In the season of festivals, foreign flings and fruity cocktails, it’s all too easy to forget to stay hydrated. We’ve all heard the statement ‘we are made up of 70% water’, yet this fact means little when sizzling by the poolside, third glass of strawberry daiquiri in hand!
Research varies on exactly how much we should be aiming to drink each day. While the traditional ‘8 glasses a day’ figure has lost credibility in recent times (it is believed to be traced back to a 1945 US Research Council recommendation), it’s not always easy to know the best way to avoid dehydration. This is a particular problem in the summer when the hot weather means that dehydration can easily sneak up on us.
The good news is that modern research tells us we can simply let our hydration needs be guided by our bodily responses. Our bodies are smarter than we realise at regulating water consumption; we just have to get smarter at listening to them.
With that in mind, here are some of the lesser known signs your body might use to tell you you’re not drinking enough this summer…
You’re cramping up
Despite the hot weather often leading to an air-conditioned taxi ride over a long walk, you might notice your muscles keep cramping. This is because dehydration can cause changes in sodium and potassium levels, contributing to muscle cramps. Dehydration induced cramping can happen any time of the day or night, not just after exercise. If you notice some unusual cramping, it’s time to drink some H2O.
Your skin is dry
Another subtle sign to look out for is dry skin, especially when dry weather and harsh sun creams are collaborating culprits. In addition to feeling dry, dehydrated skin can be flaky and taught. This is because our skin contains many layers of water-based cells which can quickly become depleted. So, if you want to ward off wrinkles and look fresh faced all summer long, pick up that bottle of water.
For all of this going on about how clever our bodies are, they do occasionally get confused. If you find yourself reaching for another burger from the BBQ long after all your friends have finished, you might be experiencing dehydration-induced hunger pangs. Try drinking a glass of water or unsweetened iced tea before mealtimes to reduce these mixed signals. It might just lift your mood too.
Your mid-afternoon slump could actually be caused by dehydration. This is because dehydration causes a drop in blood pressure which leads to decreased blood flow to the brain, making you sleepy. Waking up thirsty at night will also leave you feeling groggy, so when you’re reaching for that afternoon brew, make sure you also remember to have a drink of water. Finally, keep your bedroom cool this summer with a fan or open window. You will sweat less, ensuring you retain that precious water while also getting a more comfortable night's sleep. Win win!
This drop in blood pressure leading to decreased blood flow around the body also has another significant side effect: it makes you cold. An inhibited flow of blood to the skin impacts how effectively our bodies can regulate our body temperature. So if your friends are flaunting their fake tans while you’re huddled under a hoodie, maybe consider sipping some water.
If you can’t quite remember all these top tips this summer, try to remember this one instead; keep topping your water bottle up as much as you try to top up your tan. Trust us, your body will thank you for it.