Welcome to Health Hacks! I’m Edith Clogg, the Director of Nutrition Strategy with ISS Guckenheimer. It's a hot one here and is likely to be warm where you are too -- which means that adequate hydration is key.
But hydration is important not just on the warm days but all throughout the year for mental performance ... what we eat and drink impacts our brain.
There is new research showing that mental performance, including mood and ability to complete complex tasks, is significantly impacted by even mild dehydration. So let's first quantify hydration and talk about mild dehydration impact.
Mild dehydration is defined as an approximately 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume in the body. Unfortunately, our thirst sensation doesn't become active until we are at least 1% dehydrated, which means that we are close to, or maybe even at mild dehydration when we start to sense thirst. YIKES! Mild dehydration can happen after a 30 minute run or an hour hike - that time can fly if we aren't aware of it.
So what does that mean for our brain, mood, and mental performance?
The director of the Exercise Physiology Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology published an analysis of hydration research and found that when we are mildly dehydrated, we don't do as well on tasks that require a lot of attention. So you will be able to answer some emails and pick up your kids from school with no issues - but when it comes to working on projects efficiently, creating the next best solution for your work team or making processes more efficient at work and at home, hydration is key.
Gender specific studies have shown that both genders experience adverse effects. In tests involving young men, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, mild dehydration caused some difficulty with mental tasks, particularly in the areas of vigilance and working memory, some fatigue, tension, and anxiety.
A study on women published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2012 found that women had an increase in perception of how difficult tasks were and had lower concentration at mild dehydration levels. Mental ability wasn't sacrified but perception of the difficulty of the task was. And we all know that when things feel more challenging ... they can become mentally exhausting and tiring.
The take home message? We all need to stay hydrated at all times, not just during exercise, extreme heat or exertion. What are some ways you can do that?
Drink water first thing in the morning. It may take some getting used to but starting your day off with a glass of water after a night of sleep starts you off on a great hydration note.
Drink water at and between meals. Of course, you can drink other things too but prioritizing water throughout the day is a good way to prevent that 1-2% dehydration level that can have negative impacts.
Next up, we've mentioned the urine test before - check the color of your urine and aim for a color that would be close to pale lemonade throughout the day. Lastly, prioritizing hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables is another big component that helps to meet water and hydration goals.
Next month we'll get into the types of food and specific foods that can impact your everyday work and life performance … stay tuned!
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