Water is crucial in maintaining health. Water is also one of the basic nutrients, and people often overlook its importance. The human body is composed largely of water and it is the medium in which most of the body’s chemistry is played out. Dehydration is potentially a very serious condition and in extreme cases can lead to death.
The importance of water in human body
The human body is composed of about 40 to 75 percent water, depending on body composition and age. The average human body contains 11 gallons of water, which fills the cells, the spaces between the cells, and blood. Water helps distribute and disperse minerals, vitamins, amino acids, sugar, and many other nutrients throughout the cells. It participates in many chemical reactions, acts as a shock absorber in joints, and is critical for temperature regulation.
As an illustration of water’s importance, people can live for weeks without food, but for only a few days without water.
Your body looks and functions best when fully hydrated. Your muscles, being about 70 percent fluid, look stronger and fuller when they have the water they need. And if they’re even slightly dehydrated, they can’t perform at their peak. Water is essential to muscular strength because it constitutes about 70 percent of muscle. Therefore, as you sweat during exercise, you’re losing muscle mass. Fat is only 20 to 25 percent water, making it a lighter-weight form of energy storage than muscle.
A little known fact about water is that the less you drink, the more likely you will become overtrained with your workouts. Sweating from hard workouts causes you to lose body water. Eating a high protein diet increases your body’s need for water. And water is needed as a transport mechanism for various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. If your water intake is too low, your ability to transport nutrients to your muscles becomes compromised, you’ll lose muscle fullness, and toxins will build up in the body.
How do you know if you’re hydrated? Your urine should be clear. If it’s not, you need to drink more water. You should keep a water bottle with you during workouts and take frequent sips. Try to drink before you become thirsty.
Many experts say that everyone should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and bodybuilders need to drink even more. Other liquids such as juice, soft drinks, and coffee do not count toward your water intake. Fruit juices, non-diet soda, frou-frou coffee drinks, and flavored iced tea can pump sugar into your body by the shovelful. No workout program ever invented can neutralize the damage wrought by such massive infusions of nutrient-free calories.
Some bodybuilders make the mistake of trying to purge water from their bodies before a contest by using diuretics. They think that excess water beneath the skin reduces muscle definition. However, diuretics can be extremely dangerous, or even fatal. Don’t deprive your body of water.
Table 1: Physiological effects of dehydration on the human body
The table below lists some of the commonly observed effects of different levels of dehydration
|Percent weight loss||Effects on the body|
|1 to 2||Increase in core body temperature|
|3||Significant increase in body temperature with aerobic exercise|
|5*||•Significant increase in body temperature with a definite decrease in aerobic ability and muscular endurance
•Possible 20 to 30% decrease in strength and anaerobic power
•Susceptibility to heat exhaustion
|6||Muscle spasms, cramping|
|10 or more||•Excessively high core body temperature
•Susceptibility to heat stroke
•Heat injury and circulatory collapse with aerobic performance
|* With a 5% body weight loss, an athlete will need at least five hours to rehydrate|
|Source: Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities, 2003|
The importance of water in bodybuilding
- Dehydration upsets the balance and disrupts communications between different parts of the body, resulting in poor coordination and muscle stiffness.
- You also lose salt from your body when you sweat. This can cause muscle cramps because dehydration speeds muscle fatigue—the leading cause of cramps.
- Water flushes out toxins and other metabolic waste products from the body.
- Water helps metabolize fat.
- Water increases protein synthesis.
- Water helps your supplements work better.
Best time to drink water
All the time! Thirst is your bodies way of telling you that it needs rehydrating, but you should really not get to the stage when you are thirsty. Drink as often as you can. Begin the day with a large glass of water each morning, whether it’s a training or a rest day. Also, if you do feel thirsty, drink lots – not just enough to wet the inside of your mouth.
Water consumption before, during, and after a workout
You should also drink water before, during and after exercise. You should start drinking more water about two hours before you exercise (bearing in mind that your body can only absorb 1 glass of water every 20 minutes) and keep drinking right up until you exercise. Whilst exercising, sip water every few minutes. You can drink water between every set. Do not wait until the end of your exercise period and then gulp down lots of water as this is not good for you.
How exactly does hydration effect muscle growth?
Water is used for countless metabolic processes, many of which effect recovery. From muscle repair, to protein synthesis to nutrient absorption (digestion) water and hydration levels play a huge role. To put it simply, you cannot recovery properly without adequate hydration.
Weight loss effects of water
Staying hydrated is a key component to a smart weight loss plan as it flushes toxins out of your system, keeps your digestive tract healthy and can even help you feel more full, cutting down the risk of binge eating or consuming excess calories. So many people are looking for a pill or ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to fat loss, but it’s actually hard to beat good old H2O as a weight management ‘supplement’.
Creatine and water consumption
Since creatine works by drawing more water into muscle cells, you would do well to add extra water while supplementing with it, especially if you are going through a loading phase.
How much water do athletes need?
Without exercise and under normal environmental conditions, a typical adult loses about 2.5 liters of water per day, mostly from urine. However, high temperature and exercise can increase a person’s water loss to as much as 7 liters per day. Generally, you should replace water at a rate of 1 to 1.5 milliliters per calorie of energy expended. But, since this is difficult to track, approximately 8 to 16 ounces (237 to 473 milliliters) of water should be consumed per hour before, during, and after training to avoid dehydration.
You can tell if you’re drinking enough water by the color of your urine. If it’s dark, then you need to increase your water consumption