Hydrate for Peak Brain and Physical Performance

What are your highest priorities when it comes to job performance and tasks that require creativity and brain power? What is most important to you to ensure you are physically fit? If drinking enough water was not one of your answers, read on to find out why it should be.

Brain Performance

We know that when you are severely dehydrated, your body is operating in survival mode so is not ready to create, learn new tasks, memorize statistics, or have a productive conversation. But did you know that mild dehydration can lead to decreased cognitive performance, altered mood, and even increased risk for stroke? In addition, water deprivation leads to oxidative stress in the brain, which is related to a quickening of the aging process – and I don’t know anyone who wants their body to age quicker!

When people were put in a mildly dehydrated state, they reported decreased alertness, ability to concentrate, and reaction time along with increased tiredness and headaches. It makes one wonder if it’s even safe to drive while mildly dehydrated!

Physical Performance

Negative exercise-related consequences of moderate dehydration are apparent whether the physical activity lasts a few minutes or longer durations, and is especially true for aerobic exercise. Performance is impaired even for healthy young individuals. Drinking enough fluid during exercise helps regulate body temperature and increase blood flow to working muscles to help with exercise efficiency. Next time you work out, make a conscious effort to drink more water before and during your workout, and see if you notice improved performance. It may help you work out smarter, and not harder!

Additionally, those suffering from arthritis notice increased pain when exercising when they are not hydrated. Adults with arthritis who drink water prior their bout of exercise notice less pain – so front-loading your water intake before being active is a great way to achieve more in a workout (and enjoy it more!) if you have this type of joint pain.

How to Stay Hydrated

In our dry climate, sweat wicks away quickly, so it’s hard to tell when you’ve had excessive water loss. Plus, for those over 65 years old, your body has lost some of its sensitivity to thirst, so relying on that alone is not the best option.

Calculate your personal water needs (see sidebar), and make a goal to stick to that level of intake for at least 2 days. Check your urine, and if it is slightly yellow/almost clear, then you’re well-hydrated. If it’s darker, then you know you need to add more water. Individual factors vary greatly, so checking your urine is the best way to double check whether the estimation works for you.

Water is the very best way to hydrate because it doesn’t contain any calories, sugars, or alcohol which can do more harm than good. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try flavoring them up with some citrus or infusing your water with herbs like mint or basil. Carbonated water has the same effect as still water, so if you like bubbles, that may be the way to go.

Motivate to Hydrate

Summer is a great time to challenge yourself to drink more water. Make a commitment to try to meet your fluid needs for one week - you may notice a significant improvement in how you feel!

Calculate Your Fluid Needs
Divide your weight in pounds by 2.
This is how many ounces of water you need if you are inactive, not pregnant/breastfeeding, and don’t sweat a lot.

If you are active - 
For every 30 mins of moderate to vigorous intensity activity you do, add 12 ounces of fluid to the result above.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding -
Add 24-32 ounces (24 ounces for women weighing less than average to 32 ounces for women weighing more than average.)

If you sweat a lot throughout the day and you notice that your sweat comes out very salty (you see white rings on your clothes), and/or if you train in intense endurance exercise - 
You may need to add electrolytes to your water. Use electrolyte tablets or try making your own by mixing 5 cups water + ½ teaspoon salt + 5 teaspoons sugar.

Article provided by Dana Dose CDE, RDN, Registered Dietitian, and member the Rethink Healthy Team. For more information about Wellness Services, call 530-587-3769.