October 16, 2011

Basic Water/Hydration Info As It Relates To Performance

This article will cover the importance of staying hydrated and the important role that water plays on performance, but will NOT talk about the different kinds of water (alkaline, reverse osmosis, etc) and which is best, simply because there is far too much literature out there with varying opinions. Some say that alkaline water is best, others say distilled, etc, and to cover them all goes beyond my expertise as well as the scope of this article.

The Importance Of Water

Considering that the body is comprised mostly of water, with literature suggesting the brain being between 80-95% water, blood being roughly 82% water, lungs being roughly 90% water, and muscles being 75% water, optimal performance cannot be achieved with suboptimal levels of hydration, as all the body’s functions depend on adequate fluid levels. As you can imagine water is pretty much the single most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. Not only is it the most important nutrient in the body, it is also the most abundant. Water is critical to the balance of all the body's systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and muscles. The onset of many symptoms and avert disease processes can be prevented with adequate water intake.

A 2% drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping and slow down muscular response time.

Mild dehydration happens to be one of the primary causes of daytime fatigue, which nearly everyone has likely experienced at some point and time. Estimates are that 75% of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration. This is alarming since proper hydration is required for maintaining healthy blood flow, proper kidney function, proper sodium/potassium/electrolyte balance and proper digestive functions.

Literature suggests that 95% of all people in North America are dehydrated, and it is likely that roughly half of all diseases could be eliminated by just being hydrated, and drinking enough water throughout the day.

Water constitutes 65% to 70% of the human body, which is why it is so important to stay hydrated. A person can abstain from food for months, but can only last a couple of days without water.

So How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day?

“8 glasses a day” was the standard that most were brought up on, but in the world we now live in it is likely not sufficient due to the overwhelming amount of pollution placed upon us through the food we commonly ingest (soda, coffee, tea, diet drinks, alcohol, fruit juice, vegetable juice, etc.) and air we breathe.

It is suggested that the average person (who is fairly inactive) requires a minimum of 8 to 12 cups of water per day. However, this amount is far too low for bodybuilders and other active people. Active people need much more to replace the fluid lost during exercise.

Depending on your size and perspiration rate, you lose about four cups of water per hour of exercise. If you are working out in a mild climate, you are probably losing about 1/2 gallon of water through perspiration.

If you are working out in a hot climate, you can easily lose a gallon or more by the end of your workout and cardio session. Bodybuilders need even more water to assist with the metabolism of the additional food and supplements consumed.

The formula for how much water you should drink each day is:

Bodyweight (LBS.) /2 + 20% = Ounces per day

(In plain English that is your weight in lbs, divided by two, plus 20 percent, which equals the amount of ounces you need every day)

Hints To Stay Hydrated

The easiest way to stay hydrated is to hold yourself accountable to drinking at least eight ounces (a full glass, or half a bottle of water) each hour you're awake. Try to pay attention to the clock and if you notice you haven’t had any water in the last hour, down a glass real quick, and get back to what you are doing. When you are in the gym and thirsty it is easy to drink 4 to 8 times that amount if you bring a large container with you and constantly refill it.

The Main Benefit Of Drinking Sufficient Amounts Of Water As It Relates To Fitness = WEIGHT LOSS!

Literature suggests that a decrease in water intake will cause fat deposits to increase, while an increase in water intake can actually reduce fat deposits.

This is thought to occur because a reduction in water decreases the efficiency of the kidney's, which results in some of the kidney's functions being shunted to the liver. More on water and the kidneys later.

Aside from being a natural appetite suppressor, water also helps the body metabolize stored fat. The body needs water to draw from to perform physiological tasks, and when it doesn’t have it, it will draw it from inside the body’s cells (including fat cells) in order to perform these tasks. Fat stores that are drawn on for water are less likely to be mobilized and burned off as energy, which results in increased fat storage over time if you were to remain in a dehydrated state.

If you are not drinking enough water, your body’s initial reaction to increasing your water intake to an adequate amount may be to retain water at first as the body stores nutrients that it was once rationing. People with inconsistent eating patterns, as in skipping meals frequently for example, will store more calories when they get them, to ration them for the times when they go without eating, that they are used to experiencing. Once you’ve worked through the initiation period of retaining water and all the systems of the body have been acclimated to the new healthy level, you will begin to experience weight loss benefit of drinking water. Fat cells are more prone to utilization by the body for fuel when they are well hydrated. Water can also act as an appetite suppressant by distending the abdomen which sends the message of fullness to the brain. Thirst can be confused for hunger as well, so having a glass of water when you get that hunger feeling and seeing if you are still hungry is a good way to go about finding out if you really are hungry or just dehydrated enough that your body is telling you something.

Water, Kidney Function And Fat Loss

The kidneys need a specific amount of water to function properly, and if they fail to get the water they need, it is left for the liver to pick up the slack. This causes fatigue and liver toxicity. Be sure that you don't have any kidney problems, as excess water can be harmful. Your best bet is to see a naturopath concerning this, because if you consult a medical doctor, there is a higher chance that you will be prescribed a diuretic, or drug, which will only make the problem worse.

This problem with the liver picking up the slack is because one of the liver’s primary functions is to metabolize stored fat for the body to use as energy. If the liver is occupied with doing what the kidneys are unable to do due to lack of water supply, then it will not be able to perform its own functions, which include metabolizing fat, to the best of its ability. Obviously if it is metabolizing less fat, than you will not be achieving maximum fat loss.

Besides Weight Loss, There Are Many Other Benefits Of Staying Hydrated

Build Muscle

Water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells and transport waste out of the body. Water helps form the structures of protein and glycogen.

You need water in order to move and flex your muscles. If your body is dehydrated, your muscles will be deprived of electrolytes and cramp. Because muscles are controlled by nerves, without the proper water and electrolyte balance muscle strength and control will also be impaired.

It is of paramount importance that you stay hydrated if you want to build muscle and experience optimal performance in the gym.

Increases Muscle Tone

Because muscles are made primarily of water, water is needed to maintain proper muscle tone by giving muscles their ability to contract by preventing dehydration. Dehydration can prevent muscles from properly contracting, reducing muscle tone.

 Increasing water intake will help prevent muscle cramping, improve the strength of muscle contractions and quicken muscle response. Preventing dehydration will also help prevent sagging skin, since water will fill out the muscles, resulting in clear, healthy and resilient skin.

As far as performance in the gym is concerned, staying hydrated enhances muscle tone as well as contraction during exercise, which maintains performance and effort, which in turn affects physical results.

On the opposite end of things, excessive hunger, water retention, lack of muscle tone or fatigue during exercise may all be a result of dehydration.


Adequate hydration will prove to be a far better solution to preventing or decreasing wrinkles than the many expensive, barely effective products being marketed. Water, along with the essential fats and minerals, prevents sagging skin and returns health and resiliency. (Potassium is paramount for sagging skin).


Water is extremely important to the joints. Synovial fluid contains water, which means if you become dehydrated less synovial fluid is available to protect the joints. (Synovial fluid reduces friction between the articular cartilage in joints to lubricate and cushion them during movement)

This applies more to a bodybuilder since they are constantly sweating (losing fluids) and putting great amounts of stress on their joints through high volumes of work with high intensities.

Mind & Body

Water is essential for nutrient absorption and many chemical reactions in the body for overall health, including proper brain function and improvements in memory.

Digestive System

Water helps improve the digestive process and is imperative in maintaining a healthy urinary tract and digestive system.

Water is also important to properly metabolize food and drinking sufficient amounts of water will help reduce constipation.

Drinking sufficient amounts of water will help the body process and transport nutrients and excrete any waste products once they are metabolized. Water rids the body of waste, which accumulates from improper care and nutrition.

This applies more to bodybuilders who often increase this water requirement because they consume much larger amounts of food, vitamins and supplements, while also increasing the amount of water lost through sweat (working out) and a high metabolism (caused by increased exercise and elevated lean body mass).

Increases Energy & Reduces Fatigue

Even though water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it does play a very important role in energy transformation.

Since water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated you will become lethargic, can experience cramping and endurance and strength performance will suffer. In fact, athletes that do become dehydrated often find reduced performance in the days following.

Reduces Risk Of Disease

Literature suggests that increasing water intake on a daily basis has shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, reduce the risk of bladder cancer (by 50%) and it can potentially even reduce the risk of breast cancer. It is also believed that water may prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

Other Known Benefits

Water aids circulation, and helps regulate the body's cooling system.

Other Reasons To Increase Water Intake

Increasing intake of vitamins, minerals, sodium consumption should also come with an increase in water intake (Water intake will help the body excrete sodium and excess water stored).

Water Does Not Equal Water Retention

As crazy as it may sound, drinking water does not mean that you will retain more water and therefore appear flat or bloated. The truth is, a lack of water intake will cause water retention, because the body will instinctively compensate for dehydration by holding onto more water simply because it does not know when it will get more. Therefore, inconsistent water intake will lead to more water being stored, whereas if you were to drink regularly the body would flush excess water out of the system, leaving you with a more lean appearance.

Other factors that will affect water retention are the foods that you eat, primarily ones containing excess sodium. Once again though, this is primarily due to not getting enough water, and if you are getting enough water, regardless of how much sodium you take in, the body will flush most of it out.

Drinking increased amounts of water is the best natural treatment for fluid retention. When the body gets less water, it perceives this as a threat to survival and begins to hold on to every drop.

Water is stored in extracellular spaces (outside the cell) which can result in swollen extremities (feet, ankles, legs and hands).

Diuretics offer a temporary solution, but can cause more harm than good, if abused. This is because they cause the elimination of the water, along with essential nutrients. Diuretics flush essential minerals right out of the body and the body's release mechanism of water will shut down.

The body will again perceive this conditioning as a threat, and replace the lost water at the first opportunity, causing bloating and fluid retention once again. Drinking plenty of water however, will eliminate this problem.

Dehydration And How It Affects Performance

Hydration is the greatest determinant of strength. A drop of 1.5% in water levels translates in drop of 10% your maximal strength. The leaner you are, the worse it is. Make sure you weigh the same or more at the end of your training session. High water levels = more sets & reps= greater changes.

Without sufficient water and the correct pH level, the proteins and enzymes cannot function to their highest potential, and the body cannot perform its necessary tasks and symptoms will appear.

Dry skin, constipation, fatigue and headaches are all immediate symptoms of dehydration. Long term dehydration can result in many disease conditions as all the body’s systems are dependent on adequate amounts of water, therefore making the consequences endless.

Histamine is one of many chemicals in the body and a key regulator that determines water’s usage in the body and directs water to areas in the body with the greatest need. Histamine and other water-regulating chemicals like prostaglandins and kinins are constantly elevated when dehydration is chronic, which leads to inflammation type symptoms like allergies, asthma, indigestion, and chronic pain. Digestive processes, cartilage, and the intervertebral disks all require sufficient water for maintenance purposes.

Lack of energy throughout the day can be attributed to dehydration and something like a glass of water is a much healthier bet than common alternatives like soda or coffee. The immune system is weakened when you are dehydrated, therefore increasing the chance of getting sick due to a lack of water. Headaches are the result of the dilation of blood vessels in the brain when it does not have enough water to maintain its function. Adequate circulation to all body parts in another critical function that water plays for the delivery and removal of all nutrients and wastes to the cells. Adequate fluid levels are needed to maintain body temperature as well.

Many people are unaware of how water affects performance. Even being slightly dehydrated can cause poor performance, and is often overlooked. Improper hydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength and reduced endurance. All of which, severely impeding athletic performance and thus results.

By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Once dehydrated endurance is diminished, strength can drop, and the effect can last into the following day(s). Instead of relying on signals your body is giving you, drink water at regular intervals regardless if you're thirsty or not.

How We Become Dehydrated

Urine and sweat is where most bodily fluids are lost, but respiration is also responsible for a significant amount of loss, primarily in dry climates, so where you live will affect the need for fluid intake. Our water-regulating systems are not as efficient as we age, so it becomes more important to ensure adequate water and electrolyte balance.

Thirst is among other symptoms of dehydration, and usually isn’t the first indicator of a normal need for rehydration. While water may be essential for us and should be consumed in regular amounts, it is not a substitute for proper medical care of other symptoms.

When the body receives too little water, it will rob what it needs from other sources (primarily the glands). The colon is one primary source, and constipation can occur. Drinking water can relieve this condition.

Pounding down water when you are dehydrated is not necessarily the best way to go about rehydrating yourself, as the body will not hold onto the water if there is a mineral deficiency. The body won’t hold onto water without minerals.

Unnatural salt in concentrated forms can contribute to dehydration. Salt is natural to food when it's of the plant or animal source. Commercial salt which is crystallized, is stripped of its minerals and bleached which contributes to dehydration.

Natural salt is not white and pretty, rather it is a brown color. The more unnatural salt that you consume, the more the body will retain fluids to dilute it.

Since our soil is mineral-deficient, use Celtic Sea Salt daily or a colloidal mineral that is mined. Literature suggests that both of these contain every known trace and rare earth mineral in the world, about 92 minerals total.

The overweight person, with no kidney dysfunction, needs more water because of the larger metabolic load. Water is the key to ridding the body of fat through increased metabolic function. But, always be cautious on over-hydrating your body because kidney damage is possible.

Pure water will eliminate many impurities and toxins from the body through the urine and the stool. A normal amount of water will decrease colon cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer by 70%!

Water should be consumed cool, rather than warm, for quick absorption. Also, only consume water between meals and on an empty stomach.

Avoid drinking excess water with meals as this impairs digestion. It's all right to drink 4 ounces of a liquid with a meal but never ½ hour before or ½ hour after you eat.

Literature suggests it would dilute your hydrochloric acid, and you won't digest your food properly, and your food floats around in your stomach resulting in a lot of digestive problems and you could be labelled with acid reflux disease, which is most likely inaccurate.

Don’t follow the "if some is good, then more must be better" mentality. Excess water consumption will flush water-soluble vitamins B and C right out of the body and this could directly lead to problems and illness.

One of the biggest myths in bodybuilding is that you must drastically reduce your water intake to have a defined physique. As great and logical as this sounds, nothing could be farther from the truth.

When you reduce your water intake, the body will not release a drop and this will actually cause ones' physique to smooth out. Fifty-five years ago, Vince Gironda preached that on a contest day you should use an enema to clean out your colon and shrink your stomach.

During contest day, drink regular amounts of water and use free form singular amino acids throughout the day to keep energy levels up. Avoid doing anything during the day except rest, drink water and take aminos.

Vince also preached never to pump up before a contest. This sounds opposite of what many do, but, if you do pump before the contest, as so many do, you will lose your pump before getting on stage. When you get on stage, you can't re-pump your muscles and instead, you will smooth out.

Posing will actually pump you up. People have lost contests because of curtailing water and pumping up with weights prior to a contest.

Literature suggests that every piece of food that you eat contains water and is utilized by the body as water. The only thing is, the food that you eat must be natural food, not processed and refined food, which is the typical North American diet of white flour, white rice, white sugar, and white processed salt, which are in cookies, pies, cakes, pop, candy and all of our fast food, which is dead food, not electrical food.

How Much Water Is Lost During Normal Body Functioning?

The average amount of water lost per day includes:

16 ounces through respiration (average)

16 ounces through invisible perspiration (more if sweat is visible)

48 ounces through elimination

(Note: the more food you eat, the more you eliminate, the more water will be lost)

Common Causes of Water Loss

Caffeine/alcohol consumption (diuretics)

Increased stress can cause water loss.

Hot environment increases sweating and water loss.

Increased physical activity increases sweating and water loss.

Key Points To Remember For Bodybuilders & Athletes

You should drink water before, during, and immediately following exercise. If you don't replenish your fluid loss during exercise, you will tire, and possibly cramp, and performance will not be your best.

You should drink water immediately following exercise. If you don't replenish after exercise, your performance on the following days will suffer. The more you eat and supplements you take to gain muscle, the more water you will need to drink. 1 ½ to 3 gallons a day should be suffice.

You need to drink water for health at regular intervals regardless if you're thirsty or not. By the time you are thirsty, you will already be dehydrated. It is essential that you stay hydrated if you want to build muscle and experience optimal performance in the gym.

Remember to drink at least 16 ounces of water after sleeping. 8 hours of sleep, especially in a dry and hot room can rob your body of needed water. You can easily wake up in a dehydrated state after a long sleep under these conditions.

Drink more water when caffeine is consumed. Caffeine is a diuretic. Water intake should be increased when excess caffeine (also found in thermo products) is consumed.

Drink water cold when possible. Cold water absorbs into the system more quickly than warm water. Additionally, some limited evidence suggests that drinking cold water can actually help burn calories because the process of your body heating up the water is metabolically demanding.

As a guideline, drink at least 1 ½ gallons a day, and up to 3 gallons a day, as needed. As a minimum, if you are an athlete or a bodybuilder, your needs will be much higher than the average adult. Drink at least 1 ½ gallons a day. Increase your intake according to the factors that require increased water intake as noted above.

Do not forget the impact that supplements and medicines may have on hydration. Some supplements (and medicines) require that you take more water for them to be effective (and because some may be diuretics or cause harm if enough water is not consumed. NO2 products and some antibiotics are good examples.)

The ideal temperature for drinking water is room temperature, except for during training/athletic events in which cooler water, but not freezing, will help create a gradient for rapid absorption.

Ounce to Millilitre Conversions

6 oz. = 177.44 ml

8 oz. = 236.59 ml

10 oz. = 295.74 ml

12 oz. = 354.88 ml

16 oz. = 473.18 ml

20 oz. = 591.47 ml

Millilitre to Ounce Conversions

250 ml = 8.45 oz.

375 ml = 12.68 oz.

500 ml = 16.91 oz.

625 ml = 21.13 oz.

750 ml = 25.36 oz.

1,000 ml = 33.81 oz.

If you have any questions about water, and hydration, feel free to contact me at ben@paramounttraining.ca. I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thanks Ben! Great article! I suddenly feel VERY thirsty!