It’s no secret that hydration has an impact on your physical health. But just how crucial is it for your cognitive function? Like all influencing factors revealed in our journeys out of The Productivity Box, hydration has an unexpected effect as well. If you don’t hydrate enough on a daily basis, you may find your performance at work is affected in many ways.
Whether you prefer to drink fluids, munch on fruits and vegetables, or take supplements, don’t underestimate the cognitive benefits of adequate hydration. In this month’s installment of The Productivity Box series, we’ll make the case for why this habit must be part of your normal work routine and what could happen if it’s not.
The impact of dehydration on work performance
According to a recent survey, almost 80 percent of working Americans don’t drink the right amount of water to meet their health needs. While not everyone requires the optimal 8 glasses of water per day, even slight dehydration can impair energy, mood, alertness, and productivity as a whole.
Same survey found that there are also barriers to hydration in the workplace. Nearly 40 percent of employees don’t have time to hydrate. What’s more, the environment itself can be a factor too. The heat of the summer combined with stress on the job and work intensity can cause serious dehydration, according to the International Journal of Biometeorology.
Not only does this weaken efficiency and productivity, but it’s also dangerous to your overall well-being. It doesn’t even matter whether your job is active and strenuous or you work at a computer in an office. Both physical and mental resilience will suffer if you’re not able to hydrate properly.
How hydration boosts cognitive function and output
On the flip side, being intentional about your fluid intake will enhance mental performance on the job. Hydration creates a positive blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in the brain, says the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Oxygenation will increase cortex thickness and brain volume which stimulates neural activity.
Another recent study found that hydration counteracts fatigue and boosts working memory. It also increases your focus, alertness, emotional regulation, mood, and overall executive function. Such mental acuity elevates work performance because when you have the brain power to concentrate, your output and efficiency will improve.
How much hydration can impact performance positively?
To optimize both physical health and cognitive performance, here are a two benchmarks from the Cleveland Clinic:
- Men should consume about 3.7 liters of fluid per day
- Women should consume about 2.7 liters per day
Note, however, that individual requirements might fluctuate based on various criteria, like:
- The climate where you live
- The speed of your metabolism
- How much you weigh
- How active you are
- The food and beverages you are used to consume
Use these benchmarks as a starting place to determine how much you need to hydrate each day. You can also consult further with your health practitioner for specific daily requirements.
And let’s not forget that the fluid amounts listed above also include the water that’s in our food. Because our food contains water as well.
How to stay hydrated and empower the workday
If you don’t care for the taste of plain water, or it’s hard for you to drink that much on a daily basis, there are many other ways to stay hydrated. Below are some alternative hydration tips that will still support your performance in the workplace:
- Eat fruits and vegetables. In addition to vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, some fruits and vegetables also have a high water content. These include cucumbers, lettuce, celery, zucchini, cauliflower, watermelon and strawberries.
- Enjoy tea or iced coffee. Despite what you might have been told, coffee and tea are not dehydrating. In moderation, these beverages help the body absorb the liquid volume it needs, then flush out excess sodium it doesn’t need, explains Dr. Daniel Vigil, a clinical professor at UCLA.
- Drink a smoothie with milk. Dairy milk is a nutritious source of protein, calcium, potassium and vitamins, but it’s also 87 percent water, according to this research. Blend a cup of milk with fruit, leafy greens and ice cubes for a hydrating smoothie.
- Add flavors to your water. There are many ways to make a glass of water taste refreshing and more interesting. While you can purchase flavored or carbonated water at the grocery store, a healthier choice is to infuse your own water. Add slices of oranges, lemons, limes, cucumbers, berries, and even fresh herbs such as mint, rosemary or basil to make your water the way you love it.
- Take hydration supplements. Whether you take them in liquid, tablet or powder form, hydration supplements dissolve into water and other fluids for a boost of electrolytes that increases overall hydration. When choosing a supplement, make sure it contains minimal traces of refined sugar and artificial colors or flavors.
I used to have this issue of not drinking enough water because I’m not a great fan of its taste. Or, better said, the lack of it. To solve this, I squeeze a couple of lemons in my water every day. And I also love eating soup or borscht over lunch or even dinner sometimes 🙂 This way, I have enough liquid intake to keep hydrated, even in hot days like these.
Hydration fuels your work performance needs
Don’t overlook the importance of hydration if you want to be focused, alert, productive, and energized on the job.
With both your mental and physical health taken care of, you can accomplish more and be more successful in your career. Whether you eat or drink it, incorporate this daily habit to take your productivity to the next level.
And don’t forget that productivity is an aggregation of tiny factors, that might look unimportant at first glance. As we discover every month, that’s not the case! Every piece of the puzzle influences the end result and can dramatically improve it.
So, till next time, enjoy your summer and boost your productivity 🙂