• Jan Clementson

What's the one thing you can do to improve your work performance?

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

It’s 3pm on a workday and your energy is flagging. Work is really dragging and you are starting to crave chocolate, coffee, cake or all three. You’ve promised yourself that today you won’t give into the cravings. You started your day well with, perhaps fruit and nuts for breakfast and then a healthy salad for lunch. But the workload today is intense and that deadline is fast approaching. You’ve been given two days to complete that project when really you need two weeks. The pressure is mounting. You are starting to feel the strain across your forehead. The call of the caffeine and sugar kick gets louder and louder. You know it’s a temporary fix but you need it now to keep you going, to just get you over this difficult patch and then you will be fine.

Whoa, wait a minute. You are forgetting something. Maybe it’s not caffeine, chocolate or sugar that you need; maybe it’s something else. What was it that you read the other day in someone’s online blog? It’s there, it’s right on the tip of your tongue but what is it? What is it? Your mind is going into overdrive as you search your memory banks for that one nugget of information that will help you feel better right now and stop you from falling into that unhealthy binge cycle…again! You can actually hear cogs in your brain going around, like a cranky repetitive click sound. Suddenly, it comes to you and you realise the simplicity of it all…….WATER!! Of course, why didn’t you think of that before? So simple, yet so effective. Well that’s what you read. But why? Why would water make you feel better?

Well, let’s dig a little deeper…….

The Elixir of Life

Without water we will die! SIMPLE. Its importance to sustaining life is reflected in the amount found in the human body: approximately 60%[i] - though it can range from 55% to 75% depending upon your body size[ii] and fat tissue content. The more muscular your body, the less will be the water content. Within the body, water performs multiple functions. It is critical to all metabolic processes; carries nutrients and wastes around the body; acts as a solvent for the dissolution of molecules; lubricates joints, the spine and the brain; and regulates temperature through sweating. Because the metabolic processes are central to energy generation, water is an integral part of energy production. So that afternoon energy slump is often an indication of dehydration and the need for water to enable the energy generation process to continue optimally. Hunger and thirst signals sometimes get confused. If you feel hungry, always think of drinking water first. You may have misread the signal.

Dehydration Effects

Aside from feelings of hunger or fatigue, cognitive function can be significantly impaired.[iii] This is when your ability to focus and concentrate starts to wain. You may also experience other symptoms, such as increased urination and sweating; constipation dry skin; joint pain; dry mouth and eyes; and fluid retention. The more dehydrated you are, the more symptoms you will experience. Being dehydrated by as little as 2-3% will impair exercise performance; whilst a 6-7% reduction can lead to a life-threatening situation.[iv] So, you can see that just a small percentage reduction in body water content can lead to significant health consequences.

Water Requirements

The amount of water required per day varies from individual to individual and will depend upon various factors, including the type of environment, how much energy is exerted during the day and whether you are male or female. In general the amount required per day by the average sedentary adult is: [v]

  1. Males - 2.9 L per day

  2. Females – 2.2 L per day

These amounts would generally come from solid foods, which contribute approximately 1 L, with the remainder coming from decaffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks.[vi] Caffeinated drinks are not as effective as they can exert a minor