Why dehydration could be killing your daily performance at work

water-drink-glass-drinking

There are some occupations where keeping hydrated is a ‘must’ and part of working culture. The mining industry in Western Australia, for example, involves working in extreme desert climates where temperatures can soar as high as 40°C and beyond.  Miners are therefore required to keep their fluid intake up, and alcohol is usually banned from mining sites to help lower the risk of dehydration.

But an office worker in the UK is unlikely to face such hazardous temperatures, nor such stiff regulations about keeping hydrated. Grabbing a morning coffee can often be of higher priority than drinking a litre of water (it certainly is in my case!). Nevertheless, how the effects of dehydration can impact concentration and performance is well publicised, and there are plenty of reasons to take hydration in the workplace more seriously.

To give some context, the average adult male is about 60% water and the average woman is roughly 55% water (women naturally have more fatty tissue than men).  The percentage of water in infants is much higher, typically around 75-78% water, dropping to 65% by the age of one. Overweight adults have less water, as a percentage, than their leaner counterparts. Sickness can also have severe impact on body hydration.

As the helpful infographic below illustrates, the brain alone is 75% water. Mental performance and physical coordination can start to become impaired before thirst kicks in, typically around 1% dehydration. And it’s not just thirst that presents itself when we’re becoming dehydrated. Other signs can be feeling anxious and unfocused, headaches, slowed down reaction time and foggy memory.The brain is extremely sensitive to even small changes in the amounts of ions such as sodium and potassium found in our body’s fluids. So when we begin to feel tired at work and our concentration is flagging, water is the most vital source of energy to the human body.

What’s more, studies show that dehydration is not just a concern for athletes or those undertaking sustained physical exercise. Mild dehydration can sneak up on anyone over the course of a sedentary, desk-based working day.

The University of Connecticut found within its research that, “it didn’t matter if a person had just walked for 40 minutes on a treadmill or was sitting at rest – the adverse effects from mild dehydration were the same…Staying properly hydrated is just as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners, who can lose up to 8% of their body weight as water when they compete.”

So what should we do? Well there is the well accepted idea that we should drink about eight cups of water per day, which equates to two to three litres. But how much water you should drink each day really, truly depends on the individual, Robert A. Huggins, PhD, of the University of Connecticut explains. “Fluid needs are dynamic and need to be individualised from person to person. Factors such as sex, environmental conditions, level of heat acclimatisation, exercise or work intensity, age, and even diet need to be considered.”

One helpful rule of thumb is to drink an ounce of water for every pound of body weight you have. Another helpful tip is to begin each day with a cool glass of water, as soon as you awake. This can help to kick-start your metabolism, and will help you to burn more calories throughout the day.

If you’re concerned you’re not drinking enough water daily, and keen to find out more, take a look at this helpful infographic below to learn about the 11 signs of dehydration, along with some other useful tips…

Why dehydration is making you fat and sick

Infographic source http://simpleorganiclife.org/dehydration/

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