It’s the second half of the soccer championships and it’s nearly 95 degrees out with clear skies. At this point all the players are covered in a thick layer of sweat as they continue to jog up the field. Your heart is pounding, thinking about how good your ice cold water is going to taste after this. You notice a slight dizziness as the fatigue sets in along with the thirst, but you shake it off before your opponents get the chance to score.
It’s almost 3:00, the end of the workday is near. Only one more meeting left before you can start packing up for the day. You notice your headache is still present from this morning. Maybe another cup of coffee will do the trick. After rubbing your eyes, you contemplate if taking a nap is what you need to be rejuvinated. You don’t stop to think maybe the cause of all this is from lack of water.
We’ve all heard from a young age that our bodies are composed of nearly two thirds water, but what really happens when we don’t consistently provide an adequete fluid intake? Does it really have an impact on our bodies, specifically our brains? First it’s important to understand the key roles water plays in maintaining a healthy body, controlling a lot of bodily functions we take for granted everyday. Digestion of food begins in the mouth and without proper saliva from water it’s harder to digest and swallow food. In addition, water aids with carrying these vital nutrients from our food to the cells in our body, allowing us to have energy to take on everything from sports to a back to back day of meetings, Without proper water our body begins to overheat, it becomes harder to remove waste, our organs are more at risk without adequete protection, and our joints lose our vital lubrication.
Eliminating this key macromolecule leaves the body vulnerable to a lot of ailments, but how exactly do we combat this? At one point in our life we have all faced common symptoms of dehydration, such as dizziness, fatigue, extreme thirst, and cramping. But our minds and bodies are quite smart and attempt to retain as much water as possible when we neglect to consume adequete amounts. However, this doesn’t just impact our kidneys, in fact recent research has shown losing as little as 1% of our total water can have effects on our short term memory, emotions, and our bodily functions. Dehydration essentially comes with a loss of vital electrolytes and sodium, which in turn causes our memory and focus to plummet as well.
This risk tends to be higher for athletes due to increased sweat depleting water supplies and decreased intake of fluid during game time. Specifically, our brain cavities that are depleted of water can’t protect us nearly as well during deydration, thus increasing the risk of brain injuries if injured. Although, some research has been done on the short term consequences of dehydration on the brain and body, relatively little is known on the long term effects. Especially those that fall on drastic ends of the spectrum from very dehydrated, which is seen in bodybuilding competitions, to consuming way too much water at once. As a benchmark a good way to check your hydration levels is through your urine. There has been debate how many cup/ ounces the average person truly needs to consume. One of the few certain ways is to judge how hydrated you are by the hue of your urine. Typically clear to light yellow means you are staying hydrated, but dark yellow and anything darker means you should start drinking more. It is important to find a happy medium to reduce risks associated with not drinking an adequete amount of water, ranging from dizziness to death in the extreme cases.
For athletes, sports drinks have become more popular to replace necessary electrolytes and sodium depletion needed after intense exercise. Although, these are not replacements for water, in athletes specifically, these offer a way to replenish glucose and key minerals necessary when putting strain on your body. But for most of us who deal with fatigue in the summer prioritizing water is an easy way to improve your health and prevent debilitating effects of dehydration that impacts our brains.
Here are a few tangible tips you can apply to your routine to make sure you stay hydrated, especially in the summer time. Invest in a water bottle you plan to take with you everywhere, whether it’s a quick trip to the grocery store or a day on the beach convenience is everything. If it’s with you it makes it less likely you will forget to sip throughout the day. I personally like the brands Hydro flask and S’well because they keep your water ice cold throughout the day. The next tip is if you constantly forget to drink, depsite carrying a water bottle, set a timer on your phone every hour or so reminding you to rehydrate so you never stay thirsty for too long. There are also plenty of apps that allow you to easily track how much water you’ve had in a day. I recommend picking a goal amount of water and trying to stick with it everyday. See how long you can go without breaking the hydration streak! Finally, if you’re an athlete prioritize drinking water before, during, AND after your workouts. You lose a tremendous amount of water through sweat and exercise so it’s crucial you prioritize water even more than the average person. Try out one or a few of these tips to increase your hydration and improve your brain health this summer!