you may be facing the more severe signs of dehydration.

Severe Dehydration

If dehydration is severe, it can get very serious, very quickly. It is critical to be aware of the environment that you will find yourself in and prepare yourself accordingly. Signs and symptoms of worsening dehydration include extreme thirst, fever, a rapid, but weak pulse, fast breathing, severe dizziness, low blood pressure and sunken eyes. Your body is also less able to produce sweat. 

If left untreated severe dehydration can lead to serious health complications including damaging your kidneys, heart and brain.

Check The Bowl

The easiest way to test how well hydrated you are is to check out your pee. Yup, before you flush, check the colour of your urine. Your urine is an excellent indicator of how the body is functioning and hydration is no exception. Happy pee is pale pee – the better hydrated we are, the paler our urine. The darker the urine, the more dehydrated you are. My message here is really simple – before you flush, check the bowl. If it’s dark, drink a couple of glasses of water as soon as you can.

The Bottom Line

Our body is an excellent communicator, even more so if we know how to listen to it. Being aware of the signs of dehydration will allow you to maintain a good fluid balance and keep on top of your performance. If you have not already, next time you’re in the pool or in the gym, on the field or track, make an effort to listen in and try to identify the first signs of dehydration and act on them, this will have the benefit of optimising your training performance, too.

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