How Much Does Dehydration Affect Me?
Have you been unable to focus at work today? Did you find yourself sinking into a bad mood, getting more tense, and finding tasks more difficult? And when you were exercising, did you feel a headache sneaking in, and were you tiring easily?
A potential reason for all of this is a lack of water. It is needed in your body for more reasons than you may know, including preventing the issues above. This article will explain all of the ‘minor’ complications of being dehydrated as well suggestions to prevent it (drinking water most obviously).
As you can see from this infographic, our bodies are made up of a lot of water, and so it is clearly crucial for everyday functions. As 73% of our brains is water, it should be unsurprising that slight dehydration can drastically impact our cognitive process, as clearly the brain heavily relies on water.
Things like being unable to concentrate, finding tasks more difficult than they should be, or dropping into a bad mood are symptoms found in a study of dehydrated women in the workplace. Additionally, fatigue and anxiety were spotted in a study of dehydrated men in the workplace. These ‘minor’ symptoms of dehydration could seriously affect your work performance, and actually make work dangerous if your full concentration is required, i.e. driving or operating machinery or public services.
There are many contributing factors to dehydration at work, some being related to the environment, like air-conditioning units in an office. Some factors are more related due to the nature of your work: such as not having the time to drink, like in shift work, or doing heavy or strenuous work.
So now we know the causes of dehydration and the issues that come from it – let’s try to fix the problem. One suggestion to help you remain hydrated in the workplace is to take a bottle of water with you to work, and set yourself a water challenge. I aim to drain my 500ml bottle twice in a working day, so that I am halfway towards the recommended intake for women (2.0 litres through food and drink). Some people prefer to see how many small bottles of water they can drink in a day, but others in my office challenge themselves to drink a huge bottle. I think the key is to keep track of how much you have drunk and aim for the target (2.5 litres for men – although all water intakes are unique to you depending upon your age/sex/activity level/height/weight).
Another suggestion I have is set yourself a reminder to check your bottle and see how you’re doing. At lunch I will finish the water I have left in the bottle, and then refill it for the afternoon. This ensures I stay hydrated throughout the day. One last suggestion is that as soon as you feel a headache starting, or you start losing concentration, have a glass of water to see if this helps first.
Now we are going to explore dehydration while exercising. Studies have shown that being dehydrated can seriously affect the performance of endurance athletes by up to 20% in normal temperatures, and there are more studies being conducted regarding strength trainers. One initial study shows that athletes’ jump height decreased the more dehydrated they were: this study could show how dehydration affects strength training.
Being dehydrated when exercising can also affect your ability to thermoregulate - or to manage your body's core temperature. Sweating helps your body to cool down, but if you’re dehydrated, sweating and therefore thermoregulation could be less effective. Runners’ core temperature was higher when they were dehydrated than when they were hydrated.
Another problem of dehydration whilst exercising, which is related to fatigue, is that the feelings of effort may increase – which is misleading as it is due to dehydration.
It is therefore important to remain hydrated before, during, and after exercise, in order to increase performance levels and to keep you healthy. Studies suggest that drinking water before exercise can reduce the risk of getting a cramp! Throughout exercise, ensure that you sip water at regular intervals. Depending upon how hard you are exercising, try every 20 minutes of more frequently if you need it. And after exercise, again sip water to ensure you are hydrated in the most efficient manner – instead of gulping it down.
So now that we know bit more about the source of life, try to set yourself the water challenge and drink more at work and throughout exercise.