How Does Dehydration Affect Your Brain? Science Says It Can Seriously Affect Your Concentration
There's a running joke in my family that my mom believes pretty much anything can be solved with water. Do you have the flu? Drink more water. Have you broken your leg? You should be drinking more water. TBH, she kind of has a point, because staying hydrated is very important. If, despite your best efforts, you never seem to drink enough water, girl get on that. You may not realize it, but dehydration affects your brain in some seriously wild ways, and according to new research, it might explain a few things if you've had trouble concentrating or focusing lately.
A systematic review of 33 scientific studies, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, looked at how dehydration affects people's motor coordination, problem-solving abilities, and ability to pay attention. The results showed, across the board, that when people don't drink enough water, they perform worse on critical-thinking tasks, and their concentration tends to get thrown off. What's more, the researchers also discovered that being dehydrated can make it harder to perform what you might assume are simple, everyday tasks, like driving a car, or staying focused during a long meeting.
“The simplest reaction time tasks were least impacted, even as dehydration got worse, but tasks that require attention were quite impacted,” Mindy Millard-Stafford, a researcher and professor, explained in a statement released by the Georgia Institute of Technology. In other words, if you're someone who tends to have trouble staying on-task or concentrating in meetings, a simple solution might be to drink more water, and see how it affects your ability to focus.
But if straight-from-the-earth water doesn't quite hit the spot for you, you can always jazz it up to trick yourself into drinking more of the stuff.
If you're obsessed with LaCroix (same), go straight for the bubbly stuff, because according to a 2016 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sparkling water is just as hydrating as the regular kind. The bubbles could potentially cause you to drink more slowly, but as long as you're drinking the same amount of fizzy water as you would still water, you'll be just as hydrated. "The presence of carbonation has little effect on the body's response to ingested water," Ronald Maughan, a researcher on the study and a professor at the School of Medicine at St. Andrews University, told CNN.
Still feeling meh about sipping throughout the day? Try adding in some extra flavor, like sliced citrus or fresh herbs. Frozen berries can do double-duty as icy cubes and flavor-enhancers. According to Delish, strawberries might be your best bet when it comes to eating hydrating fruit, as they're "packed with water, even more than raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, plus they contain potassium, which helps your body maintain an optimal fluid balance," the outlet notes.
Setting little reminders for yourself could also help you stay on top of your H2O needs. Clinical nutritionist Tara Coleman told Prevention that one great way to keep yourself on-track is to time your water-drinking with different parts of your daily schedule, because that way, you'll have easily accessible cues for when it's time to drink again. "For instance, finish your water bottle before you get out of the car to go to work, or don't leave for lunch without finishing the glass of water on your desk," she told the outlet.
And on those days when you're in the mood to snack, look for foods that have a high water content.
You might expect fruits to be the juiciest and most hydrating of all, but don't forget about those veggies, my friend. Cucumbers, lettuce, and zucchini are all made up of more than 90 percent water, according to SFGate, so with a little yummy dressing on top, you won't even realize that you're hydrating yourself and getting your veggies in at the same time.