What The Water Gave Us

Need more motivation? Grab a glass and ‘tap’ into the ultimate source.

Motivation is usually provided in the form of verbal and visual communication.

Self-affirmations and encouragement will usually follow the “You can do this” personal cheerleader patterns. We look to other people who have already achieved what we wish to achieve ourselves and we try to emulate them. It’s a game of words and images.

Slice it and dice it any way you want, but in order to let positive messaging and input sink in, you have to be in the right headspace for it.

The simple fact is that motivation means nothing if your capacity for taking it in and processing it doesn’t function. All the motivators on earth will fall flat when confronted with mental fatigue from stress.

Stress, at its most basic, is a response to a stimulus that we view as threatening in one way or another. It also has this really annoying habit of building in intensity when we realize that we’re not in control of the situations that causes it. Vicious cycle? You bet!

There are those of us who, while experiencing stress, will get up and hit the bicycle, rower or some weights in the gym for relief — and that works wonders to fill the brain with those good chemicals — but sadly, stress can work to push us in the opposite direction too.

It can leave you flat and unmotivated. Our minds are too fixated on the perceived cause of our stress.

Meditation, mindfulness exercises, breathing exercises, reading about the stressor — these are all great ways to obtain that sought-after peace of mind that puts you in a better place. Now maybe we can start thinking of going to the gym or get some exercise outdoors. There is room for some motivation to start working its magic.

The above solutions certainly can provide you with mental tools to manage stress and obtain self-motivation, but is there a physical component to that most important driver that takes you from where you are to where you wish to be?

The native element

By now, it would be truly strange to find someone who hasn’t heard of drinking plain old water as being good for you.

Given that water is the single most important substance we take into our bodies, we’re made aware very early on in our lives that without water we will die.

At its most fundamental level, water is where we come from as a species (in fact, all species). Its central place in our existence is solid and unshakable.

Depending on which expert you ask, our bodies are about 60–70% water. Also dependent on who you ask, the ‘gold standard’ of daily water requirement is the classic 8–10 glasses or about 2L of water per day. This message has been communicated in every possible form for a very long time. So much so, that if you hadn’t heard about that figure by now, it’s likely you don’t actually live on this planet.

So, how much water do you truly, actually, legitimately need? Yeah, you as an individual with varying needs of everything.

That one is actually tough to pinpoint. The reason for it is that the body doesn’t function on a linear path. We literally and figuratively change every day on microscopic levels that when added up, become significant over time. When there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution such as in the case of weight loss/gain or building muscle, experts come up with a model that provides an acceptable range that accounts for most fluctuations. In the case of water intake for humans, well — the sweet spot seems indeed to be the 8–10 (8 oz) glasses.

The ‘8–10’ figure however, may not be the ultimate prescription for the still-a-minority group of people who actively pursue optimal health and fitness.

Consider this: muscle is about 80% water. During intense exercise or high heat, the body is in danger of dehydration. This can have noticeable effects such as reduced body temperature control, and increased fatigue.

But more on that later. The star of today’s show really is between the ears.

Your gray matters

The human brain is made up of over 70% water.

Here’s where the mind-body connection that influences motivation comes into play. Even a 2% loss of water due to dehydration can make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.

It would be easy to dismiss something as simple as water as a legitimate remedy to stress and a driver to motivation, but take a look at this list of benefits of drinking water on the brain specifically:

  • Improved Concentration — the brain is the first place where the effects of dehydration happen. Usually manifested by a loss of concentration. Proper hydration helps immensely with alertness and focus.
  • Balanced Moods — multiple studies have established a link between dehydration and mood. Drinking water raises the temperature in the brain and gets rid of toxins and dead cells. It balances cellular functions and processes in the brain to regulate stress and anxiety.
  • Better Sleep — water increases blood flow to that command center in the head, which increases oxygenation. This in turn calms the brain and helps us get a higher quality sleep.
  • Memory Function — when your brain doesn’t receive enough hydration, it becomes tougher to memorize things, infer information, make decisions and create long-term memory. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration impacts short-term memory negatively.
  • Headache Relief — dehydration can trigger headaches and migraines. Drinking water can relieve these issues effectively.

Let it run

Spotting the connection between water and motivation becomes easier once we consider the benefits of hydrating the brain. But just to make sure, I decided to experiment with the concept.

I set out to look past the recommended ‘8–10’, find my very own, individual water needs, and see if there are any noticeable impacts outside of physical improvements.

There are a number of hydration calculators available online, so just pick whatever you’re comfortable with if you’re curious. I found one from a trusted national health source and was shocked to find out that according to my body weight and activity levels I actually needed 17 glasses of water per day for optimal function!

WHOA!!

After my initial shock at this number wore off, I did a little bit of further research just to make sure I don’t drown myself in my own kitchen by attempting to drink that many glasses of water in a 24-hour span.

A few findings:

Importantly, the recommended number may not account for individual health conditions — so always check with your doctor if changing up your water intake is a good idea for you.

Also, keep in mind that this number is an expression based on standard 8 oz. glasses of fluids. Your daily water intake also comes from solid food and other, non-dehydrating liquids such as possibly milk, fruit juices, water-based vegetables, etc.

That said, the vast majority of fluid consumption should really be in the form of plain water.

If you find the flavour of water — or lack thereof — ‘boring’, unsweetened flavourings can be used. Adding slices of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber can help. Add mint leaves, basil, ginger, rosemary or cilantro if you’re feeling experimental. Sparkling water is nice too if you like some fizz. Combine any of the above, all of the above, whatever it takes.

Back to my experiment.

Considering that a significant portion of my diet is in the form of water-based vegetables, I upped my water intake to “only” about 14 actual glasses of water per day.

I know, I know, you might be thinking that a number like that would make you move in to your bathroom at least semi-permanently (and urination does become more frequent when you start drinking more water than you’re used to — but don’t worry — it levels off soon), but keep at it. After only a week, the resulting increased energy levels and the clarity of mind became apparent for me.

Over time, skin and eyes become clearer, the increased water intake allows for the body to flush out more of what it doesn’t need, and you just feel better overall.

The bottom line

All of these physical improvements create a space where seeing yourself more positively drives the motivation to move forward. Even through life’s ups and downs.

Ensuring adequate water intake can be as easy as the ‘8–10’ recommendation, but to optimize what the water gave us, take the time to find your specific number of glasses and see for yourself how watering the brain impacts you. I’m willing to bet that you’ll find its benefits will extend far beyond physiological functions and into the mental zone that keeps you going.

After all, brains always comes before brawn.

Until next time,

Grab another glass of water before you leave this page!

Brains Before Brawn!

One final note: I would be remiss to write a post about the benefits of water without acknowledging the sad fact that for millions of human beings around the world, safe and clean drinking water is scarce. If you have the time and resources, please consider donating or helping out in other ways to water charities. There are a number of them all over the world but a good place to start would be with an organization called Water Aid. You can check them out here. Thank you kindly.

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Sasha Gnjatovic

Sasha Gnjatovic

My main passions are Fitness, Food and Writing. Check out my blog www.brainsbeforebrawn.com for more. Feedback is always appreciated.