Career Advice

What You Need to Know about Hydration and Performance

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Have you ever taken time to think about the types of beverages you’re consuming, or if you’re drinking enough water each day? Have you considered how this might be affecting your brain, body, and overall performance? This blog provides a glimpse of the significant impact of hydrated and dehydrated states, as well as provides simple tips to help you stay hydrated and perform optimally.

By Jacqueline D. Lee, Ph.D.

Your hydration state and beverage selection has an impact on the functional quality and longevity of your internal organs. In being internal, and therefore not immediately apparent, attention due hydration has become subpar for many individuals. Dehydrated, the body attempts to survive in this suboptimal condition.

A consequence of dehydration that is more apparent, however, is underperformance, which at times goes undetected, or is attributed to other factors. In being undetected, one intends to (and may very well) perform at a high level each day, except that it’s only a high level within the suboptimal, dehydrated state that the body is in. It’s as much as the body can put forth in this condition! The individual may be unaware that there is a higher level that the body can operate at, having often functioned in a dehydrated state and unknowingly grown accustomed to lower ranges of performance over time. Know that greater strides can be reached when your body functions at optimal hydration levels. And, improvement in how you feel each day is always a plus!

From my opportunities to speak about hydration at different wellness and high performance talks, it’s evident that hydration is oftentimes overlooked and neglected when it comes to nutrition, even though it’s critically important to overall performance. Staying hydrated is essential beyond just during strenuous activity. With vital organs such as your heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, etc., being majority water – even your bones are 31% water! – it’s necessary to stay hydrated on a daily basis.

Think about your brain. As instrumental as your brain is each day, can you afford to allow it to become dehydrated? Comprised of 73% water, why not provide an oasis of hydration for this major player in your day-to day?! Research shows that dehydration impairs working memory, recall, arithmetic and general problem solving, concentration, attention, and other mental faculties – not the least of these, energy!

If you were to look at a hydrated brain and a dehydrated brain, side by side, you would see holes and spots in the dehydrated brain that were not present in the hydrated brain. These holes and spots are areas of inactivity! Moreover, your brain begins to shrink and pull away from the skull when dehydrated!

To avoid dehydration, there’s good news – the solution is simple: drink enough water to stay hydrated! So how much is enough? While different factors come into play here, drinking between ½ – 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight, per day, will get you headed in the right direction. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, the minimum amount of water recommended each day is 75 ounces. (The maximum amount would be 150 ounces.) If you prefer the metric system, approximately 1 kg of body weight would require .033 liters of water. So, weighing 75 kilograms would equate to about 2.5 liters of water each day.

Here are six tips to help you stay hydrated:

  1. Add fresh fruit slices and/or fresh vegetable slices to your water for a bit of fun and palatability. Research the added benefit of adding lemon to your water!
  1. Try all natural sparkling water, holding the artificial sweeteners! Buy plain sparkling water and add your own flavoring by merging these first two tips. The carbonation brings a little party to your taste buds!
  1. Add more whole fruit and raw vegetables to your diet, many of which are composed of around 90% water!
  1. Mix it up with green tea. While the majority of your hydration should come from water, mixing in some green tea every now and then will add some spice to your hydration life! Take a sneak peak at the wonderful benefits of this super-charged drink!
  1. Break it up. Calculate how much water you need to drink each day, and break that amount up per every 3-4 hours. This will also ensure that you’re staying hydrated throughout the day. I should note that if you prefer to sleep soundly through the night, minimizing bladder alarms, finish off your last sip by 6pm!
  1. Look behind you. For many, checking urine color to make sure it’s clear (rather than yellow), is a good indication that you’re hydrated.

Drinking is good. Staying hydrated is better. The occasional water-drinker won’t cut it! Hydration (or lack there of) affects how you feel and how you perform.

Dr. Jacqueline D. Lee works for EXOS, a global pioneer in human performance. She is the Performance Coach for IBM, driving education and solutions around proactive health and wellness in the areas of mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. Partnering with the IBM Global Health Promotions Department of Integrated Health Services, as well as the IBM Leadership Development Team, Dr. Lee touches a wide range of employees – from new hires to executives – working towards restoring and upgrading lives. Prior to working for EXOS, Dr. Lee spent time in the professional sports industry, taught as an Associate Instructor at a Big Ten University, and has done research in the areas of comprehensive wellness, sport management and psychology.

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