Nobody needs a refresher about the importance of water. Drinking water, that is. Nutrition advice includes always ensuring you get about (there is some argument here) eight glasses or so each day. However, a new study unearths a couple of consequences of dehydration you might not have considered.
Most of us think about pouring a glass of water when we feel thirsty. But by then it may already be too late. Even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly, according to two studies recently conducted at the University of Connecticut.
The tests showed 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. Mild dehydration is defined as an approximately 1.5% loss in normal water volume in the body.
The test results affirm the importance of staying properly hydrated at all times and not just during exercise, extreme heat, or exertion. Your thirst sensation doesn’t kick in until you are one- or two-percent dehydrated. But at this point, it’s already impacting your mind and body.
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The new study tested two groups of young adults who walked on a treadmill to induce dehydration. In 25 women, mild dehydration caused headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. They also perceived tasks as more difficult when slightly dehydrated. For the men, mild dehydration caused some difficulty with mental tasks, particularly in the areas of vigilance and working memory. While they also experienced fatigue, tension, and anxiety when mildly dehydrated, adverse changes in mood and were more pronounced in women.
The results show that not drinking enough water in an ordinary day will affect basic activities and degrade how you are feeling. This is most important for women. For everyone, these adverse mood changes may limit the motivation required to engage in even moderate aerobic exercise. And that bears consequences for those who have diet plans.
Some research has shown that neurons in the brain detect dehydration and may signal other areas that regulate mood. This process could be part of an ancient warning system protecting humans from more dire consequences, and alerting them to the need for water to survive.
These researchers recommend eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Urine should be a very pale yellow in individuals who are properly hydrated. Urine that is dark yellow or tan in color indicates greater dehydration. Proper hydration is particularly important for high-risk groups, such as older adults and diabetics.