Feeling tired? Drink up!

Study Title
Water intake reverses dehydration associated impaired executive function in healthy young women.
Study Authors
Stachenfeld NS, Leone CA, Mitchell ES, Freese E, Harkness L
Study Model Human
Abstract Link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29277553


To quote the new American Apparel’s campaign: “We are back to basics”. I believe that when it comes to cognitive performance we first need to address the basic stuff like water intake. When you feel fatigued, the first step should be to drink a glass of water and only then moving to supplements like coffee or Ginseng.

    People tend to drink fluids when they exercise, but do we remember to drink when we are stuck in the office focused on some task with a short deadline? I bet it’s quite easy to forget to drink enough water. It won’t make much difference immediately but you could lose enough water to cause a mild dehydration.

    I remember a time when all I drank all day was two-three cups of tea, that’s all. Definitely below the recommended limits, so maybe it’s worth paying more attention to drinking water as highlighted in the article by Stachenfeld et al titled “Water intake reverses dehydration associated impaired executive function in healthy young women.” (link)

    Dehydration has been shown to cause progressive impairment when it comes to cognitive tasks like mathematical ability, short-term memory and visuomotor function. It has also been linked to the perception of fatigue levels and decreased mood.

    Losing 2-4% of body weight in water results in side effects like fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and poor mental performance, but what happens at lower levels, e.g. at 1-1.5% loss?

    From the Stachenfeld’s study we learn that people could lose 1.5% of body mass in water over 24-hour period if they don’t consciously hydrate. The study assessed the cognitive performance of young, healthy females and observed that a mild dehydration increased errors in complex cognitive tasks including visual and working memory tests, executive function and spatial problem solving. Simple tasks like reaction time were not affected.

    The good news is that dehydration can be easily reversed if we only remember to drink water as the first step when feeling fatigued. Sounds simple and it really is simple – have a glass water. The rule of thumb is for urine to have a pale yellow colour. If it’s dark yellow it’s a sign for you to hydrate again. If it’s transparent, you don’t need to drink until your next trip to the toilet to check the colour again.

    Have you ever been dehydrated? Do you have any tips on how to stay hydrated at work?

    Dr Bart Alright


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