Keep a water bottle handy when you exercise to prevent dehydration.

Hydration Alert: Are You Drinking Enough Water? Probably Not!

Here’s a surprising statistic: Your body can use more than a quart of water (four cups) during an hour of hard or warm weather exercise. That’s a lot! And if you don’t drink enough water to compensate, the resulting dehydration can be dangerous.

Know the Signs of Dehydration

You may think you’ll know if you’re dehydrated because you’ll feel thirsty, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes dehydration can sneak up on us, especially in cooler weather when we don’t feel as parched. So pay attention to other signs of dehydration, which include muscle cramps, darker than normal urine, and feeling dizzy or faint. Flushed skin, feeling overheated, and feeling unusually fatigued can also occur when you’re dehydrated.

In cases of severe dehydration, your body no longer has enough fluid to get blood to your organs, and you may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.

Babies, children, and older adults are more likely to become dehydrated and more at risk for serious consequences.

And runners and athletes, listen up: Even slight dehydration can significantly impair your athletic performance.

Here’s What to Do to Stay Hydrated

Drink water before you exercise; experts recommend consuming 17-20 ounces of water in the two hours before a workout or run.

You also need to keep drinking while you run, workout, or do another fitness activity, and more than you might think. Experts recommend drinking 7-10 ounces, about one cup, every 10 to 20 minutes.

Drink slowly and steadily. Downing a whole bottle of water, then not drinking again for two hours isn’t as effective for staying hydrated and also can make you feel sick. So keep a water bottle handy and think slow and steady.

If you don’t like water or find it boring, add some lemon, cucumber, or mint. other fluids keep you hydrated as well. Even eating watermelon, lettuce, and other juicy fruits and vegetables help maintain your fluid intake.

The Truth about Coffee and Tea

We’ve long been told that coffee, tea and other beverages containing caffeine don’t “count” as hydrating fluids and in fact function as diuretics, causing you to lose fluids and contributing to dehydration. But research shows that healthy people who consume moderate amounts of caffeine don’t lose more fluid than people who don’t have any caffeine.

So if you’re a coffee or tea drinker, those beverages can also be part of your fluid consumption. Flavored waters and juice are fine too, just watch your sugar intake.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.