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Why You Feel Dehydrated Even Though You Drink Heaps Of Water

By Paula Vargas September 08, 2020

Why You Feel Dehydrated Even Though You Drink Heaps Of Water
The message is always loud and clear: Drink more water! Especially when you’re an athlete or training hard at the gym. Water is the key to life! Get that massive water jug and keep refilling it! More is better right?

If you’re dehydrated, you automatically think, drink more water, duh! But what about when drinking more water seems to be doing nothing? Do you just fill up the water bottle again and hope your body gets the memo this time?

Is it possible that you’re overdoing it?

Could you be drinking too much?

If you train regularly, you no doubt prioritise water intake to help you crush your workouts and even to ‘keep fuller for longer’ when dieting. Or perhaps you tell yourself you’re just thirsty, not hungry, and guzzle down another glass of water. 

The challenge is that your body retains a delicate electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals in your body, that are found in your blood, urine and sweat.

You’ve probably heard of some of these:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Bicarbonate
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
They are essential for vital processes in your body, including assisting to keep your nerves and muscles functioning, and maintain a water and acid-base balance in your body. Mess with your fluid intake too much, and these can start to get out of whack. Electrolytes are needed for you be hydrated! If you're drinking tons of water but not replenishing electrolytes (through eating lots of fruit and veg for example), your cells aren't going to be absorbing water well. You might then drink more water because you're feeling thirstier! How do you know if you're just having too much?

Early signs you may be having too much water:

Clear pee and/or frequent urination: Most people know what urine looks like when dehydration (slightly darker yellow to very dark). What about when your pee clear? Super hydrated, right? News flash, you may be overdoing it. Despite what we’re normally told, drinking until your pee is clear or colourless may be too much of a good thing. Feel like you need to make a toilet trip every two seconds? If you’re needing to pee more than 8-10 times a day, or getting up during the night to make bathroom trips, you may be having too much water.

Tired and 'headache-y': An early symptom of overhydration, when the water-to-sodium ratio is compromised, you can start to feel these as well as brain fog. Some people may get nausea or muscle weakness. Note that some of these conditions can happen from not drinking enough water too, so tune in to your body to make sure you get the balance right!

Fluid retention: If you drink too fast or too much, you are putting more pressure on your body to get rid of the excess water, which it can struggle to do. Would you skull a litre of water and then take a selfie or progress shot? Yeah, not happening.

Constipation: Drinking enough water is usually key to helping prevent constipation. Are you feeling a little ‘backed up’ and finding that drinking tons of water is doing nothing for you? You could be making things worse by disturbing that delicate electrolyte balance, which is needed for proper bowel evacuations. Potassium, for example, is needed for muscle movement. This is one of the reasons prunes are great for pooping!

In extreme cases, there can be vomiting, disorientation, or even seizures, unconsciousness or coma due to hyponatremia, excessively low sodium levels in the blood.

What’s the solution?

If you’re training and eating, especially if you’re an athlete, hydration is something you want to get right. Endurance athletes are more at risk of overhydration, so if you participate in activities like marathons, hiking, ironman triathlons, endurance cycling, rowing and so on, you need to pay extra attention to your electrolyte balance. If you participate in bodybuilding competitions and find yourself manipulating sodium and water to extremes, you also have to be extra careful to make sure you’re not doing your body damage.

Feel like you’re overdoing it on the water intake? The solution lies in looking at what you’re eating and drinking! Coconut water is a great natural electrolyte drink, and bananas can give you the carbohydrates and potassium to help you feel your best. When in doubt, whole foods have your back. Be careful with the consistent use of diuretics and laxatives too, which can disturb your body’s fluid balance.

For extra hydration support, you can look to an electrolyte formula, which you’ll find in our hydration formulas, BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids), and general health and energy products. Electrolytes are also lost during sweat, so if you’re going all out on those HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) sessions, you may want to pay particular attention to making sure you replenish your electrolytes. Harvard sports experts recommend being logical about hydration, letting thirst be a guide. Instead of chugging your water all at once, take sips throughout the day so you get the most benefits.

by Paula Vargas Duran

References:

Continencevictoria.org.au. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://continencevictoria.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/VCRC_Care_Provision_tool_Urine_Colour_Chart_v6.pdf> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 

Healthdirect.gov.au. 2020. Bladder. [online] Available at:<https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bladder#:~:text=Good%20habits%20can%20help%20you,going%20before%20bed%20is%20sensible)> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 

Healthline. 2020. Urine Colour Chart. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/urine-colour-chart> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 

Healthline. 2020. Overhydration: Types, Symptoms, And Treatments. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/overhydration#types> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 

MSD Manual Consumer Version. 2020.Overhydration - Hormonal And Metabolic Disorders - MSD Manual Consumer Version. [online] Available at: <https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/water-balance/overhydration> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 

Precisionhydration.com. 2020. Does Having Clear Urine Really Mean You're Well Hydrated?!. [online] Available at: <https://www.precisionhydration.com/performance-advice/hydration/does-having-clear-pee-really-mean-youre-well-hydrated/> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 

UC Health - UC San Diego. 2020.10 Colors That Suggest Urine Trouble. [online] Available at: <https://health.ucsd.edu/news/features/pages/2014-04-21-colors-that-suggest-urine-trouble.aspx> [Accessed 7 September 2020]. 


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