Why staying hydrated should be your key focus of the day.
By Andrew Caruthers, Editor-In-Chief
In this modern day and age of bodybuilding, you’d think that the importance of good, proper hydration would be pretty much a given in today’s sporting arena, but, in actual fact, good hydration is still grossly underestimated. Even if you are aware of the importance of good hydration, it’s always a good idea to drive home a few vital points that’ll keep you staying hydrated throughout your day.
The facts about H2O – The single most important nutrient
As you sit there reading this article, your brain is composed of 95% water, the blood pulsing through your veins is 82% and your lungs that are taking in the oxygen that is keeping you alive are comprised of 90% water. Immediately you can see that water is the single most important and most critical nutrient for health, growth and all round general human development. It’s also the most abundant nutrient in the body and is vitally important to the proper functioning and balance of your body’s systems, including your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and of course the reason for this article – your muscles!
A simple shift in water balance in your body (2% to be specific) can actually cause size changes in the brain in the form of shrinkage. Subtle size changes such a these can impair neuromuscular co-ordination, inhibit concentration and slow down your ability to think. Physically, dehydration can reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramps and slow down muscular response.
Daytime fatigue, which we all suffer from, from time to time can also be caused by mild dehydration. Studies done in the US show that an estimated 25% of society suffer from mild or chronic dehydration. This is quite alarming considering that good, clean water is readily available at the turn of a tap.
Apart from the basics we listed above that tend to well, keep you alive, there are a whole host of other benefits that may be of concern to you.
Strong teeth and bones.
Water makes teeth and bones stronger. The additional flouride added to our tap water gives extra strength to bone density and in turn our teeth.
Being hydrated correctly means that your skin is in perfect working order and prevents wrinkles and is still the most cost effective solution other than those being marketed to the public through skin care products.
Water is extremely important to joints. Our joints require synovial fluid which contains water to function correctly. A lack of water in the body means that joints lose their ability to protect themselves through self-lubrication.
*side note on synovial fluid*
Synovial (Latin for egg) fluid, with its egg-like consistency reduces friction between the articular cartilage in joints to lubricate and cushion them during movement.
Joint health is incredibly important in bodybuilding and with the constant sweating and loss of fluids taking place, it puts even more stress on the joints outside of the heavy weight that we as athletes inflict on our bodies.
Healthier mind and body
Water is essential for nutrient absorption and many other chemical reactions in the body for overall health, including brain function and memory improvement.
Healthier digestive system
Water helps improve the digestive process and is of paramount importance in maintaining a healthy urinary tract and overall digestive system. Water assists in the proper metabolising of food and also helps reduce constipation. Water is also responsible for the transporting of nutrients and excretion of any waste products once they are metabolised. This is of critical importance for bodybuilders who consume large amounts of food, vitamins and supplementation, while also increasing the amount of water lost through training (sweat). A high metabolism also reduces the amount of water in the body through increased exercise and a lean body mass.
Water plays a huge role in energy transformation and although it isn’t an energy source itself, it assists in the process of transforming food into energy. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated, you become lethargic, experience cramping and strength and endurance become impaired. Another downside is that this can last a few days and reduced performance over a few days can hinder training sessions dramatically.
“Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated, you become lethargic, experience cramping and strength and endurance become impaired. Another downside is that this can last a few days and reduced performance over a few days can hinder training sessions dramatically.”
Water intake naturally suppresses the appetite. Whilst this isn’t great news for bodybuilders the effects are minimal. Water intake does however assist and increase the body’s ability to metabolise stored fat. A decrease in water intake has been known to cause fatty deposits, causing your body to store fat. This is thought to occur because of a response to dehydration by the kidneys. A shift in water quantity in the kidneys causes function to be become hindered and therefore the liver kicks in and takes over some of the work that the kidneys usually do. Since one of the liver’s primary functions is to metabolise stored fat into usable energy, it metabolises fat less when it has to perform a few functions that the kidneys usually perform.
Reduces fluid retention
To put simply, a reduction of water intake is seen as a threat by the body and the response by the body is that it holds onto every drop. Water is stored outside of the cells (in extracellular spaces) which results in swollen feet, legs and hands. Diuretics offer a temporary solution but often cause more damage than good. Diuretics also eliminate essential nutrients and not just excessive water. So whilst the body feels it’s already under threat by water depletion, diuretics now deplete further water, so any water that is put back in will simply cause bloating and fluid retention all over again. Taking in plenty of water can eliminate this problem over time once the body realises that the shortage of water intake has come to an end.
Although there is no actual energy in water, water plays a very important role in energy transformation. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place, so if you become dehydrated, your body finds it difficult to take the energy taken in through food and actually convert it into usable energy by the body.
We’ve discussed that water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells. Water is also used to transport waste out of your body as well as help create and form the structures of protein and glycogen. Muscles flex and move with the help of water and if your body is dehydrated you become deprived of electrolytes and cramping often starts to form. Since muscles are controlled by nerves, without the proper intake of water and electrolytes, balance, muscle strength and control will become impaired. Staying hydrated is of absolute importance if you as an athlete or trainer wish to experience optimal performance in the gym, or any other physical environment for that matter.
“Since muscles are controlled by nerves, without the proper intake of water and electrolytes, balance, muscle strength and control will become impaired. Staying hydrated is of absolute importance if you as an athlete or trainer wish to experience optimal performance in the gym, or any other physical environment for that matter.”
Improves muscle tone
Muscles are made primarily of water. Dehydration prevents muscle from contracting properly and therefore reducing muscle tone. Increasing water intake will help prevent muscle cramping, improve the strength of muscle contractions and quicken muscle response. Improved water intake also prevents drying out of the skin and sagging, therefore improving tone. A well hydrated skin also improves clarity and health of skin.
It doesn’t take rocket science to realise the importance of good hydration. Paying close attention to your daily water intake can and will improve your physical performance and quality of life. Make sure you drink from a good, clean water source and also make sure you carry water around with you daily in the form of a sealable bottle or container. Without adequate water intake, you simply can’t expect your body to run optimally and becoming a world class athlete in any sport is going to take a great deal of focus on decent hydration.