A study in the UK by Loughborough University showed that dehydration can have a negative impact on your mental ability, similar to that seen when drinking alcohol. In fact, you're 114% more likely to make an error if you're dehydrated.
More than 8 glasses a day. Are you kidding?
We can easily have a few beers or a couple glasses of wine but as soon as someone tells us to drink more water it all of a sudden becomes impossible to stomach more than a few sips. Water not only hydrates our skin to make us look younger (cheers everywhere), but it is crucial for every single bodily function, not to mention its aid in muscle recovery and bowel regularity. If you hate drinking water you will need to get used to it. There are no two ways about it. My guidelines are to aim for 2-3 litres per day. Minimum.
How do you get used to it you may wonder. Well, like anything gradually increasing your intake and consistently doing this will make it become second nature and in no time you will be a happier better hydrated human. In all seriousness though start by having a glass of water first thing in the morning. Also learn to have a glass of water when you beginning to feel hungry, tired or stressed as these emotions regularly lead to eating to satisfy our body actually craving hydration. The big question I always get asked is whether tea and coffee and other drinks containing water count as your daily water intake. The answer is no. firstly, coffee dehydrates us and is a natural diuretic and tea can often have the safe effect. Herbal or not there isn’t sufficient evidence to say whether it hydrates you or not so I recommend sticking to plain old water.
Our cognitive ability, mood and bodily functions are hindered to an alarming degree if our body’s total water content drops by as little as 1%. What is even more alarming is a study at The Natural Hydration Council (REF) which shows that a child's mental performance is optimal when hydrated and dehydration can decrease physical performance by a whopping 5%.
Hydration and performance
We focus on our gym and fitness regime, our diets, calorie intake and getting enough protein, yet we tend neglect something that makes up two thirds of our body. Water or H20. On average, people are living in a chronically dehydrated state. This means that we are constantly drinking too little water and our bodies are under stress because of it. This stalls training progress, bodily functions and overall health. From a pure performance perspective, adequate water consumption aids performance, recovery, lessens soreness and removes toxins from the body.
According to the Journal of Psychophysiology, drinking an adequate amount of water can aid in your endurance and your tolerance to pain. When in a dehydrated state (drinking under your recommended daily intake of water) our perception and sensitivity to pain is radically higher. "If you want to keep your workouts longer and more intense to build better muscles, increase your water intake and reap the benefits."
Muscles and hydration
As with most things in your body, muscles require a certain balance of hydration in order to function at their optimal levels. Whether you’re hydrating before you hit the gym or before an important race, without enough water, your muscles are not getting the electrolytes needed to maintain your body’s balance, affecting our gross and fine motor skills as well as our strength.
Fat and hydration
Fat loss and muscle gain are the most sought-after result from training and this is hard to achieve without being hydrated. Drinking adequate water ensures that your body has the proper environment for important functions to take place, namely, the process of metabolising (burning) fat for energy. When we feel bloated and are sometimes unsure why. It could be because of dehydration. When your body is unsure of when it'll be receiving more water it retains water to keep a balanced water-to-electrolyte ratio. So if you only drink water every now and then and often fall into a dehydrated state this could be a reason for your bloating and discomfort. Try to drink regularly throughout the day and notice how your body responds.
Signs of dehydration
John Higgins, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas and the chief of cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital in Houston states that if you’re not producing enough saliva, through a lack of hydration, you can get bacterial overgrowth in the mouth, and one of the side effects of that is bad breath.
When pinched, the skin of a dehydrated person may remain “tented” and take some time to return to its normal, flat appearance. Use two fingers to pinch up some skin on the back of your hand, and then let the skin go. The skin should spring back to its normal position in less than a couple of seconds. Higgins says that if the skin returns to normal more slowly, you might be dehydrated.
Changes in the electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, can also lead to muscle cramping as well.
When you’re dehydrated, it can be difficult for organs such as the liver which uses water to function properly. For example the liver then releases glycogen and other components of your energy stores and you can actually get cravings for food, especially sweet foods.
Lastly, mild dehydration can cause a dehydration headache and trigger a migraine headache. Drinking a full glass of water and continuing to sip more fluids during the day is an easy way to ease your pain if, in fact, you are dehydrated.
Eight glasses of water just isn't enough, unless you want to perform at a sub-par level.
Keep hydrated folks. I recommend drink 1 L of water as soon as you wake up to help your metabolism and bodily functions kick start.
- Sheehy, CM, Perry PA, Cromwell SL. Dehydration: biological considerations, age-related changes, and risk factors in older adults. Biol Res Nurs. 1999; 1:30-7
- Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition reviews. 2010;68(8):439-458.
- Tucker, R. Dugas, J. (26 October 2007) Fluid Intake, Dehydration and Exercise, retrieved 16 September 2019 from The Science of Sport: http://scienceofsport.blogspot.com/2007/10/fluid-intake-dehydration-and-exercise_26.html
- Tamlin, S. (2018) Are we Drinking Enough Water, retrieved 1 September 2019 from Water Logic: https://www.waterlogicaustralia.com.au/resources/are-we-drinking-enough-water/
- George, N. (29 May 2019) Unusual Signs of Dehydration, retrieved 15 June 2019 from Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/unusual-signs-of-dehydration/