Water is essential for life. Without water, humans can only survive a few days. Water comprises from 75% body weight in infants to 55% in elderly. Not only is water essential for cellular health and life, but did you know that hydration is also critical to brain function? Recent research has shown that dehydration has a number of negative neurological, psychological and physical effects. This post reviews how dehydration can affect mood, focus and coordination and gives 5 tips to stay hydrated this summer.
Dehydration can affect your mood:
A number of studies have identified a link between dehydration and mood disturbances. In a 2012 study, researchers at the University of Connecticut induced dehydration in healthy young women through either exercise or exercise plus a diuretic and assessed its effects on mood. Dehydration was found to result in a measurable increase in “total mood disturbance.” (1) (2)
Dehydration can effect your focus and motor skills:
According to the findings of a 2015 study conducted at Loughborough University, we should avoid driving dehydrated. Volunteers committed a significantly greater number of errors such as lane drifting and late braking in a two-hour driving simulation when they drove dehydrated. Frighteningly, their driving performance was just as poor as those who complete similar tests while driving at the legal limit for blood alcohol content. The study showed how dehydration can dramatically reduce concentration and reaction time. (3)
Dehydration can affect your memory:
In 2010, researchers at Ohio University measured hydration status in a group of 21 older women who were assigned tests measuring their declarative (recalling facts and events) and working memory (involved in following an order or decision-making). The study found that the most dehydrated subjects performed the worst on all of these tests. Interestingly, there was also a link between dehydration, memory and low blood pressure. (4)
The impact dehydration makes on mood, memory, cognition, and motor skills makes sense because our brain is made of mostly water. Summer is also prime time for dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and even heat stroke—all of which are more common than you might think. In fact, according to research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more than 50 percent of all children and adolescents in the U.S. are not getting the hydration they need. Based on the most recent research, up to 75 percent of Americans may be functioning in a chronic state of dehydration (5).
This makes sense because it only takes our losing 2 percent of the normal water volume of the body to become dehydrated. So, this summer keep you and your family properly hydrated with these six tips:
Six Hydration Tips:
1.First, Let’s Check the Toilet:
You want your urine to look like lemonade – not iced tea. If your urine is a light lemonade color, it’s likely that you are properly hydrated. Dark yellow urine (like iced tea) typically signals dehydration and need for immediate rehydration.
2. Establish a Routine:
- The best way to start a new habit, is to attach it to an existing habit.
- Drink 8-ounces of water pre-morning coffee.
- Drink 8-ounces of water before every meal
- Take a few sips of water after you take a bathroom break
- Download an App to remind you throughout the day
3. Figure Out How You Like to Drink Water:
- Do you like cold water?
- Do you like room temperature water?
- Do you like to drink water from a squeeze bottle, a fancy bottle (like a Swell bottle), a plastic cup, a pint glass, a jug?
- Maybe you just want to drink water from a traditional recyclable bottle (no squeeze top)?
- Do you drink more when you drink Sparkling water, infused sparkling water?
- What if you infused your own water or sparkling water by adding a wedge of lemon, lime, summer fruit.
- Maybe you would drink more water if you added a splash of juice or herbal tea?
4. Eat Hydrating Foods
- Your food choices can account for approximately 20 percent of your daily fluid intake and are can be a major contributor to you and your family’s hydration. Luckily, many fruits and veggies are in season in the hot summer months. Think about adding these water-packed foods throughout the day:
- Cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, cauliflower, radishes, celery, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers.
- Watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew melon, strawberries, grapefruit, apricots, grapes, cherries.
- Fruits and veggies are also naturally rich in carbohydrates and minerals and electrolytes.
- I know a lot of runner friends who make homemade frozen popsicles using fruit, water, and an ice mold for after their long, hot summer runs.
5. When You Need to Add Electrolytes
- When you sweat, you lose electrolytes. Low levels of electrolytes can cause muscle cramping or weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness and confusion. Severe electrolyte deficiencies can cause seizure, paralysis and even death so it’s important to know when to add electrolytes.
- If you are exercising longer than 60 minutes or during any activity performed in extreme temperatures, you should add in electrolytes – sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
- Sports drinks can help to replenish those stores, as well as restore electrolyte balance. There are healthier, more natural alternatives than your typical sports drink:
- Coconut water contains natural electrolytes like potassium and sodium that are lost during exercise. If you don’t need the extra carbs from a sports drink, you might like 100% Pure Coconut Water with no added sugars. One serving of coconut water (around 8oz) contains approximately 50 calories, 500 milligrams of potassium and 40 milligrams of sodium. If you need extra sodium, you can add a dash of salt, or enjoy with some salted nuts or pretzels.
- You can also make your own easy sports drink at home:
- Squeeze any citrus fruit into an 8-ounce cup of water
- Add honey or maple syrup to taste
- Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt.
- Make your own “Gatorade”:
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- This makes four servings. Per 8 ounce serving: 50 calories, 14 grams carbohydrate, 160 milligrams sodium.
- Another alternative for an electrolyte replacement is chocolate (cow’s or soy) milk. These beverages are good for after an hour-long training session because chocolate milk will also offer simple and complex carbs + protein. The simple carbs can be used to provide quick fuel replenishment while the protein can help build and repair muscles. Chocolate milk will also provide the fluid needed to rehydrate, along with sodium, potassium and magnesium.
5. Weigh Yourself Before & After Exercise
- Sweating is a major contributor to dehydration during summer time exercise and if it evaporates quickly off your skin, you may not realize how much you are losing.
- To determine your sweat loss and hydration needs, you can do a sweat test:
- Weigh yourself naked both before and after exercising.
- Every pound lost between the beginning and end of an exercise session represents 16 ounces of water.
- If you drank 16-ounces of water – add that to what you lost.
- For every pound you have lost, replenish with 16-24-ounces of fluids. This can be done as noted in the previous 4-Steps to Rehydrate.
1. Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, Lee EC, McDermott BP, Klau JF, Jimenez L, Le Bellego L, Chevillotte E, Lieberman HR. Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. J Nutr. 2012 Feb; 142(2):382–8. Epub 2011 Dec 21.
3. Watson P, Whale A, Mears SA, Reyner LA, Maughan RJ. Mild hypohydration increases the frequency of driver errors during a prolonged, monotonous driving task. Physiol Behav. 2015 Aug 1;147:313–8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.04.028. Epub 2015 Apr 16.
4. Ogino Y, Kakeda T, Nakamura K, Saito S. Dehydration enhances pain-evoked activation in the human brain compared with rehydration. Anesth Analg. 2014 Jun; 118(6):1317–25.