Dehydration and workout motivation, or rather “unmotivation”, go hand in hand.
If there is a bathroom in close proximity, it takes about 2 minutes to go pee-pee. It doesn’t seem so much, but if you have to go every hour and in situations where a pee-pee break may seem less appropriate or disturbing to your surroundings—school class, business meeting, middle of the tennis match—then it sounds too much of a hassle and we rather choose not to drink enough water to avoid this issue.
But for your workouts and athletic performance, do you think that staying hydrated is worth the effort?
Dehydration and Workout
It is pretty easy to reach a state of mild (1%—2%) or moderate (2%-5%) dehydration, which can occur easily during normal day’s activities. Often we don’t start feeling thirsty until we have lost 1%—2% of our body water. Which means that the majority of people walk around mildly dehydrated all day long.
Different studies have come to conclusions that a 2% loss of body water can result in a 20% decline in performance, when it comes to athletic indicators like power, strength and speed. This sounds like a quite significant performance loss, but it is even worse than that, because dehydration also has a significant impact on the athlete’s cognitive performance.
When testing the ability to pay attention, the studies concluded that 1%—2% dehydration doesn’t cause much of a drop in performance, but dehydration beyond 2% causes the performance to drop rapidly.
Motor skills are extremely important for tennis players and all athletes. An interesting study of cricket players showed that at 2.8% of dehydration, the speed of their deliveries remained the same, but the length of their bowls and the accuracy of the line was reduced by 15%. Another study of golfers found that at 2% or more of body water loss, their shot accuracy degraded from an average 12.3 feet (4.1 meters) from the intended target to 23.7 feet (7.9 meters). The shot distance decreased from an average of 386 feet (128.6 meters) to 343 feet (114.4 meters). Big difference! I
Other studies concluded that when you lose around 2% of body water, you experience headaches, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. All this makes it more difficult to have a productive practice or focused workout.
Very interesting results come from a recent King’s College London study, where researchers compared the brain activity and cognitive performance of 10 participants when properly hydrated and then in a dehydrated state. At first, it seemed like being dehydrated didn’t matter much. The participants performed a test of executive functioning called the “Tower of London” task and being dehydrated didn’t have a significant impact on performance.
However, performing the task when dehydrated led to a large increase in neural effort in a part of the brain which is known to be required for complex thinking. Which means that the participants’ brains had to work harder to achieve the same level of performance as when they were hydrated.
And because our willpower and energy are limited resources, when you are dehydrated you start losing your focus, you may not have the same will to train hard, you lose all the motivation and inspiration, and your performance goes downhill.
Cheers to Performance!
Even though going to a bathroom often or holding your pee-pee may be bad for your concentration too, it is still better than to make yourself work harder mentally and physically. Our brains are already overworked, so let’s make it easier for them and let’s drink more water.
Next time when you don’t feel motivated to workout, feeling tired or cranky, heaving headache or just are not in the mood to practice, go and have a glass of water and see if you mood and attitude changes. Maybe it will be enough to feel inspired again. If not, you can also try a short 10–20 minutes power nap, then have another glass of water, and you will be ready.
Even though it is possible to drink too much water, it is not too common. For the majority of population and athletes, drinking too little is a bigger problem than drinking too much.
Drink your water regularly, feel great, stay focused and motivated on your training.