It's finally started to warm up here in Western Australia. Hydration is back on the agenda!
Up until late last year I spent part of each year instructing advanced survival exercises in the Pilbara (a hot, arid region of Western Australia). It's a hot climate, and the daytime temperature often exceeded 45 deg. Celsius.
Despite my experience in the environment it was easy to get mildly dehydrated, which can leave you feeling irritable, sluggish and finding it hard to concentrate. Interestingly, I often feel the same around 2 or 3pm on a day in the office, or delivering training. My inclination at those times is to reach for some caffeine, or a sugary snack, but it's water that my body really needs. Perhaps you can relate to that.
Almost everyone on those courses experienced some level of mild to moderate dehydration. Symptoms much like the ones I experienced can sneak up on you. By the time you feel thirsty you are already 2 - 3% dehydrated and the first thing to suffer is mental function. Our ability to make sense of data like maps, spreadsheets, and technical information and our ability to do calculations diminishes.
The most extreme example I've seen was a documentary participant on a walk in the Pilbara. She had not been drinking enough because she felt the water was making her feel nauseous (a more advanced symptom of dehydration). I reminded her about the drop in mental function we had taught her about and then asked her to multiply 2 x 4. She um-ed and ah-ed for a while and then said "I should know the answer to that, it's not hard, I just can't find it in my brain". She drank more water and recovered overnight.
Thirst is often misinterpreted as hunger, so we eat, which diverts more of the body's moisture resources to digestion and also increases the feeling of sluggishness. Some studies estimate that most of us experience 2-3% dehydration in the course of a regular working day in an office environment. Mental performance suffers because the body priorities water to digestion, kidney and liver function, hydrating your lungs, maintaining your blood flow and a host of other essential functions.
So, here's some simple tips to keep your magnificent human brain hydrated and operating at full power.
Start well - Start the day with a glass of fresh water.
Keep it Up - Aim to drink around 2 litres of fresh water per day (more if you are very active or it is hot).
Drink don't Sip - Drinking a cup full (200 - 300ml) at a time increases the effectiveness of the water in your system. You don't have to scull it, but you should drink it within 15 minutes.
Keep Track - Keep a clear one litre water bottle on your desk , so you can monitor how much you drink. Monitor input by output. If you urinate less than 4 times a day and it is dark and smelly, you need to drink more. One of caffeine's effects is that you will urinate larger quantities of clear fluid, masking this effective way to monitor hydration.
Be Proactive - Drink before you feel thirsty.
What about my coffee - Caffeine is OK but also speeds dehydration, if you drink a lot of coffee, tea, or energy drinks increase your water intake.
Pre-dinner Drinks - Drink a glass of water 15 - 20 minutes before you eat or snack.
Afternoon Pick Me Up - Try a glass or 2 of water instead of reaching for the chocolate and coffee mid afternoon.
Enjoy!! - keep your high performance brain topped up and enjoy the energy and mental sharpness!
There are more and more studies being done about the long term health benefits of water. Conditions including Alzheimer's, Arthritis, Pneumonia and many others benefit from good hydration. On top of your improved daily mental function you will be improving your chances of long term health as well.
To your good health!!