Are You Drinking Enough? The Effects of Dehydration

It’s easy to forget to drink water during the course of the day, often only remembering to have a glass when we begin to feel thirsty. Many people drink tea and coffee throughout the day, forgetting to have water too; when in fact caffeinated drinks such as these should be drunk in moderation, as they produce a diuretic effect causing you to go to the bathroom more regularly.

Studies have failed to exactly pinpoint a recommended daily water intake, as this varies from person to person, however water accounts for around 50-60% of our total body mass, of which, we renew about 5-10% of every day. How much water we need is  affected by a range of factors from activity levels and the ambient temperature to gender. Whilst gender does not sound like an obvious contributing factor, studies have found women are more susceptible to feeling the effects of mild dehydration.

Dehydration can have a range of adverse affects on our bodies: dizziness and headaches, dry mouth, lips and eyes, even heat exhaustion and in severe cases it can affect kidney function. But how does mild dehydration affect us?

A 2011 study found that losing as little as 1-2% of the total water volume in your body may lead to fatigue, poor mood and headaches in men. Dehydration was also found to lower concentration levels and increase an individual’s perception of the difficulty of a task presented to them. A further study in 2012 found similar results in women.

We begin to feel thirsty at around 1-2% dehydration, meaning that by the time our body is sending us signals to drink more water, dehydration has already begun to have an effect on our performance and mood. This level of dehydration is easily reached through normal daily activities if we neglect our water intake.  Your body may even send you the wrong signals, mistaking hunger for thirst, as both are processed in the same part of the brain. If you’ve recently eaten and still feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water before reaching for snacks.

To combat fatigue and poor concentration, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day and don’t replace it with high sugar juices or tea and coffee.

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