Proper hydration is so important when it comes to being more alert while driving. Your hydration levels, along with the food you eat, can greatly influence the level of alertness and fatigue you will experience. Limiting your fluid intake may eliminate frequent stops but it increases your risk of accidents since being alert is critical to accumulating millions of safe miles while you are behind the wheel.
Adequate hydration of our organs, muscles, and tissues is essential for life, attention to detail, and orientation to the world around us. You may have heard that our bodies are about 60% water. Have you ever stopped to consider where that water is stored? Critical organs such as the brain and heart consist of 73% water, while the lungs are about 83%, and muscles about 79%. So, as you can see, everything you need to be alert, aware, and alive requires water.
3 Hydration Strategies to Improve Alertness:
The first hydration strategy to improve alertness is understanding the science of hydration. Hydration is the process of providing an adequate amount of liquid to bodily organs and tissues for optimal function and health. Replenishing your body’s water supply is crucial for survival and alertness since the average adult loses about 2½ quarts, or 10 cups, of water daily.
Being properly hydrated depends on a variety of factors. The types of foods and beverages you consume. How well do you manage medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and how well your body can utilize the water it receives. When fluids include sugars, salts, and caffeine it can limit the amount of water available for the cells.
It is best to consume fluids slowly throughout the day and with meals and snacks versus guzzling large amounts of water at once. That is because sudden ingestion of large quantities of water causes an increase in the rate and amount eliminated in the urine. This happens because our bodies have a protective response known as the bolus response. This response causes the body to excrete a large portion of the fluid ingested regardless of whether it is needed, making it unavailable for hydration of cells and tissues. Consistently drinking smaller amounts over the day decreases the likelihood that this physiological response will be triggered.
How much water do you need? The amount of water you need depends on various factors such as rate of urination, amount of sweat, and fluids lost in breath vapor or digestion. A good rule of thumb is to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water to maintain your body’s fluid balance. The Rolling Strong application can help you keep track of your water intake.
The second hydration strategy to improve alertness is recognizing and preventing dehydration. When you don’t drink enough water, you don’t go to the bathroom as much because your body tries to conserve fluids to maintain an appropriate water level. Consuming high levels of caffeine and sugary drinks cause the body to conserve even more.
Limiting your fluid intake may alter your need for stops and keep you on the road, but those may be your most unsafe miles. Dehydration decreases your level of alertness and safety because the brain doesn’t have the water it needs to function correctly. Your reaction time is also reduced because the muscles don’t have what they need either. Dehydration is not only harmful to your body, but it can also lead to unnecessary accidents.
So how do you know if you are dehydrated? Thirst is the most obvious sign, but your body is already under hydrated when you feel thirsty. The easiest way to tell if you are dehydrated is to monitor the amount, color, and odor of your urine throughout the day. Dehydrated urine will be dark in color and smell pungent. Being dehydrated is NOT the way you want to get behind the wheel at the beginning of your shift. Begin consuming water 60 to 90 minutes before going on the road to ensure you are starting out well hydrated. Go to the bathroom right before getting behind the wheel to ensure your urine is a pale yellow to clear in color. Continue to monitor throughout the day.
Other signs and symptoms to watch out for and correct with water intake throughout the day include not needing to stop to go to the bathroom for hours, a dry mouth, fatigue and fighting heavy eyes.
These are all signs that you may be dehydrated and need to increase your fluid intake right away.
The third strategy to improve alertness is maximizing hydration-rich foods and beverages daily. Electrolytes from food help muscles contract appropriately and aid in proper hydration. Many foods like berries, citrus fruits, lettuce, cucumbers, melons, celery, and spinach contain a high percentage of water and are also rich in electrolytes. Making these hydration and electrolyte-rich foods part of your daily meal and snack routine is fundamental to maintaining adequate hydration as you roll down the road.
Don’t love drinking plain water?
Try infusing your water with fruits such as lemons, berries, kiwi, or mango to give it a naturally sweet flavor. Want something a little more earthy in taste? Try adding herbs such as sweet basil, cilantro, or cardamom. Got some digestive issues going on? Add some ginger root as well.
To make infused water, add the ingredients and let them sit for a little while. You can also purchase an infuser bottle that traps the elements but allows the flavor to seep into the water. Flavored green tea bags are also a great way to easily add flavor to a bottle of water.
Trying to limit your soda intake, but you love the bubbles? Try sparkling water or seltzers to make your mouth happy while meeting your hydration needs.
So, there you have it, three hydration strategies you can use to improve your daily alertness.
Roll Strong and be well.
By: Tanya Joliffe RDN, LD, CIMHP, Rolling Strong Wellness Coach