Ever find yourself cranky and restless in the middle of the day for seemingly no reason? Then, after a stop to the water cooler in the office or to the tap in your kitchen, you seem to find your second wind, feel in better spirits and are more focused. Well, there’s scientific reasoning behind that, according to a study published in January’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory in Storrs, Conn. studied 25 healthy, young women, whose concentration, memory and mood were tested while dehydrated and hydrated. The women, who were an average age of 23, were neither athletes nor couch potatoes. In two of three experiments, dehydration was generated by exercising on a treadmill, with or without a diuretic—a pill that encourages urination and can lead to dehydration.
The study found that even mild dehydration affected the women’s mood for the worse, increased their fatigue and triggered headaches. The dehydrated women had difficulty concentrating and perceived tasks as being harder than normal. Also they were “more fatigued, and this was true during mild exercise and when sitting at a computer,” explained lead researcher and University of Connecticut professor of environmental and exercise physiology Lawrence E. Armstrong, PhD in a WebMD story.
In a previous study, Armstrong and colleagues investigated the effects of mild dehydration in men. While men exhibited subtle mental difficulties when dehydrated, the findings were similar between the sexes.
If one considers the fact that a significant portion of your body is comprised of water, it makes sense that the body thirsts for enough of it to function optimally. “Your brain is 80 percent water, and if it’s not hydrated, your neurons can’t perform properly,” says Daniel Amen, M.D., author of Magnificent Mind at Any Age.
Dr. Armstrong noted that oftentimes by the time one feels the sensation of thirst, he or she is already dehydrated.
In addition to getting headaches or feeling fatigued, people may think they are hungry or have sugar cravings when what they really need is a glass of water. The effects of mild hydration may be even more severe in the elderly, young children or people with certain medical conditions.
Most experts recommend six to eight servings of 8 oz glasses of water per day for healthy people. “If you take half of your current weight, that’s the minimum amount of water in ounce you need to be drinking a day,” says Michael Hand of Complete Wellness Concepts in Littleton, Col.
People should increase their intake the more active they are and in hotter, drier temperatures. However, yes, there is such a thing as drinking too much water: it’s called hyponatremia. And those with certain medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, however, may also need to limit their consumption of water so should consult with a doctor.
Millions of Americans try to quench their thirst with soda, coffee, or other caffeinated drinks, which actually have dehydrating agents. Water is the purest way to hydrate your body—throw a splash of lemon, lime or cucumber in it to add some extra zest.
The new study should be a reminder for people to stay well hydrated, drinking moderate amounts of water, both during and after exercise. “We should focus on hydration and continue to drink during meals and when we are not at meals,” said Armstrong.
Renée Canada is a holistic health and lifestyle counselor for The Mind-Body SHIFT, with training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and UConn’s School of Public Health. In her practice, clients learn to improve their health and lifestyle through a holistic approach to wellness that encompasses the body, mind and spirit. Visit Renee’s web site to learn more about how you can create the healthy, rewarding and happy life you’ve always desired.