The hot and hazy dog days of summer have arrived. Winter hibernation is over for another year and we all flock outside to exercise, work and if you’re lucky, play. We all know the importance of staying hydrated - it helps prevent heat stroke; it improves muscle recovery after a hard workout; and it maintains your body temperature. But did you know that hydration is also important for the proper functioning of your brain?
The human body is made up of over 70% water. Only oxygen is more important to our survival. So if water is so important, why do we always have to remind ourselves to drink it?
The easiest way to tell if you’re well hydrated is to look at your urine. If you’re properly hydrated, it should be a pale yellow (think pale champagne, or colors 1 through 3 on the chart below). The darker your urine gets, the more dehydrated you are.
Most of us drink only when we feel thirsty. Unfortunately, this is often too late. Our thirst signals kick in when we’ve lost 2% of our body’s water. However, signs of dehydration such as memory lapses can occur when we’ve lost as little as 1% of our body’s water. Getting older complicates things even more. Like our body, our thirst receptors also slow down as they age. This makes older people even more susceptible to dehydration. Tired, old thirst receptors are less efficient at sending out “I’m thirsty” signals from the brain to your body. This means that older people need to consciously remind themselves to drink.
When your body lacks water, your cells shrivel up and don’t function as efficiently as normal. When this happens to your brain cells, they can’t communicate with each other as quickly, so you feel as though you’re suffering from brain fog. Your memory is impaired, you’re more easily distracted and you’re more prone to headaches.
Adults should drink between one to two liters of water per day (the equivalent of 8-10 large glasses). With the hot, humid weather, you may need to drink even more water. Keeping tabs on your urine color is the best way to gauge if you fall into this category.
The next time you hit that afternoon wall and feel like caffeine would be a heavenly fix, try drinking a big cold glass of ref.