The Be Better Newsletter #9: 5 Ways to Stay Healthy this Flu Season

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting colder and shorter and flu season is here. If you’re at all like me, you dread getting sick. I’m just not very good at lying around for days feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck.

So I’m all about trying not to get sick in the first place. I am a researcher at SickKids Hospital, so I have to get a flu shot. But the flu shot is not 100% effective, so I am working on other ways to avoid getting sick or, if I do, to get better as fast as I can.

So here are 5 things you can do to supercharge your immune system this flu season.

Posted on November 7, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #8: Sleep Better

Hi everyone!

Sleep has been on my mind a lot lately because, as you may know, we are expecting baby #2 anytime this month. We’re thrilled to be welcoming a new member of the family, but we are also a bit apprehensive about the sleepless nights that lie ahead. So I thought I’d revisit the topic of sleep because it is going to be an important focus of my Be Better world for the next few months.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Charles Samuels from the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance for a Be Better Podcast (check out the interview here). He had some great insights about sleep, and I wanted to share his main idea with you. (If you want to see Dr. Samuels’ presentation on the topic check him out here.)

When I asked Dr. Samuels “why do we sleep?” he said something that turned this really simple question into an incredible answer. “The primary reason we sleep is that our brains need to recover and regenerate.” He explained that the process of recovery is a highly active time because there is a ton going on in both your brain and body while you sleep.

Dr. Samuels comments reminded me of one of the coolest studies I’ve seen in a long time. It was released last year by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester’s Medical Center[1]. Dr. Nedergaard’s team showed that during sleep, the size of neurons in the brain is reduced by up to 60%. This change creates space between your brain cells, which allows the glymphatic system to clean the metabolic waste from the microscopic spaces between the neurons in your brain. That means when you sleep, your brain actively cleans itself. It’s like giving your brain an oil change – every night.

So how do you make sure you sleep well? It’s all about building a great pre-sleep routine. And that routine needs to be as relaxing as possible.

One way to relax your brain is to get away from screens. I know – you’ve heard this before, but I’ll repeat it again because it is a tough habit to break.

Get a book and do some reading. Preferably fiction. Reading is great for you. It calms the mind and activates parts of your brain that you use to fall asleep and dream. Your reading should have a story – something that requires your imagination. Don’t read work-related books before sleeping. They’ll just get your brain going. You can set yourself up on Amazon for one-click ordering. That way as soon as you’re done one book, you can order the next to keep yourself going. They are even working toward same-day shipping, so you might even get your new book that day! When you're done a book, pass it on and share the reading love with other people. Tell them how it’s helping you to sleep better. Spread the Sleep Eat Move love around the world!

This month, let’s all work on creating an amazing sleep routine that helps us build habits that ensure deep and high quality sleep.

That’s it for now! Have a great month and please share this newsletter with anyone you know who could benefit from knowing more about sleep! Remember you can always Be Better!

Greg

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24136970

Best of the Web:

Here are some great resources on how to sleep better:

The Centre for Sleep and Human Performance

The National Sleep Foundation

How 6 creative geniuses managed sleep.

Here's a cool app you can use to track your sleep:

Sleep Cycle

And another to help you if you have insomnia:

Sleep Diary

If you're into exercise - here's our video on the relationship between sleep and exercise training:

And finally here's Arianna Huffington's TED talk on sleep:

Posted on October 2, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #7: Time to Supercharge Your Brain

Whether you’re into the back to school routine or not, September is a time of restarting after the lazy days of summer. You may not be experiencing the direct shock of the Fall reboot, but we all associate cooling temperatures and changing leaves with the going back to school season.

Let’s use this transitional moment to focus on our brains – and keep it easy. Life is complicated enough, and mourning the passing of summer is emotionally draining! Luckily, eating for better brain performance and overall health isn’t hard. Here are ten simple ways to supercharge your brain while you grapple with the change in seasons and routines.

1. Caffeine. There’s no doubt that caffeine improves mental and physical performance by promoting blood flow to the brain and body. More than 200 mg a day (about two cups of coffee or four black teas or eight green teas) may lead to agitation and insomnia, so watch your level of consumption. I’m loving green tea these days, and I’ll have a single espresso right before a big presentation to kick my performance into high gear.

2. Carbohydrates. The brain uses the glucose found in carbohydrates as fuel. But we need to eat them in a controlled way to avoid insulin and tryptophan spikes. Go for complex, slow-digesting carbs packed full of nutrients and fibre to ensure good mental energy all day long. Whole grain breads, starchy vegetables, beans, whole fruits (not juice), peas, lentils, brown or wild rice and quinoa are all good sources of complex carbs.

3. Fish. Cold water fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids are great for brain health. Diets high in Omega-3s are linked with lower risks of dementia and stroke and with better memory. One habit that I’ve been working on is to eat wild salmon on nights after a long, hard day at work. It’s a great food for mental recovery, and I feel much better the next day.

4. Nuts. One of the best daily snacks you can have is a handful of nuts. Studies have shown that the healthy fats, vitamins and minerals in nuts improve thinking and memory and may protect against cognitive decline as we age. So mix together your favourite types and take a portion into work every day, or sprinkle them into cereal, salads, smoothies or just about anything you eat.

5. Dark chocolate. Chocolate with 70% cocoa or greater contains all kinds of goodness: fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, good fats and polyphenols, which have been shown to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain for increased performance and alertness. You can eat a little bit (less than an ounce) of dark chocolate a day for a delicious and healthy treat.

6. Avocados. The monounsaturated fat in avocados can help improve your cardiovascular system and blood flow to all your organs – including your brain. Since your brain has no stored energy and depends on blood flow to deliver the glucose and oxygen that it needs to think, foods that improve your circulatory system can help supercharge your brain.

7. Blueberries. Research has shown that blueberries are packed full of nutrients that help protect the brain from free radical damage and from age-related mental decline. They also improve memory and learning. So if you want to keep your brain young, load up on blueberries.

8. Eat to 80% full. In addition to helping you to live longer, this habit keeps your blood circulating to all parts of your body (not just in your digestive tract) after a meal. So eat smaller meals throughout the day. That should help to keep your performance at a high level and avoid the peaks and valleys that so many people face.

9. Vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 helps improve mental performance by acting as a neurotransmitter, carrying brain messages used for learning and memory. It also helps to elevate your mood. Some easy sources of B1 are cereal grains, oatmeal, potatoes, watermelon and eggs.

10. Stay hydrated. Nothing will improve or hurt your performance as much as hydration. We need water to create energy at the molecular level in all of our cells. Low water, low energy. I fill a glass water bottle a few times every day to remind me to drink. If I get foggy or tired, I drink two big glasses of water and inevitably feel much better a few minutes later.

Improve your energy and mental performance with these smart foods. Your supercharged brain will thank you. And if you want to toast the end of summer or relax after you’ve gotten the kids into bed, enjoy a glass of wine or spirits. Moderate daily consumption of alcohol is also associated with improved mental function.

So enjoy yourself – and be better!

What's your favorite brain food? Let me know about them on twitter @drgregwells, on Facebook, or on my website in the comments section for this article.

Recommended Book of the Month:

This month I'm reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Its really insightful and can help you set the stage for sticking with any new health and fitness resolutions you might be working on.

Best of the Web:

3 New Scientific Findings about Happiness: Positive psychology is a relatively new field that's churning out insights on how normal people can be stronger and happier every year. Here are a few recent ones.

Change your intention to focus your attention: Great article on how to use positive psychology to work better from Harvard Business Review.

Posted on September 18, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #6: More Energy Less Tension

Last week I had the chance to go watch a training session with one of the Olympians that I work with – Adam VanKoeverden. You can check him out by visiting his website www.vankayak.com. Adam’s a kayaker and has won medals at the last 3 Olympics – so he’s a reasonable athlete! During the workout we headed out onto the river and Adam did his workout in the boat while I watched from the motorboat with former Olympic Champion and now coach Larry Cain. I was surrounded by Olympic Gold.

During the workout I asked that Adam work through what I call a descending set. Basically you start slow and smooth and build effort through faster and faster speeds right up to and faster than race pace. It's a tough workout but I love it because it lets me see where fatigue sets in and how athletes respond to the physical discomfort that comes with the buildup of lactic acid, carbon dioxide and other chemicals in the body.

What’s super interesting about descending sets is that different athletes respond completely differently to the same physical and mental stress. Some experience fatigue, muscle pain, hard breathing and then increase their effort and get tense and tight. They’re working really hard to finish the training. Others – like Adam last week – move into the very challenging part of the workout and they almost seem to relax more as they go faster. Their energy output increases but they don’t try “harder”. They just go “faster”.

They accomplish this by being ruthless about where they place their energy. Adam will activate the muscles that he needs to use to hold the paddle in the water and exert force on that paddle. But other muscles that are not being directly used to move the boat forward are completely relaxed. As a result he’s able to be efficient, paddle with better technique, and be faster while putting his energy right where it’s needed to achieve his objectives

 This is a crucial learning point for all of us non-Olympians as well. The concept of applying energy in a focused way to the task that we’re trying to accomplish while staying as relaxed as possible is exactly what we need to do regardless of whether you’re training for a triathlon, practicing a music piece, or trying to get a project completed at work. Tension makes us feel like we’re working hard but it leads to more distress, decreased circulation, bad moods and ultimately more fatigue and poorer performance. We need more energy and less tension in our lives.

The first step in learning how to do this is to be aware of your body and mind. Try the tension release exercise below a few times during the day. And then once you notice if you’re tight and tense then try the relaxation breathing technique to see if you can release tension, reset and recover better.

Greg’s High-Performance Tips:

1. TENSION RELEASE

“Bracing” is a term that describes the tightening and tensing of muscles—you feel it when you lift your eyebrows or raise your shoulders. People can get tense when they are tired or nervous. Practicing tension release can break the bracing habit and lead to muscle relaxation and faster swimming through improved circulation and improved energy levels. Tension release involves becoming aware of muscle tightness and body position. You can build such awareness by consistently asking yourself several questions:

> Can I drop my shoulders?

> Can I relax my hands? Stomach? Legs? Forehead?

> Can I sit in a more comfortable position?

> Can I relax and deepen my breathing?

Try to recognize when an area of your body is tense, and then release the tension from your muscles and let go of the tightness.

2. RELAXATION BREATHING TECHNIQUE

You can perform relaxation breathing by expanding your abdomen so that your stomach rises with every inhalation and lowers when you exhale. Try to slow the breathing down to six seconds in and six seconds out. This exercise, which can be performed at any time, has immediate benefits.

This technique is a key skill for athletes, professional musicians, business professionals and anyone else who has to perform under pressure. Imagine taking just seconds to compose yourself before starting a key presentation or stepping onto the stage to perform a recital. Imagine if we did this right before walking into our homes at the end of a brutally stressful day. Take just a moment to relax, let go and focus on the important task at hand rather than on the past or future. It’s a very powerful technique. The applications for this are endless. Deep breathing is a great tool for relaxing the body and letting the stressful moment go so you can focus and concentrate on your next performance. Try it out the next time you are feeling anxious, nervous or stressed.

So this month let’s try to increase our energy and decrease our tension so that we can all do amazing things. This coming weekend I’m doing my first triathlon of the season so I’ll be trying to stay relaxed while going as fast as I can so that I can earn bragging rights over my buddies that are doing the race too! Hopefully none of them read this newsletter…

Do you have tips and tricks that you use to stay calm, cool and collected under pressure? Let me know about them on twitter @drgregwells, on Facebook, or on my website in the comments section for this article.

Announcements:

Check out our latest Podcast with Olympic Champion Rosie MacLennan: http://www.drgregwells.com/thebebetterpodcast/

You can subscribe to The Be Better Podcast on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/be-better-podcast-dr.-greg/id836714886?mt=2

Links of the Month:

Want to learn more mental skills? Check out Dr. Peter Jensen’s The Inside Edge Audio Program: http://www.performancecoaching.ca/products/inside_edge_audio_program/

A 20-Minute Exercise to Boost Your Brain Power: http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/20-minute-trick-to-boost-your-brain-power.html

The Overlooked Secret to Great Performance: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/the-overlooked-secret-to-great-performance/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Posted on July 7, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #5: The surprising health benefits of workout out outside

Now that the weather is getting a little better (finally) I hope that you’re finding it a bit easier to get outside and be more active. If you are increasing your exercise and activity, that’s great! More physical activity will help your muscles, blood, heart and lungs - pretty much everything in your body.

I find that getting outside to exercise is soooooo much better than going to the gym. I go to the gym and I like it, but I really love running on trails. Think about running on the treadmill for an hour or going out and running trails for an hour. Instead of looking at a wall or TV screen you get to see scenes like this:

What’s amazing is that simply looking at pictures of nature can lower your blood pressure, stress and mental fatigue[1]. That’s how powerful nature can be. So if you’re reading this at the office change your desktop to a nature scene! And preferably a nature scene that includes water – research has shown that images containing water are more restorative than those without[2]. See how this shot makes you feel!

But if you can get outside by all means get out there! Here’s more about why this should be part of your health, energy and performance-enhancing life.

Exercising in nature has benefits that go above and beyond the benefits you gain by exercising indoors. Research has shown improvements in mental well-being[3], self-esteem[4], and even can help with depression[5]. This might be especially important for that moody teenager in your life… It also explains why my wife kicks me out of the house to go or a trail run when I’m stressed out from a crazy day at work. I’ve found that trail running seems to help me decompress much better than running on a treadmill or even on city streets, and the research backs this up as well. Being exposed to plants decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, decreases resting heart rate and also decreases blood pressure[6].

I think these studies are really interesting because we often think of exercise as only being good for our bodies. It turns out that exercise can be just as good for our brains and our minds and that getting outside and exercising in nature might amplify the benefits.

One of the challenges that we are faced with is staying motivated to exercise. About half of people who join a gym don’t stick with it beyond the first year. But people who exercise outside tend to stick with their exercise programs more consistently than those who train indoors[7]. So if you’re having trouble being consistent consider adding an outdoor workout to your routine.

Another surprise benefit of getting outside and into nature is that exposure to plants like trees can improve your immune system. Your immune system helps to fight off illnesses and keeps you healthy. Scientists think that airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect themselves from fungus, bacteria and insects (these chemicals are called phytoncides) may also benefit humans. On a study published in 2007, people who took 2-hour walks in a forest had a 50% increase in the levels of their natural killer cells. They sound scary but they’re your cells that circulate through your body and kill bacteria, viruses, fungus and other invaders[8]!

It also turns out that if you prefer walking and light activity to running or more intense activities you’re in luck. It appears that walking in nature improves measures of revitalization, self-esteem, energy, pleasure, and decreases frustration, worry, confusion, depression, tension and tiredness far more than light activity indoors did. Running outdoors did not seem to have a greater impact on emotions or mood than running inside. Maybe because running and more intense activities cause the release of endorphins that can cause feelings of elation and exhilaration regardless of where you run. So if you want to feel better – get outside and don’t worry about whether or not you walk or run.

So what kind of activities can you do outdoors that will improve your health? Try gardening, go for a walk in the park, find a trail near your home and go for a run, head to the beach or a lake on the weekend, go for a bike ride. If you have any other ideas please share them with me on twitter or Facebook.

And on that note I’m going out for a run, and I’m going to do it on an incredible trail out in the woods!

[1] Hartig,T.;Mang,M.;Evans,G.W. Restorative effects of natural environment experience. Environ. Behav. 1991, 23, 3–26.

[2] White, M. P.; Smith, A.; Humphries, K.; Pahl, S.; Snelling, D.; Depledge, M. H. Blue Space: The importance of water for preference, affect and restorative ratings of natural and built scenes. J. Environ.

Psychol. 2010.

[3] Pretty, J.; Peacock, J.; Sellens, M.; Griffin, M. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Int. J. Environ. Health Res. 2005, 15 (5), 319–37.

[4] Peacock, J.; Hine, R.; Pretty, J. Got the blues, then find some Greenspace. The Mental Health benefits of Green Exercise Activities and Green Care. Colchester, 2007.

[5] Barton, J.; Hine, R.; Pretty, J. The health benefits of walking in greenspaces of high natural and heritage value. J. Integr. Environ. Sci. 2009, 6 (4), 1–18.

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835.

[7] Bird, W. J.; Natural Fit. Can green space and biodiversity increase levels of physical activity. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: 2004.

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349.

Posted on May 12, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #4: Give your brain a break

Every workday plays out like Ground Hog day doesn’t it? There’s that time in the afternoon when focusing is painfully difficult. When you read the same sentence five times and still can’t understand what it means. Or you stare blankly at your screen (maybe out the window if you’re lucky) wondering how you’re going to finish that letter, project, presentation or just get through the rest of the day. Guess what – you’re not alone. I know you’re not alone because I’ve seen the huge line-ups at the coffee shops around 3 o’clock every afternoon as the working masses seek caffeine and sugar to help them power through the last few hours of the workday. Unfortunately that’s the last thing you should be having.

The truth is that the afternoon crash is totally avoidable. You don’t have to feel that way. You can make it through the day with energy, clarity and actually arrive at home at night in a good mood and not exhausted. You just have to give up your usual way of thinking about the way you work. More work attempted does not always mean more work accomplished. I want you to get more done, in less time, more easily. It’s a different way of working. It’s called Work CyclingTM and the basis comes from sport training.

The old way of training for high performance sports in the 70’s, 80’s, and the 90’s was to do as much training as you could, as hard as you could for as long as possible. The survivors would end up as the champions. This is so similar to the way that we approach work, school and our huge list of daily tasks. How hard can I work today? How many hours can I put in? Can you believe that guy leaves early? I have no time for going to the gym at lunch, etc… The problem with this approach is that people end up training or working at 75-85% of their capacity. Athletes who train like this rarely hit 100% or real race-pace in practice and so they never truly prepare their bodies and minds for their competition performances. Similarly many of us struggle to get through the day at the office because we just work all day and try to get as much done as we can with no breaks. In the 2000’s a new training philosophy began to emerge that was based on creating world-class performances as often as possible by training more intensely (85-100% of capacity), interspersed with more rest and recovery (at 50-60% of capacity). The result has been better, faster performances and, interestingly, healthier and happier athletes. This is exactly the shift we need to create in the workplace to create an environment of excellence and health.

The key to Work CyclingTM is to give your brain a break regularly during the day. No one can exercise for 10 hours straight without becoming fatigued, and mental fatigue works in a similar manner. Your brain uses glucose (a sugar we get from food) and oxygen to create the energy we use to think, be creative, problem solve and to create memories. The brain has very little stored energy so we have to constantly deliver new energy to our brains to keep the cells energized and healthy. The way to do this is to increase blood flow to the areas of the brain we use to think. A healthy way to do this is to move! When you exercise you activate and deliver blood to the areas of your brain that you use to think, be creative, problem solve and to create memories. Exactly the areas you probably need to do your job. So get up and move. Pump blood to your brain. Get active even for a few minutes at regular intervals throughout the day. I recommend 15 minutes of walking or stretching at 10 AM, 12:30 pm, and 3 pm. Another cool trick is to get up and do a quick stretch throughout the day. A great rule is that for every 20 minutes of sitting you should get up and stretch for 20 seconds. You can set a timer on your clock to remind you.

Lately I have been setting my day up to do 90 minute block of intense work, followed by 15 minutes of exercise and a 15 minute break to re-energize and have some healthy nutrition. This allows me to get 4-5 blocks of great work done throughout the day over 8-10 hours. I finish the day with energy, and I can actually get home at night with enough left over to play with my daughter for a while before we all settle down for the night. It's a totally different story if we struggle through the day relying on the sugar and caffeine rush that ultimately leaves you more tired. Try Work Cycling and see how it works for you. Let me know at @drgregwells.

Posted on May 12, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #3: How to Live an Olympic Life Everyday

The Sochi Olympics may be finished and the Paralympics are just beginning and with them an extraordinary reminder what the human body is capable of.  Consider that Olympians and Paralympians can perform feats that most people could never imagine doing! Watching and reading about these athletes gives us all the chance to be inspired first thing in the morning before heading out to the office. Imagine starting every day with an Olympic frame of mind.

 Well, you can.

 True, Olympic athletes devote themselves to training each and every day while we mere mortals try to balance work and family while hoping there might be an hour left to work out.  But being an Olympic Athlete is so much more than long daily visits to the gym.  It’s an attitude.  It’s a commitment on how to live each day.  That’s something anyone can do!

Here are five simple strategies you can use to help you live an Olympic life and to Be Better everyday.

Posted on March 7, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #2: Sleep Better!

Dreams are powerful indicators of a good sleep too – wasn’t that a dreamy segue.  Seriously though.  Sleeping deeply and dreaming is awesome for your health.  The dreams you set as sign posts for a better, healthier life are the tools you need to transform your life into a world-class life.  Setting yourself up to achieve you dreams by sleeping better (and dreaming!) is equally powerful.  Not only is sleep great for mental stress relief and rebuilding your body but sleeping and dreaming while you sleep can help your memory and learning too. Get good at sleeping and you’ll get better at so many other things when you’re not sleeping.  A better sleep means you will eat better, train better, and work better. Ultimately you’ll live better.

Posted on January 30, 2014 .

Be Better Newsletter #1: Why Water Matters

Chapter 7 Ryan Drinking.jpg

Greetings!

Welcome!  Today is the first of my regular series of articles that will help you to Be Better at whatever it is that you’re most passionate about. Ideas that will help you at work or at home, whether your training already, want to get into shape, stress less or sleep better.  Ideas that are simple.  Techniques that are really easy.  Okay – there’s a catch. You do have to do them every day.  I call it the aggregate of 1% gains. Like compound interest for your body and your brain, doing something small each day will leave you with more… more strength, more confidence and more possibilities.  You will in fact change the world. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Did you have a walk today?  Why not?  Wasn’t there even 15 minutes free for that?  Really?  How much television did you watch?  Did you have time to grab a coffee or muffin?  Maybe even both.  Probably.  So tomorrow skip something? Trim time somewhere and walk.  15 minutes.  Do that everyday and your risk of cancer could be cut in half.  Half!   The catch is that you have to do it most days. Tomorrow on it’s own won’t do much. Do it every day and you will transform your health and your body!

Not convinced?  How about this.   According to the World Health Organization the biggest health problem in the world is diseases associated with physical inactivity.  So, because the world is not moving enough diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease are skyrocketing.  Any idea how much exercise each person on the planet would need to do to reverse this trend?  Not very much!  If you are 20 years of age or older you probably gain about one pound per year.  Not a big deal from one year to the next but it adds up over 20 or 30 years.  What can be done?  Lots.  But think about a small change first.  Create a calorie deficit of about 10 calories per day. That’s half a teaspoon of less sugar than you would normally have. That’s walking up one flight of stairs. Add 10 calories per day up over a year. Guess what. You’ve saved 3650 calories!  That’s more than one pound of fat!   And you’ve just helped stop the obesity epidemic. Crazy!

So I hope I’ve made my point and shown you that you don’t have to make huge changes to have a huge positive impact on your health. What you have to do is make little changes and hold to those changes for the rest of your BETTER life.

 

Why Water Matters

Quick!  What’s the most important thing for health? Breathing?  Yes, stop breathing and you’ll die in a few minutes. We’ll get to that later. How about the second most important thing for staying alive? Any guesses? Exactly!  Water. Water is absolutely vital to a body’s function and survival.  Stop being hydrated for a few days and you stop living. Remember the remarkable story of the Bangladeshi woman who survived 17 days in the wreckage of a collapsed garment building?  She managed that near impossible feat because she had found some bottled water.

Right now I want to explain why water matters so much. There is not a single cell in your body that does not rely on water.  Water helps transport the carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your cells need to make energy.  When your body works, functions or moves it does so because water helped transport the necessary fuel or energy building components.  By the way, reflect on the word “carbohydrate” for a moment.  Do you see the word “hydrate”?  That’s not an accident.   Carbohydrates are basically hydrates of carbon.  Carbon.  Hydrogen.  Oxygen.  Even carbohydrates rely on water.

If that was hard to follow, drink a glass of water.  Now.  Before you read on.  Your brain needs water.  Literally!  60 percent of your body weight is made up of water but incredibly it makes up almost 90 percent of your brain.  Water lubricates and cushions the brain.  It also helps you to think, concentrate, problem solve and remember.  With water those important cognitive functions… well, they function.  Without water and they stop functioning properly, or worse.  A recent study out of the UK indicates that dehydrated adolescents had structural changes in their brains that were equivalent to an Alzheimer patient over a two and a half month period or 14 months of ageing in a healthy adult.  In other words, dehydration can cause a teenagers brain to shrink (Human Brain Mapping, 2010).   Not a teenager anymore?  Water still matters.  Mild dehydration, just a one percent loss in body fluids, can impair your concentration and thinking. 

Now that you’ve properly hydrated that big brain of yours, do find it difficult to move it around?  Are your muscles and joints sore or not functioning properly?  Whether at work or play, staying hydrated is key to lubricating and protecting your muscles and joints.  While the brain has the highest concentration of water in the body, your muscles are nearly 75 percent water. Remember the Krebs Cycle from grade 10 biology class? No? Maybe that time of your life is a little foggy. Well all you need to know from that class is that the Krebs Cycle is the series of steps that take place in all the cells of your body that creates energy. No water. No energy. Anywhere. You know that sluggish feeling you get in the afternoon? For most people the afternoon crash is caused by a combination of dehydration and bad nutrition. So do yourself a favour. Give yourself more energy by drinking some water. Get tired? Drink some water.

Finally, our heart is one of our most vital organs. Simply drinking water can help to keep it beating properly. A constant water balance in the body through regular hydration allows for blood pressure to be maintained within its target range. Dehydration can make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body, which can increase our heart rate and decrease our blood pressure. A lower resting heart rate has been linked to a longer life! And we’ve all heard about how important blood pressure is to our health – staying well hydrated is one of the ways that you can keep your blood pressure in the healthy zone.

So make drinking water part of your daily routine. Get a water bottle and keep it with you and fill it up a few times every day. Water is just as important at work as it is in the gym! Stay hydrated, stay healthy and Be Better!

Remember:  If it can be done, you can do it!  Anything is possible!

Sincerely,

Dr. Greg Wells

Dr. Greg Wells is an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology at the University of Toronto and an Associate Scientist in Physiology and Experimental Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children. He is a health and high performance expert who inspires better living through better nutrition and better fitness. You can follow him on twitter @drgregwells or visit his website at www.drgregwells.com.

Here are general guidelines from Be Better Nutritionist Trionne Moore (www.trionne.ca):

 

Daily Requirements:

Body Mass                                          Litres              Cups

50 kg (110 lbs.)         x 0.036 L        1.8                  7.5

60 kg (132 lbs.)         x 0.036 L        2.2                  9.2

70 kg (154 lbs.)         x 0.036 L        2.5                  10.4

80 kg (176 lbs.)         x 0.036 L        2.9                  12

 

Hydration: Pre-Exercise:

90-60 min pre-workout consume ~ 500 ml

30-15 min pre workout consume ~ 250 ml

 

Hydration: Exercise & Post-Exercise:

For exercise lasting less than 90 min drink water

For exercise lasting longer than 90 min sport drinks are OK

Aim for 500-1000 ml / hr during exercise

 

Post-exercise 1 L H2O / kg lost during workout

Posted on November 8, 2013 .