Water you Drinking? Benefits of Proper Hydration
Whether you’re an athlete training to step on a bodybuilding stage or a sporting event, or you’re just concerned with living a healthier and longer life, you’ve all heard that it’s important to drink enough water throughout the day. Unfortunately that’s usually where the conversation ends. Sure we know water is important but it’s just as important to recognize and appreciate the many benefits adequate water intake can have on our performance, appearance and health. Consuming water has numerous health benefits but we are going to take a deeper look into how it relates to athletics.
Anyone reading this is doing so because they want to get better. Regardless if it’s to lift more weight, become more powerful, jump higher or run faster, the search for improvement is the driving force behind our interest in articles like this one. A 2003 roundtable discussion among professionals within the American College of Sports Medicine came to the agreement that as much as a 2% decrease in water levels can have a negative effect on athletic performance. This is easy to believe for sports like endurance running, but you’re surely wondering how important it is for strength athletes and bodybuilders. Despite many studies having confounding results due to testing methods, a 2007 review suggested performance in high intensity endurance training such as intense weight training sets (30 seconds-2 minute sets) can decline by 10% if water levels drop as little as 3-4 percent. This review also showed the same decline in water can lead to a 2-4% decrease in strength and power output such as one rep max attempts (1) To put that in perspective, athletes commonly lose 6-10% of their body weight due to sweat loss in strenuous activity. (4).
Despite the fact that I just threw more numbers at you than the 2013 Math Olympiad, it’s pretty clear that neglecting your water intake can cause measurable declines in your performance. Many of you visiting this website are very dedicated to your health and fitness goals. If you’re willing to spend money on food, supplements and gym memberships it would be a shame to not achieve your full potential because you ignored one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to improve appearance and performance.
For those of you out there interested in losing body fat before summer, adequate water intake can be an easy way to improve results. Water has been shown to help our bodies properly metabolize stored fat (2). The increase in fat loss through improved fat metabolism may not be very significant, but it’s definitely nice to know something as cheap and easy as drinking water can help you get leaner. Water can also make dieting easier by its effect on appetite. We’ve all noticed how drinking a lot of water can help us feel full, even if we aren’t consuming a lot of calories. Water, along with fiber, can do wonders for curbing our appetite, thus reducing the urge to blow our diet by overeating.
Any athlete that takes their performance seriously will pay greater attention to their dietary intake than the average Joe. If you’re a bodybuilder or related athlete then tracking your food intake by weighing out foods at each meal is common practice. Knowing food intake and quality as being vital in maximizing performance and muscle growth, it’s important to make sure we’re properly digesting it all. By being mindful of proper digestion we get the most nutrients from our food and prevent the discomfort that can come from high calorie diets. Luckily digestion is yet another aspect of our diet that water can improve.
Drinking plenty of water helps our bodies properly break down and absorb the nutrients from food (3)(5). This is obviously important for athletes since we’re always looking for ways to gain an edge on our competition and reach closer to our genetic potential. When we’re taking in all of those calories we don’t want anything passing through that could potentially improve our performance in the gym and more importantly improve our health.
Water’s role in digestion doesn’t just stop there! Drinking water also helps regulate and improve bowel movement. I agree this may not be the most exciting thing to read on a supplement website, but any of us that commonly take in a large amount of calories know that digestive problems can become all too common if we aren’t taking the right precautions. Consuming enough water softens stool and also facilitates movement through the digestive tract for more regular and comfortable bowel movements (3)(4). Although this won’t directly help you pack on muscle or get shredded, it’s an easy way to make sure your diet is much easier on your body so you can focus on other important aspects of your training and nutrition.
Setting the Stage
A lot of you reading this are what I call “stage athletes,” meaning you compete in bodybuilding, figure, bikini, or men’s physique. If you’ve competed before, or even just attended a bodybuilding show, you’ve undoubtedly heard of people preaching the importance of dropping water intake considerably leading up to the show in order to appear leaner. I, along with many other coaches in the sport, strongly advise athletes to avoid this practice like the plague. The fact that muscle is roughly 60% water alone should be a good indicator that water intake should be maintained heading into a show.
Our bodies keep a very consistent ratio of water within its various compartments. Approximately 66% of total body fluid is held within the cells while the other 33% is in extracellular fluid (80% of that is held within the interstitial fluid and 20% is within the blood plasma) (5). Knowing this, by reducing water we wouldn’t be taking it away from a specific area, but just reducing the overall amount of water. By doing this you’ll be smaller alright, just like a flower not watered during the summer, wilted and unimpressive compared to the athletes standing tall beside you fully hydrated and looking their best. Staying properly hydrated can help you look fuller and properly showcase the physique you’ve worked so hard for.
Okay you get it, water is important, but how much do you need to drink in order to see benefits without buying an Aquafina factory? The American Council on Exercise has laid out guidelines for athletes to follow around workouts and athletic events:
- -Drink 17-20 ounces of water two to three hours before the start of exercise.
- -Drink 8 ounces of fluid 20 to 30 minutes prior to exercise or during warm-up.
- -Drink 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
- -Drink an additional 8 ounces of fluid within 30 minutes after exercising.
- -Drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise. (6)
Water you waiting for?
When hearing about all the amazing benefits of drinking enough water, it can be easy to begin stressing over whether you’re taking in enough on a daily basis. Each person will have slightly different needs as total caloric intake, activity level, body size, age and other factors will determine individual requirements. That being said 1 gallon seems to be a good benchmark for most people. Following the above guidelines from ACE regarding water around workouts, and making sure you get in at least 1 total gallon of water each day can go a long way in ensuring you are getting the most out of your training and diet. So water you waiting for? Drink up!
About the Author:
Andrew Pardue is the marketing and content contributor for Top Supplements Online and also a sales representative for Core Nutritionals. Read more about Andrew by visiting our Sponsored Athletes section and also feel free to follow his personal journey in natural bodybuilding and the supplement industry at the social media links below:
(2) Pentz, Jane, Greg Salgueiro, and Sara Hauber . Nutrition for Professionals. West Roxbury: LMA Publishing, 1995. 16-17. Print.
(3) Picco, Michael. "Does drinking water during or after a meal disturb digestion?." Mayo Clinic . N.p., 19 Apr 2012. Web. 17 Dec 2013. .
(4) Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews. 2010;68(8):439–458.
(5) Saladin, Kenneth. Anatomy Physiology The Unity of Form and Function. 6. McGraw Hill Education, 2012. 647-649. Print.
(6) "Healthy Hydration ." ACE Fitness. American Council on Exercise. Web. 17 Dec 2013. .
(7) Zelman, Kathleen. "6 Reasons to Drink Water." Web MD. N.p., 8 May 2008. Web. 17 Dec 2013. .