The Subtle Consequences Of Dehydration

Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. We can only last a few days without it, and losing just 2 % of our body weight in fluid can actually compromise our physical and mental performance by up to 25%

Water benefits the body in a countless number of ways, and insufficient water intake has been linked to a myriad of health issues including:

  • Headaches,
  • Low energy levels and fatigue
  • Dry and pallid skin
  • Digestive upsets (including constipation)
  • Kidney stones (check out this BBC Inside Health podcast from 23 mins/45 seconds for more on water and kidney stones)
  • Gout
  • Degenerative wear and tear of the intervertebral discs of the spine and cartilage tissue in other joints of the body.

Some of these problems may manifest relatively quickly (within a few days to weeks of lowered fluid intake), but others are subtle and can take years to arise as clinical issues.

Therefore, it pays to be mindful of your water consumption – even if you are currently feeling fine – and try to develop healthy lifestyle habits that will sustain adequate levels of hydration within your body. Here are some suggestions to help you do so:


  • When you awake in the morning try to have a decent glass of water as part of your early morning routine.

Rosemary Stanton, a respected Australian nutritionist points out that we lose about 600ml of water in our breath as we sleep overnight. This contributes to the pongy breath many people have first thing in the morning, and emphasises the importance of starting your day with a decent glass of water to restart the hydration process.


  • If you’re hungry mid morning or mid afternoon try having a glass of water before reaching for a snack.

Dehydration often ‘creeps up’ on people, and the feelings of lethargy and fatigue that go with it can often be mistaken for hunger. Most physical performance coaches stress the importance of being well hydrated as this helps people experience higher levels of energy, allows them to digest food better, and helps their body to burn fat more efficiently.


  • Get up from your desk every hour or two and walk to the water cooler or kitchen at work and have a glass of water.

People often wait until they are thirsty before they start to drink fluids, but we can become dehydrated enough to significantly affect our concentration, energy levels and physical performance well in advance of becoming aware that we are thirsty.

This is why many people carry refillable water bottles around with them. Rather than waiting for thirst to hit, they simply sip on water throughout the day in order to avoid the sluggishness and other effects of becoming dehydrated.


  • Drink a glass of water 30 minutes or so before each meal.

Consuming adequate amounts of water throughout the day and before meals means that a person is far less likely to overeat or crave the empty calories found in snacks, fizzy drinks, concentrated fruit juices or alcohol. The calories found in these types of drinks can be particularly problematic for people trying to manage their weight because these types of fluids bypass the normal satiety mechanisms of the body and can result in a person easily consuming a lot more energy than they really need.


  • Carry a 600ml water bottle about with you and try to get through it twice in a day, once before lunch, and once in the afternoon/evening.

Including just a couple of these suggestions in your daily routine should see you consuming about 1.2L of water a day without too much bother.


Share this article