Ever heard of the warning: “if you’re thirsty that means you’re already dehydrated”? While this may be true it’s nothing to fear; drinking fluid rehydrates you on the spot, and you’d have to be really thirsty for a very long time in order to be severely dehydrated (an exception would be some older adults who are less sensitive to thirst, hunger, temperature, etc.)
The only time in which you would really want to be sure that you drink fluid well before you feel thirsty is if you’re gearing up for a sweat session (ie. exercise). Since, when you’re exercising, your sweat rate may be higher than the rate at which you can take in fluid, it’s important to have a lot of water in your system before the event. But more on that next week…
So how do you know if you’re getting enough? Here are some things you should be doing:
1. Be sure you’re drinking when you’re thirsty.
2. Drink more if you exercise and/or if you’re in a hot environment that causes you to perspire at all.
3. Check out the color of your urine. It should be the color of lemonade or lighter. If it’s the color of apple juice or darker, you’re in need of fluids.
For firefighters, the risk of having to go into a hot environment wearing heat insulated clothing- one where you’ll lose tons of sweat- means you should really stay on top of your hydration level to avoid becoming dehydrated and overheated in those situations. So if you work out at/before work, make sure to drink lots of fluids afterward. If you are in a warm environment, even if you don’t feel like you’re sweating heavily, drink extra fluid. If you don’t eat very much food with water in it like fruits, vegetables and soups, compensate by drinking more.
Keep in mind that, although we often do not need to drink as much water as people say we need to, one major benefit of making sure you’re really hydrated is that it helps you feel full, therefore it’s a good tool for weight management. When your stomach is more filled because it has fluids in it, the stretch receptors in your stomach send a message to the brain signaling that your stomach is full and we no longer need to feel hungry.
Next week I’ll be explaining how to calculate your sweat loss and replenish with the right amount of fluids after exercise or fighting a fire.
Have you ever felt the effects of dehydration? Ever been dehydrated or perhaps severely over-hydrated and didn’t know it? Let me know in the comments below!
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