The Truth About Dehydration

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According to Jeff Zachwieja, research fellow at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), such telltale signs warn of dehydration—a serious cause for concern, because it means you're low on body fluid, placing stress on your cardiovascular system and elevating your heart rate. Also, your blood pressure goes down, which can lead to feeling lightheaded, tired and weak. Both your physical and mental performances suffer, because, says Zachwieja, "dehydration can affect your ability to stay focused—and make quick and rapid decisions."

Another danger: dehydration can induce heat exhaustion, recognizable by the following symptoms: dizziness, chills, lightheadedness and loss of coordination. Even more severe, dehydration can lead to heat stroke, which is indicated by a higher than normal body temperature and unconsciousness.

"The body just begins to shut down because it's way too hot, and it just cannot function properly," Zachwieja says.

Consuming water alone addresses only part of the problem of dehydration. Zachwieja adds, "Sweat is more than just water. It's also sodium, potassium, a little bit of calcium and magnesium."

When you're competing or training, key in on your fluid intake, especially sports drinks that contain sodium. That electrolyte is needed to replenish what the body loses through sweat. The other electrolytes ensure that fluid is well distributed throughout the body. "About 60 percent of our entire bodyweight is made up of fluid," Zachwieja explains. "It's important to keep it at about that level."

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Lightheaded, tired and weak
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Inability to stay focused

Related video:

Watch video about how to determine your fluid needs with GSSI expert Jeff Zachwieja.

Related link:

How to Determine Your Hydration Status

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