The Effects of Dehydration & What you are not being told about your health

in Hydration by Geoff Loomes B.Ph.Ed., B.Com., Dip.TLC / February 06, 2017


Bill woke up tired and cranky. After showering and getting dressed, he made himself a coffee, speedily consumed some cereal and jumped in the car to get to work. During his drive, he noticed a slight headache coming on and his energy levels dropping. At work he bought a juice in an attempt to boost his vitality, but the resulting sugar crash just prompted him to eat more food and drink another coffee. Over the course of the day, his headache continued to worsen, until a dry mouth, poor focus and a leg cramp, finally motivated him to drink some water. 

Bill's story is, unfortunately, characteristic of how many people live. With all of our modern day stress, drinking water can often be the first thing we sacrifice for activities deemed "higher priority" in life. Headaches, joint pain, lack of energy, mood swings and weight gain, are just a few of the signs that our priorities around hydration may need addressing. Because our body is made up of around 70 per cent water, hydration, via water (not beer, wine, caffeine or sugar drinks), is critical for anyone looking to be at the top of their game.

Short-term effects Of Dehydration

Effects of Dehydration


Dehydration causes enzymatic function to diminish, resulting in reduced energy production and a general feeling of fatigue.

High blood pressure
When dehydrated, blood can become thicker and more viscous, putting more pressure on the heart to pump it around the body.

High cholesterol
Dehydrated blood, due to its viscous nature, can create wear and tear on the arterial walls. As a
result, the body may produce cholesterol to repair the damage and act as a natural Band-Aid.

Digestive disorders
Dehydration can lead to an acidic environment and promote digestive disorders, such as ulcers, gastritis and acid reflux. 

The colon is a common reservoir from where the body draws water to perform critical bodily
functions. When dehydrated, it can dry out, slowing the natural flow of faecal matter and resulting in constipation.

Joint pain and stiffness
All joints are hydrated by water. When this reduces, joint surfaces and their supporting structures dry out, causing weakness and damage, as well as pain and discomfort.

Weight gain
Dehydration reduces our natural energy levels, which can be misread by the body as hunger, stimulating it to eat more. Food is also a source from which the body can draw water, so if you dehydrate it, get ready for more and more food cravings.

Premature ageing
The body’s organs, including the skin, begin to discolour, wrinkle and wither prematurely.

Neck and back pain
Between each vertebra of our back lies a disk, which acts as a shock-absorber during daily activities. It is made up largely of water and, when dehydrated, can shrink, causing pain, swelling and injury.

How to test dehydration How to test dehydration

The simplest way to test if you are dehydrated is to check your urine.
The colour will reflect the degree to which your body requires water. The lighter your urine is, the better. Somewhere between clear and light yellow is ideal. If it's dark and odorous, it's time to get drinking.

NB: Certain vitamins and some vegetables like beetroot, rhubarb and asparagus can affect the result, so take this into consideration when checking.

How Much Water to Drink

Many factors can affect hydration, however, a general rule of thumb is that optimal levels can be reached by drinking .03 litres x your body weight in kilos. You will also have to add a little more if you are active, live in a hot climate, consume diuretic drinks, or take any medication that influences hydration.
We've created a hydration calculator to assist in this process.
By adding in your weight with the sliding toggle, you will see both the minimum and optimal levels you need to drink. The minimum level is a starting point for anyone who may need time to develop this habit without being overwhelmed. The optimal levels represent the intake required to look, feel and function at your best. A 100kg male would, therefore, have a minimum goal to drink two litres each day, with an optimal goal of three litres.

Water Quality

Because water quality varies all over the world (some water sources have very low levels of chemicals and others are laced with it), we recommend purchasing a good quality water filter, which can remove most of the impurities and ensure that your body remains free from toxic overload. Water filters can vary significantly, so speak to your local expert about the best one for you and your specific needs.
Adding a pinch of sea salt (1/4 teaspoon per litre of water) can often help to improve hydration. Many sea salts have a high concentration of healthy minerals which your body needs for its daily functioning. When your body receives these minerals, it draws them into its cells through water. The more water in your cells, the more hydrated you become. 

For those who like to add a little flavour to their water, some simple ideas can include:

Hydration Tips


Drink two glasses of filtered water as your first activity of the day. This will offset any overnight dehydration.

Follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty per cent of hydration should come from filtered water. The other twenty per cent can consist of natural sources like fruits, vegetable and non-caffeinated beverages, such as coconut water and herbal tea.

Top-up where necessary. If you are active, live in a hot climate, consume diuretic drinks, or have a medical condition that influences hydration, you may need to drink additional water to offset this.

Drink consistently throughout the day. Leave yourself a note or set an alarm if you are having problems remembering.

Aim to drink “optimal” levels of water consumption. Your daily goal is to drink around .03 x your body weight in kilos.


Geoff Loomes B.Ph.Ed., B.Com., Dip.TLC
Geoff has been passionately involved in the health industry since 1998, when he graduated from Otago University, New Zealand, with a double degree in Exercise Science and Commerce. Over the last two decades, Geoff has delivered health and fitness programs to hundreds of health professionals, fitness centres, and health conscious companies, and today, he is the director of his own Exercise Physiology practice and founder of the market-leading health software, My Health Challenge. 
Geoff’s vision is to create a healthier, more active world by providing customisable, user-friendly health solutions that motivate, educate and support sustainable change.
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