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How Do You Know If You’re Dehydrated: Early Signs & Effective Solutions

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how do you know if you are dehydrated How Do You Know If You’re Dehydrated: Early Signs & Effective Solutions www.runnerclick.com

Your first signal that you are dehydrating your body is simple thirst. Unfortunately, if you feel thirsty, you should have already been drinking. You read that right. Once you feel thirst, your body is already in the beginning stages of dehydration. 

Dehydration can happen to an athlete quicker than one would think. It is important to recognize dehydration symptoms to be sure you don’t get yourself into trouble during a workout.

How do you know if you are dehydrated?

Sometimes, you can already be in danger by the time you figure it out. 

What Is Dehydration?

Our bodies are made up of more water than you think—two-thirds roughly—and water is necessary for numerous bodily functions. Dehydration is when you lose more body fluid than you are taking in.

There are a number of ways you can lose fluid. The most common are excessive sweating and going to the bathroom, but you can lose fluid through tears, saliva, and just through breathing.

If you have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, your chance of becoming dehydrated is even greater. Even losing a small percentage of bodily fluid can upset the balance and become a cause of dehydration.

Who is at risk for dehydration?

Everyone is at risk for dehydration.

We often think of athletes training or competing in the heat as the prime candidates for dehydration.

While training in heat does pose a higher risk of becoming dehydrated, dehydration in athletes can also occur in cold weather as they are most often still sweating, even if under layers of clothing.

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

Common signs of dehydration include the following:

  • Thirst
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

The below symptoms could indicate severe dehydration:

  • Unable to urinate
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Failure to produce sweat
  • Very dry skin
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Lack of energy/low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

It is very important to deal with dehydration before crossing over into severe dehydration. Severe dehydration can quickly take a nasty turn and spiral into heatstroke, proving life-threatening or even fatal. 

What Does Dehydration Feel Like?

Simple thirst is a common cause of mild dehydration. Unfortunately, if you feel thirsty, you should have already been drinking. You read that right. Once you feel thirst, your body is already in the beginning stages of dehydration. 

In addition to feeling thirsty, you may begin to notice that you feel like you are running on an empty gas tank. Your body needs enough water just like it requires food to run properly. 

Once your body starts to cramp up, nausea kicks in, or your heart rate increases, you are flirting with the danger zone. It is essential to listen to those early warning signs that your body needs help.

Dehydration is nothing to mess around with.

What Happens to Your Body When You are Dehydrated?

You are dehydrated when your body uses a higher amount of fluids than you are taking in. Are you surprised to learn that as little as a 1% reduction in body fluid can put you at the risk of dehydration?

Fluid loss causes your blood to be more concentrated. The result is that your cardiovascular system has to work a lot higher to pump the blood through your body.

This causes your kidneys to retain more water, which is why you will either urinate less or stop urinating completely when dehydrated.

How Do You Test for Dehydration?

If you are visiting your physician or clinic, a blood test can be run to determine if you are dehydrated. Doctors can check your blood electrolyte levels to be certain nothing is off-kilter.

Another test is urinalysis, wherein your urine is checked for the level of dehydration you are experiencing.

A skin fold test is yet another professional way to test for dehydration. 

But what if you are not at a doctor’s office?

You should be able to determine for yourself if you might be suffering from dehydration. 

Knowing your own body is an important first step. Your urine should be like lightly colored lemonade if you are properly hydrated. If it is dark in color, you need more fluid. 

A second early indicator is thirst or a dry mouth.

Another way to test for dehydration is to pinch the skin of the arm or the stomach between two fingers. If the skin returns to normal within three seconds, you are hydrated. If it takes longer than three seconds, you’re not drinking enough fluids.

Similarly, you can press on the nail bed when holding your hand above your heart. When you press on it, the nail bed whitens because you force the blood from it.

After releasing pressure, if the blood rushes back in two seconds or less, you are hydrated. Any longer than that, and you may be dehydrated.

Can you Drink a Lot of Water and Still be Dehydrated?

Yes, you can get dehydrated even if you drink a lot of water. One cause is that you are short on electrolytes.

Remember: if you need electrolytes, no fluid intake will fix that. 

If you have recently been sick, you have to give your body some time to bounce back. Dehydration due to a high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea can haunt you for a while. Plain water might not be enough to bring your hydration back where you need and want it to be. 

You can also undo the good you do by drinking water if you consume too many caffeinated beverages and/or alcohol. Coffee, for example, is dehydrating.

If you have a cup of coffee in your hand all day, it can be tough to balance that out with water.

What is the Fastest Way to Cure Dehydration?

Drinking water and using a cool compress on your skin is a great way to combat dehydration. However, if you have let things go too far, you may need something that packs more punch than increasing your water intake. People suffering from dehydration often have an electrolyte imbalance. 

You can get electrolytes into your body by drinking a sports drink such as Gatorade, Powerade, or other drinks.

Athletes also often carry electrolyte tablets to help with hydration. 

The Best Hydrating Drink Options On The Market

If you are looking for a drink with a bit more firepower than something you can buy at the corner gas station or store, check out the Runnnerclick Top Hydration Drinks Reviewed.

One popular solution is Skratch Labs’ Hydration Drink Mix. It has roughly 10% more electrolytes than other products. 

Another excellent choice is Nuun Electrolyte Tablets. These tablets come in a variety of delicious flavors. Since they are a tablet, they are also easy to carry when traveling. 

Finally, An Ounce of Prevention 

Perhaps the most important thing to remember regarding dehydration is the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you hydrate properly all of the time, it will go a long way toward ensuring that you do not end up dehydrated. 

Using a sports drink or electrolyte tablet when you work out, drinking fluids with electrolytes, and carrying water so you can rehydrate before you are thirsty are all tips to help you keep yourself out of trouble.

With just a little bit of planning, you can hopefully avoid being sidelined with dehydration.


  1. Noreen Iftikhar, MD, How Can You Tell If You’re Dehydrated?, website

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