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What to do if you're dehydrated after exercise.

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Last Sunday afternoon, I went for a run. It was 29 degrees outside, and I really struggled to finish my 5ks (okay, full disclosure, I stopped at four). When I got home, I accidentally-on-purpose joined my housemates in a glass of wine instead of a bottle of water.

I spent the rest of the day with a pounding headache. So I did what any reasonable person would do: Googled my symptoms and terrified myself. But I’m very rational, so it only took me a few short hours of my life flashing before my eyes to decide to re-check my symptoms. Good news! I wasn’t dying. I was just dehydrated. Really, painfully dehydrated.

Why consulting Dr Google is the worst thing you can do for your health.

Dehydration is what happens when you sweat out more liquid than you take in. Heat exposure and over-exercising are two of the most common causes of dehydration, so dehydration is a big issue if you’re planning on pursuing that bikini body through the summer months. It can manifest in weakness, dizziness, extreme thirst or what’s commonly known as a ‘dehydration headache’. Luckily, it’s not terminal. But there are some things you need to do if you suspect you’re dehydrated.

1. Stop moving

  If you’re already dehydrated, the last thing you want to do is keeping losing liquid and electrolytes through sweat. Stop what you’re doing, sit down in the shade – or better yet, the aircon – and take some time out. The last-minute Christmas shopping can wait. The shops are open on Christmas Eve for a reason.

Why do I sweat so much and how can I stop it?

2. Drink water – but not too much at once

It might seem self-explanatory to drink water if you’re dehydrated, but guzzling as much water as possible in one go is not the best solution. Your body can only absorb a small amount of water at once, so aim for one glass of water (250 mL) every 15 to 20 minutes until the symptoms subside.

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In general, it's important to keep hydrated. If plain water bores you, try one of these fruit infusions:

3. Load up on electrolytes

If you don’t have electrolyte powder at home, grab a sports drink, which will replace electrolytes lost in sweat. Some sports drinks come in zero sugar varieties, although the sugar in these drinks can help boost your energy, which you probably need, since dehydration generally occurs after vigorous physical exercise.

4. Take a painkiller

As long as you keep in mind that painkillers only mask pain, not cure it, it can be helpful to take something to cure your headache while you rehydrate. Often symptoms can take a few hours to subside, even once you’ve replenished your water and electrolyte levels, which is where a painkiller can make a big difference.

5. Hands off the grog

Yep, it’s the silly season, but that’s no excuse to be silly about your health. Drinking alcohol severely increases dehydration. This is one – possibly the only? – problem that wine won’t solve.

I repeat: WINE CANNOT FIX THIS. Step away from the vino.

Michelle Bridges’ 6 tips for surviving the festive season.

6. Make sure it doesn’t happen again… ever

I probably don’t need to tell you this, because once you’ve been dehydrated once you will not want it to happen again (my Sunday afternoon was far from relaxing) but the best cure is prevention. Next time you go for a run on a sweltering day or enjoy some sweaty beachside yoga, think about drinking water before, during and afterwards. Trust me – it’s worth it.

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