Are You A “Reluctant Drinker?”

Would you get more done if you drank a bit more water?

A few years ago, I was reading a funny and informative book by Mary Roach called Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. It’s a book about the scientists who work behind the scenes to support the US military.

In one interview, the author was put on a treadmill so the research scientist could demonstrate his work. They monitored her exertion and subsequent rehydration. Later, they informed her that she is what they call a “reluctant drinker.”

Apparently, some of us have a natural instinct to avoid drinking much water. We just don’t feel very thirsty. As a result, we often fail to drink enough water to replenish states of mild dehydration.

I immediately knew I was in that group. My wife often asks if she can drink my nearly full cup of water at restaurants after she has finished her entire glass. As a child, I used to wonder why people took water bottles with them on long hikes.

But now, as a productivity coach, it’s no longer a passing curiosity. I need to know if it’s a problem.


The Truth About Water and Productivity

I kept hearing that drinking a full glass of water upon waking is an important productivity hack. Apparently, we become mildly dehydrated from not drinking anything while we sleep, and this impairs peak cognitive functioning.

Sometimes, simple tips like this get passed around on the internet because the tip seems to make sense, and it fits conveniently on a bullet list of productivity hacks. As soon as somebody publishes the recommendation, everyone else echoes that same advice without checking for an original source of research.

I wondered if science backs up this idea that mild dehydration affects productivity. So I did some digging, and here’s what I found.


It’s About Oxygen

According to an article published in the American Journal of Physiology, there is a scientific correlation between drinking water and productivity.

Blood is the catalyst that moves oxygen to your brain. Apparently, even mild dehydration lowers your blood volume.

With dehydration, your heart begins to work harder to pump oxygen out to all your organs, including your brain. You begin to feel less alert, drained of energy, slower to react, in a worse mood, and less focused.

Research suggests you should drink enough that you never reach a point of feeling thirsty. Unfortunately, that simple metric doesn’t work for people like me. So a great first step is to challenge yourself to drink 8 ounces of water upon waking up. Then keep sipping water all day long.

Try this for a month, and take note of any positive changes.


Don’t Wait to Hydrate

If you are not proactive about your water consumption, now is the time to start.

There are several benefits to having a dedicated water intake routine. Easier digestion of food, improved blood circulation, better focus on work tasks, and prevention of bad breath from a dry mouth are just a few.

Adequate hydration also helps our kidneys filter our blood. This process works best when you sip water all day long instead of gulping a lot of water all at once to make up for dehydration.

As both popular opinion and research suggests - H2O is vital to maximize your professional and personal productivity. Here are some easy tips to add more water to your daily routine.


Practical Tips

  1. Buy a new, attractive water bottle. I recommend glass over plastic, because while you can find BPA-free plastic bottles, there are still hundreds of other chemicals in plastic we have not studied long enough to know whether they have negative effects.
  2. Choose a bottle that is easy to use, but hard to spill. You’ll be less likely to experience workplace accidents while keeping it handy on your desk.
  3. Link the act of drinking a sip of water to another established habit, i.e. after you’ve taken a bathroom break, sip some water before focusing again.
  4. Use fatigue as a cue to drink up. But remember, sipping all day is preferable to gulping water every few hours.
  5. Use your water container as an automatic feedback device. If you’re bottle hasn’t been refilled by lunch, try to drink more in the afternoon. (This is another reason to use a glass container. You get more feedback when the water level is easy to see.)
  6. If you’re having an alcoholic drink with dinner, be sure to order water too, and be mindful enough to drink from both.
  7. Take just a moment to use this water calculator to set appropriate goals for intake.


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