Ep. 95 – The Wonder of Water: How Hydration Is a Brain & Body Boost

The virtues of water are well and widely known, but most of us (myself included) likely don’t get nearly enough of it each day. 

What’s the big deal? Plenty, it seems. 

For the last five years, I’ve been studying cognitive and energetic elements of the brain and body. And here’s a fun fact: The human brain is comprised of between 75-80% water and the body itself is made up of approximately 60% water. 

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that no other natural ingredient – other than sleep – can impact your day-to-day energy more than water. 

A quick note for you non-water loving listeners: the good news is that nutrition science categorizes water in many forms, including foods like fruits and vegetables, tea, milk, and yes, even coffee. 

Water is the actual gateway between your brain and body. Starting at the top, the brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons. That’s about the same number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. These neurons are connected by trillions of connections, or synapses. Experts call this part of our brain our “neuron forest”. Information runs between these neurons in your brain for everything we see, think, or do. 

Now water’s purpose comes in to clear out toxins and carries nutrients to your brain and helps to keep your brain and your body healthy. It’s more challenging to notice when the effect of lack of water is happening for you because it’s disguised in many different symptoms that we don’t always attribute to it. 

As an example: dehydration, even as small as a 2% decrease, can have a pretty quick and negative effect on your brain functions. Studies have even shown that you only need to be 1% dehydrated to experience up to a 5% decrease in cognitive function. I know that’s a lot of math but stay with me here.  A 2% (so double that) decrease in your hydration can result in short term memory loss and even having trouble doing analytical things. 

Putting percentages into real-life terms, mild hydration can actually be experienced in your body within 4-8 hours when you haven’t had water. Some of that varies based on your activity level and weather. And our bodies can move into true dehydration within 24 hours without water. 

Another way mild dehydration can impact us is in our alertness like when we experience that afternoon fatigue or when we feel like we are in a bit of a brain-fog. It can also have direct impact on our concentration, sleep, and even our motivation and mood. 

So if you feel like it’s harder to tackle to-dos or multi-step activities in the afternoon or evening, this could be why! And for the most part, these effects are short-lived and can be reversed by increasing your hydration. 

On the topic of brain boosts, there’s been a lot of studies around this. In fact, in 2012, a group of researchers in England conducted a study aimed at determining whether bringing water (the students brought water into an exam) actually helped their academic performance. The group of students who did have extra hydration during the test averaged between 5-10% better on their exams.

It’s just one study, but it’s not just about looking at intellectual output. The researchers said, there was a notable physiological effect on their thinking functions and even reduced anxiety during the test itself.

There’s open debate about how much water is enough and this episode isn’t going to get into quantity or volume, it’s really a lot more about the intentionality of hydrating. It’s probably safe to say that most of us should be getting more than we are. So let’s start with that.

Given the immediate and lasting effects of water, aim to start your day with extra hydration. If you can also do that within your first 30 minutes that’s a huge boost as well. Then pay attention to when you feel the energy drains during the day. In my own experimentation, I have learned to keep water in reach so there are reusable bottles in my car, my bathroom, my office, and even on my bedside table.

Find what works for you and try this little dash of extra to see if and how the energy follows. Take care to hydrate and your brain and body can take better care of you. 

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.