Water is an essential nutrient to life. Adequate hydration is the key to short and long term wellbeing and is needed for almost every bodily function. Even mild dehydration affects both mental and physical performance: just 2% dehydration can cause a 20% reduction in performance in physical and cognitive activities.
Keeping one’s body hydrated is essential, particularly when working in varied conditions and needing to concentrate for long periods of time. Drinking little and often throughout the day can help us stay on track and keep alert.
Many people assume that the amount of water in our body is controlled by our kidneys. It is in fact our brain that recognises when we need water, via a complicated maze of sensory neurones, in a tiny segment of the brain called the ‘hypothalamus’. A delicate balance of water and sodium is at the centre of the thirst mechanism, hence why highly salted foods can make us feel thirsty.
The brain itself is composed of around 75% water which means it is vital to keep topped up for healthy brain function; physical brain dehydration can also trigger the common headache.
So what should we be drinking?
It is important that you consider the calories associated with some common beverages, as well as the diuretic effect of alcohol on the body. To help you make a healthy choice, take a look at the scale below:
Diet fizzy/soft drinks 330ml
Orange juice 200ml
Half fat milk 200ml
Red/white wine 200ml
Fizzy/soft drinks 300ml
Premium lager 568ml (1 pint)
Make time to hydrate
In a world where many of us are constantly trying to juggle a hectic work schedule, thirst signals are often ignored and such common signals of dehydration as fatigue, lack of focus or concentration, headaches, sleepiness and infrequent bathroom breaks may be overlooked. The consequence? If you become even mildly dehydrated, it can directly affect your ability to be at your best.
There is evidence linking routine, mild dehydration with a range of chronic illnesses and this can have potentially harmful consequences in the long term. Gallstones, kidney stones, constipation, increased likelihood of heart valve prolapse or urinary tract infections plus the possibility of suffering heart attacks may be some of the potential longer term effects of persistent mild dehydration.
To improve your ability to work or exercise in the short term and your long term health benefits, take care of your hydration needs.
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