The benefits of water. According to science.

The human body is roughly 60% water. The common recommendation is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This particular figure does not have a great deal of science behind it, staying hydrated is however important.

Here are a selection of evidence-based health benefits of staying hydrated.

Maximum physical performance.

Physical performance can suffer greatly from a lack of hydration.

During intense exercise or while exercising in high heat this is even more the case.

Losing as little as 2% of your body’s water content can have a noticeable effect on you. It is not uncommon for athletes to lose anywhere up to 10% of their water weight through sweating, therefore adequate hydration is vital.

Even though the body as a whole is 60% water, muscle is around 80%, so water intake is far more important when the muscles are being worked hard.

Help with weight loss.

Drinking half a litre of water has been shown to increase metabolism by 24-30% for up to an hour and a half after drinking it.

That means that drinking 2 litres of water a day can up your energy expenditure by almost 100 calories per day.

Drinking water half an hour before a meal has been shown to decrease the the amount of food you eat at meal times by making you feel fuller. In one study, dieters who drank half a litre of water before meals lost an average of 44% more weight over the course of 12 weeks.

For the biggest benefit, water should be drunk cold. This way the body burns more calories to heat the water to body temperature.

Brain function.

Fluid loss of as little as 1.3% has been shown to impair brain function. Especially affected are concentration and mood. Other studies have shown that similar levels of fluid loss have had a detrimental affect on working memory and increased feelings of fatigue and anxiety.

Loss levels this low are to be expected in just day to day life, if putting high heat and exercise into the mix it is clear that improper hydration can have big effects on your health.

Further reading.

Below are some links to some of the studies and evidence mentioned in this post.

NCBI – Hydration and physical performance

NCBI – Water, Hydration and health

NCBI – Dehydration influences mood and cognition

NCBI – water induced thermogenesis

Nutrition.org – Healthy hydration guide

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Freezing shower – Update

A while ago I posed a question, based on research that I had read, weather there is any benefit with regards to mental heath of turning the shower to cold for a few seconds before getting out.

See the original post here: Freezing shower?

I have now been doing this for a couple of months at the end of every shower that I have. My initial response to doing this was that it was very uncomfortable and a wholly unpleasant experience. This view did not last long. I quickly began to love the initial shock that hits when the water first turns cold. This is such a good way to wake up in the morning, or cool down in the evening or after working out. The physiological benefits are, as far as my experience goes, huge. I have felt so much more awake every day since doing this, mornings have never been my thing but I am growing into them. My recovery from intense exercise has been far more effective and the instance of niggling injury has been far lower. I feel like I have been able to push myself harder, both in working out and in the workplace.

Going back to my initial question however; does this benefit your mental health, I am struggling to answer this. It could be the case that an improvement in my metal state has lead to these physiological benefits, in effect a psychosomatic benefit. It could also be the case that the physical improvements have lead to psychological benefits. It could even be that some other change that I have made has made all of the difference and that this exercise is actually pointless. Whatever the true cause of my improved mental and physical state, I cannot deny that the timing has coincided with me trying this.

I can honestly say that this is something that I will be continuing.


 

The information discussed in this post is based entirely on my own experience. I would always recommend anyone suffering from a mental health condition should seek the advice of a trained professional.

RED January 2019 – In support of the mental health charity Mind.

Following on from completing RED January 2018, I will again be running every day in January 2019 in support of Mind UK. In January 2018 I set and achieved the target of completing 150km of running across the month. Next year I am aiming to hit 200km in support of this worthy cause.

As I mentioned in my post on completing 2018’s edition of RED January, the work Mind and other mental health charities from across the word do is so important. For anyone who has suffered from any mental heath condition, whether diagnosed or not, the support offered by organisations like Mind is priceless. I personally feel it is so important to continue to raise awareness of mental health to help remove the stigma attached to it, and to enable those suffering that it is okay to talk about their problems.

For more information on RED January and to read about the great work done by Mind UK click here: Mind UK – RED JanuaryRED_Jan2019_TFrontRED_Jan2019_TRev.

To make a donation to Mind, and sponsor me while I hit the pavement in January 2019 clike here: Just Giving – RED January

Creating a stess reducing playlist

The effects of music on the brain are well known and have been documented by scientists for years. Listening to music is known to activate our whole brains, so the potential for it to modify our moods is great.

By thoughtfully selecting music, you can create playlists that will allow you to combat stress, evoke positive emotions, increase relaxation as well as many other positve benefits. The starting point is to determine what your current state of mind is and what you would like to acheive instead. Using this goal, it is important to gradually build in the change, starting with songs that empathise with your current mood; before slowly building towards your goal.

Using familiar music is a good place to start here. Songs that you are used to listening to will evoke certain emotional responses based on your previous associations with them. Memories are stimulated by music, therefore we can be transported back in time in an instant through music. Based on your ideas of songs that you know have a certain impact on your mood, suppliment them with songs that have similar characteristics.

One important thing is to never use music you don’t like. This is only going to have a negative impact on your mood. If, after creating your playlist, you find you don’t react the way you intended to a certain piece of music, remove it.

If you are using music to try to relax, consider using instrumental music. When listening to songs with lyrics, we use a lot of our brains trying to process these lyrics. Lyrics can also increase the stimulation of memories which may not be what you want when trying to relax.

The most important thing is to trust your own music intuaition. You will have almost certainly discovered songs in the past that make you cry, or ones that motivate you to push a little bit harder while exercising. If this is the case then you are already aware of the huge impact that music can have on your brain. Trust in this knowledge and you will be able to harness the power of music to cmobat stress, improve your motivation or help you relax.

 

5 Ways to improve your sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is just as important for our health and wellbeing as having a healthy diet and getting regualr exercise.

Research has shown that poor sleep can have immediate negative effects on exercise performance, hormone levels and brain function.

Good sleep on the other hand, can help improve exercise performance, help you eat less and be generaly healthier.

Here are 5 tips to help you sleep better at night.

1. Control your light exposure.

Studies have shown that increasing your exposure to bright light during the day can have a positive effect on the quality of your sleep. These studies have mainly focused on people with severe sleep issues, but should also help improve your sleep if you have only moderate sleep problems.

The reason bright light exposure helps with sleep is becasue it helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. Circadian rhythm is also known as your body clock. This helps both night time sleep quality as well as daytime energy levels.

Conversely, reducing blue light exposure in the evening is also known to be beneficial to sleep. Blue light is emmited from electronic devices such as smartphones and computers. It has been shown to negatively effect your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This has an impact on hormone production and means certain relaxing hormones such as melatonin are reduced.

The best way of reducing the impact of blue light is to stop watching TV and turn off bright lights about 2 hours before going to bed.

2. Reduce caffeine intake late in the day.

Caffiene is known to have benefits such as increasing energy, focus and even sports performance. Unfortunately these energy boosting properties make it the enemy of good sleep. In one study it was shown consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed had a significant impact on sleep quality.

Caffeine has been shown to stay at elevated levels in the blood for upto 8 hours. Therefore caffeine intake after mid-afternoon is not recommended, especially if you are already having trouble sleeping.

3. Be consistent.

Your body’s circadian rhythm works in a set loop, aligning roughly with the sunrise and sunset. Becasue of this it is advisable to try and go to sleep and wake up at consistent times. It is tempting to go to bed and wake up later on the weekends, however studies have shown that those who have irregualr sleeping paterns and who go to bed later on the weekends have a lower quality of sleep.

4. Get the temperature right.

Body temperature has a massive impact on sleep quality. When it is too warm it can be very difficult to get to sleep, this is a problem that most people, even those that don’t normaly suffer from sleep problems, experience during the summer. Keeping your room at a constant temperature of around 70 degrees farenheit, or 20 degrees celcius, year round will help you sleep better.

5. Relax.

Instead of spending the last couple of hours before bed watching TV or spending time on your phones, it is advisable to spend some time relaxing each evening. Relaxing activities such as reading a book or taking a relaxing bath can lower your heart rate which is known to help you drift off into a deep sleep. Even if you don’t feel like taking a full bath before bed, you could try just bathing you feet in warm water.

Other techniques such as deep breathing and vizulization can also help you relax.

Sleep plays such a big role in our health that it should be made top priority if you wish to be in the best health you can be.