I know you’re thinking, What are you talking about?! If I don’t drink water I will be intoxicated? I know this sounds like some late night commercial, but becoming dehydrated does affect brain function. Skipping water does not give you a buzz, but it can have you perform simple tasks with the same amount of mistakes as a person that is legally intoxicated. Sounds crazy, YES! But there is PROOF!
Okay how did all of this not drinking water become equal with being drunk? A recent study by Professor Ron Maughan, Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough University, found that when people became dehydrated they became less attentive.
Here are the details of the study.
In the study people were asked to drive for 2 hours on a driving simulator with a monotonous journey consisting of roads with dual directions, bends, a hard shoulder, and the simulated auditory “rumble strips”, along with slow moving vehicles that had to be passed.
- On dry days volunteers were only given .85 of an ounce of water each hour.
- On wet days volunteers were given 6.8 ounces of water each hour.
- Driving errors were recorded by the computer, such as; lane drifting, late braking, crossing lane lines, or hitting the rumble strip.
- When hydrated, an average of 47 driving errors were recorded over the 2 hours.
- On dehydrated days, the driving errors doubled to 101 on average.
THE NUMBER OF ERRORS FROM A DEHYDRATED PERSON WERE FOUND TO BE SIMILAR IN MAGNITUDE TO THOSE OF PEOPLE WITH A BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT OF 0.08%, WHICH IS RIGHT AT THE CURRENT TEXAS LEGAL DRIVING LIMIT!
To balance this idea of dehydration impaired, you first have to understand when a person is dehydrated. To many people, the picture that comes to mind is someone who is crawling across the hot sands with cracked lips and his shirt wrapped around his head trying to shield him from the sun. You laugh, but tell the truth; your picture was somewhat similar. Yes, that would be extreme dehydration.
What about dehydration that is just 1-5%? That is the level of dehydration that Professor Ron Maughan’s volunteers were experiencing. Many of us have experienced some of the signs of mild dehydration, which are:
- Increased thirst.
- Dry mouth.
- Food cravings, especially sweets.
- Tired or sleepy at the wrong times.
- Urine low volume and dark yellowish.
- Muscle cramps.
- Dry Skin.
These are normal conditions for some people, since some are constantly dehydrated. I can’t tell you how many people inform me that they “don’t like water, so they don’t drink it”. Many medical associations state that at least 75% of Americans are mildly dehydrated. Before I became aware of water and its importance I experienced many of the above signs of mild dehydration on a daily basis.
Let’s look at some common real world examples you’ve probably experienced showing the signs of mild dehydration.
- Increased thirst – working to finish some work on the computer for hours, when you suddenly notice you are very thirsty.
- Dry mouth – wake up in the morning with bad breath and a dry mouth.
- Food cravings, especially sweets – doing hard physical work and all you can think of is how good that cold soda will be.
- Tired or sleepy at the wrong times – felt like your plug was pulled around 10am or 2pm.
- Urine low volume and dark yellowish – don’t need an example, you get the idea.
- Headache – after sitting for hours at the desk you have a hard time thinking because of the headache.
- Muscle cramps – often shows up at athletic events after competing.
- Dry Skin – shows up during the winter often, since we forget to drink water when we are not hot.
- Dizziness – ever do something strenuous and afterwards you just want to lay on the floor and stop the world from spinning? How many athletes have we seen on TV who literately fall on the ground after an event.
Understand that I am not saying these are concrete examples of mild dehydration, but if drinking some water helps to get you past the issue then it sure seems it could be dehydration.
Testing For Dehydration
Check Your Skin – many experts suggest that your skin can let you know how hydrated your are. Lightly pinch the skin on the back of your hand just above your wrist so it collects between your thumb and finger. Release it and it should flatten back out in less than a sec.
Check Your Urine – being well-hydrated your urine will be mostly clear with a light hint of yellow. If it is noticeably yellow you can be around 3% dehydrated and deep-gold towards orange is around 5% dehydrated. Keep in mind past 5% dehydration is cause for concern.
Tips For Staying Hydrated
- Keep a water bottle with you, even when in the house. Glass bottles make water taste better and also help you keep track of daily water in-take.
- Take sips of water often, many times an hour.
- Eat foods that naturally hydrate, like yogurt, vegetables and fruits.
- Try to drink most of your daily liquids in the form of water.
Goals For Drinking Water
A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. So a person that weights 100 lbs. would drink 50 oz. of water daily. Keep in mind this is a goal that might have to be adjusted up by the amount of activity one does, or the environment. It may sound like a lot of water, but if you took 4 sips an hour of around an ounce, in 12 hours that would be near 50 ounces. As you see, it is the slow and steady that wins.
It seems to me that it is hard for us to think of ourselves as water beings. Who thinks of themselves as being a body of water that holds its shape with the help of skin, muscles and bones? That is kind of how it is when you realize we are over 90% water. Surprised? What other functions of the body are impaired, disrupted or stopped from a lack of water?