Why Drink Water? – Part II
Do You Have Low Energy?
If the answer to this title question is yes, you might feel tired because you’re actually thirsty! In the first part of this series, we discussed how not drinking enough clear water in your daily life can affect the way you look, as seen in the health and resiliency of your skin. Now we’re going to look at how even slight dehydration can affect how you feel.
Low energy is a common complaint in a society that is as stressed and rushed as ours. It can range from simple feelings of sluggishness up to diagnoses of chronic fatigue syndrome. There are many sources of low energy such as poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, medications or hormonal imbalances which may need to be addressed as well, sometimes by your doctor. However, for our purposes here we’re going to focus on how something as simple as drinking enough clear water can improve your energy levels throughout your day.
Water is necessary for all cells to function properly. It composes the liquid volume of our blood, and moves between our cells as interstitial (“between cells”) fluid. Water is necessary for the processes our cells use to produce energy for our body and brain, and it’s essential to flush away the toxins that result from that energy production. In short, we need it for everything! When we don’t have enough of it, we simply cannot function the way we’re supposed to. However, before major system failure occurs, there will be symptoms that you’ll see from dehydration. One of those is a feeling of low energy, also known as fatigue.
So how does a lack of water make us feel tired? Well, there are a couple ways that dehydration can contribute to us feeling sluggish or low, or maybe even irritable. Let’s start with the big picture of how water makes up our interstitial fluid and blood volume. Our blood contains both water and solid material. With less water, the solid material will be a larger amount of our total blood volume and this will make our blood thicker, because more of it is solid than liquid. This level of thickness is called “viscosity”. The lower the viscosity, the easier it is for a liquid to move because there’s less solid stuff in it. Think of the difference between pouring syrup and pouring juice. One takes longer, right? This difference in the ease of movement of the liquids is similar in our body fluids. When we have less water in our blood, it is harder for our heart to pump since it is now more like syrup than it is like juice. With less water our heart will work harder with every beat, and less blood movement will occur that will carry energy to, and waste away from, all of our body systems. This will result in low energy, because your body is working harder just to survive. Though this is a very simplistic overview of how hydration affects the way our blood works, I hope you get the picture of the first way dehydration will affect your energy level. Basically the harder it is for your blood and other fluids to get around your body for your energy cycle, the less energy you will have.
Another way dehydration causes fatigue is the way it affects our nerves. The way our nerves work is based on a complex process which is based on your balance of electrolytes and water. When this is out of balance due to dehydration, your nerves can’t work properly. Your brain is the center of your nervous system, and without enough water the problem of fatigue will start there. This brain fatigue causes feelings of fogginess, forgetfulness, and lack of focus . Nervous system water imbalance will also affect the way your nerves work to move your body, resulting in feelings of physical fatigue and exhaustion as well. Since your brain and body both feel tired, you may have a sense of overall sluggishness and low mood. Do you feel this way at around 2:00 in the afternoon? A couple extra full glasses of clear water after lunch may help with this! The beverage you have with your meal may help to digest your food, but those extra 2-3 glasses between 12 and 2 p.m. will be the re-hydration you need to get through the second half of your day feeling great.
Mental fatigue can also come with feelings of irritability and headaches. Not only are you less patient when you’re feeling already tired and overtaxed, but your brain chemistry is altered when there’s not enough water for it. Evidence from a study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of slight dehydration on mental function. Slight dehydration was induced, and concentration, mood, and mental skills were tested. The findings showed that though mental performance was about the same, dehydration caused loss of focus, headaches, and feelings of low mood and fatigue. These symptoms occurred at only 1% lower than optimal hydration, which is not very much at all! The take-away message here is that if even a slight need for water exists in your body, you’re going to feel it. The next time you feel tired or in a low mood, think about how much clear water you’ve had that day. If you haven’t had enough, drink a couple glasses of water in place of caffeine, soda or juice. You’ll be benefitting all of your body systems as well, so you can’t go wrong.
So at this point you may be asking, “How much water is enough?” That is the perfect question to be asking right now, because it means you have the intention of going for a goal. Our office recommends half of your body weight in ounces. This means if you weigh 180 lbs, you should be drinking 90 oz. of water a day. Yes, this seems like a lot, (especially if you’re not drinking any) but don’t let this discourage you! Do what you can and develop strategies, such as keeping a refillable bottle with you in your car and at your desk. Drink water with meals instead of juice or soda, which is also a fantastic weight loss tool. A new and improved hydration strategy will change your life for the better, no matter what. Now you might be thinking “But I don’t want to be running to the bathroom so much.” Point taken. Yes, increased urination is a side effect of proper hydration, but you have to remember that this is the flushing of toxic waste out of the body. This is a very good and necessary thing that you need to do to give your body what it needs and remove what it doesn’t. You’re doing what you need to do to make sure you are looking and feeling your best!
We always love to hear from our readers, so let us know what strategies you’ve come up with, or if you have any questions. Have a healthy day!