The Mind-Water Connection (Plus, 3 Tips for Better Hydration!)

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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The Mind-Water Connection (Plus, 3 Tips for Better Hydration!)

Summer is in full swing—on my part of the globe, at least. And with hotter temperatures comes more perspiration, which can put you at greater risk for dehydration.

You probably already know the physical signs of mild dehydration: dry mouth, thirst, feelings of hunger, parched skin, headache, sluggishness, and constipation, but there’s another symptom to add to the list. New research suggests even mild cases of dehydration can have negative impacts on our mood.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at how mild dehydration impacts cognitive performance, mood, and other brain function. While the effects on cognitive performance seemed minimal, dehydrated study participants found it significantly harder to concentrate and perform certain tasks. They also reported feeling more irritable and fatigued. Only women were enrolled in this particular study, but researchers believe these findings also apply to men, as they are consistent with a 2005 study that analyzed the cognitive effects of mild dehydration in both men and women.

The early effects of dehydration often set in before you even feel thirsty, so it’s important to consistently drink water throughout the day to keep your mind sharp and help your body run more efficiently. Individual needs vary depending on climate, activity level and health status, but The Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggests an adequate fluid intake of roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) per day for men and 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) per day for women. (Runners may need to drink even more in hot weather.)

To some people, myself included, those amounts might seem hard to hit. Stay hydrated with these 3 simple tips:

  • Set two or three daily water goals, not just one 2.2 liters of water is a lot if you only drink one or two during the day and then try to squeeze in the rest before bedtime. Try breaking up your daily hydration target into morning, afternoon and evening goals. This will make it more achievable and ensure you’re adequately hydrated throughout the day. For example, during a typical workday, I aim to get in 32-ounces of water by lunchtime and another 32-ounces before quitting time. By the time dinner rolls around, all I need is one 10-ounce glass and I’ve met my daily goal.
  • Invest in a water bottle Or two! Have one at home to take with you on errands, or when you travel, and keep another one at work. Simply having a cold glass of water on my desk is enough to remind me to drink throughout the day. The key is to fill it up again as soon as it’s empty.
  • Set hydration reminders Need a mid-morning nudge to meet your noontime deadline? Create a calendar reminder with an alarm in your cellphone or on your computer to remind you to start gulping.

Drink up, and don’t let summer’s soaring temps put you in a bad mood!

Do you have any tips for staying hydrated? Tell us in the comments below!

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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