A new study continues to add to the growing evidence that even a small amount of dehydration can cause everything from mood changes to declines in cognitive performance.
“We find that when people are mildly dehydrated they really don’t do as well on tasks that require complex processing or on tasks that require a lot of their attention,” said Mindy Millard-Stafford of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who published the recent study.
And it doesn’t take long to become even mildly dehydrated during the summer, especially for people that exercise outdoors.
“If I were hiking at moderate intensity for one hour, I could reach about 1.5 percent to 2 percent dehydration,” said Doug Casa, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut.
In fact, an average-sized person will sweat out approximately 1 liter of water from 2 percent dehydration.
“Most people don’t realize how high their sweat rate is in the heat,” Casa said.
Another recent study examined young, active women who took cognitive tests after they reduced fluid intake to 6 ounces or less for a day.
“We did manage to dehydrate them by [about] 1 percent just by telling them not to drink for the day,” said Nina Stachenfeld of the Yale School of Medicine who led the research.
“When the women were dehydrated they had about 12 percent more total errors” she said.
And after repeating the tests when the women drank a sufficient amount of water, performance increased.
“We were able to improve executive function back to normal — in other words, back to the baseline day — when they rehydrated,” Stachenfeld said.
The findings were published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.