Maintaining the correct balance of fluids, salts, electrolytes and branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) within our body is critical to our health and performance in all aspects of life.
In the workplace, mild dehydration, classified as a loss of fluids between 1-4 per cent of body mass, can have serious implications on worker safety and productivity, negatively impacting decision-making, cognitive performance, attention and visual motor tracking.
In fact, 3 per cent dehydration is the equivalent of having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 which has been found to slow down the response time of drivers by 17 per cent and increase the chances of having a car accident by five times.
Studies have found that Australian mining workers regularly begin their shift dehydrated, and with workers likely to lose four to five litres of fluid during a 10 hour shift, they are likely to stay dehydrated, endangering themselves and their co-workers.
Furthermore, the loss of sodium and other electrolytes during sweating, along with branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) means they too must be replaced.
Influencing fluid and electrolyte intake requirements are individual variables in heat acclimatisation and fitness, humidity, the amount and type of clothing worn and many other variables. Broad guidelines for fluid consumption when working in hot and humid conditions have been set at around 250-300ml of fluid every 15-20 minutes.
For sodium and electrolyte intake, a tailored approach matching individual requirements is recommended. Inadequate consumption of sodium can lead to the dangerous condition of hyponatremia.
Having a balanced diet plays an important role in ensuring workers are replenishing lost sodium, electrolytes and amino acids. Eating encourages fluid consumption and food is also a good source of fluids. On average, people source 20 to 30 per cent of required fluids from foods such as fruits and vegetables.
However a poor diet may not provide the necessary fluids and minerals the body requires, while intense work conditions can inhibit appetite. In either case, consuming a low sugar electrolyte drink is a simple way to replenish fluids, sodium and other essential electrolytes.
Alcohol consumption should be discouraged after a shift as it contributes to dehydration and acts as a diuretic, increasing urine output when rehydration is the goal and the body is likely already dehydrated.
Caffeine consumption is OK in relatively small doses (<180mg/day) and is not thought to lead to dehydration; however fluid intake must be maintained.
Simple Hydration Strategies:
Eat water rich foods: Soups, stews, fruits and vegetables are high in water and contribute to fluid intake.
Bad Fluids: Alcohol, excess caffeine and overly sugary drinks will hinder your hydration.
Hydration at hand: Ensure fluids are always readily available and you carry a water bottle with you at all times.
Morning glory: Drink a couple of glasses of water every morning before breakfast.
Pre-emptively hydrate: Once you are thirsty you are probably already dehydrated. Pre-emptively drink fluids, especially before physical activity.
Electrolytes: Sweat is salty and that lost salt needs to be replaced – either through food or low/no-sugar electrolyte drinks. The over-consumption of water may dilute the body’s sodium levels and lead to the potentially-deadly hyponatremia.
Taste: Pleasant tasting fluids may encourage consumption, however avoid overly sugary drinks.