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Water… how much is enough?

June 4, 2016 / Nutrition

I recently spent a lot of time in the sunny warm climate of Eastern Australia and particularly Townsville which has been 24-26 degrees C at 7AM… (that’s hotter than most days in Runcorn in the UK summer) at sunrise, whereas in the Autumn in Australia it reaches 33 – 36 degrees C during the day.

water

Being in this heat (especially exercising in the heat and sun) it is important to stay hydrated throughout the day (as well as using sunscreen to avoid looking like a dried out beetroot). I drank in excess of 4-5 ltrs of water whilst in Aus but being hydrated isn’t something that should be limited to the heat (we’d never get there in the UK if that was the case).

WATER IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENT

You could last around 30 days without any food but, you could only last 5-7 days without water intake. This is because the human body can break down stored fats and muscular glucose, yet is mostly composed of water.

The human brain is composed of 95% water; blood is 82% water; the lungs are nearly 90% water. Water is also the single most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. It is not only the most important nutrient in the body, but also the most abundant. Water is critical to the balance of all the body’s systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and muscles.

A 2% drop in body water can cause a significant decrease in neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping, and slow muscular response.

REDUCES FATIGUE
Although water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it plays an important role in energy transformation.

Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated you will become lethargic, may experience cramping, and endurance and strength performance will suffer. Athletes who become dehydrated often find reduced performance in the days following.

HELPS IN WEIGHT LOSS
Water can suppress appetite naturally and increases the body’s ability to metabolize stored fat.

A decrease in water intake may 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 kidneys, which results in some kidney functions being shunted to the liver.

Since one of the liver’s primary functions is to metabolize stored fat into usable energy for the body, it metabolizes less fat while performing functions normally performed by the kidneys. This results in less stored fat burned, and a reduction in weight loss.

REDUCES FLUID RETENTION
The body perceives dehydration 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, legs, and hands).

Diuretics offer a temporary solution, but may cause more harm than good if abused. Why? Diuretics will cause the elimination of water, along with many essential nutrients.

Also the body will perceive this conditioning as a threat and replace the lost water at the first opportunity; this causes bloating and fluid retention once again. Regularly drinking plenty of water will eliminate this problem.

HELPS 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.

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

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

“SINCE MUSCLES ARE CONTROLLED BY NERVES, WITHOUT THE PROPER WATER AND ELECTROLYTE BALANCE MUSCLE STRENGTH AND CONTROL WILL ALSO BE IMPAIRED.”

INCREASES HELPS MAINTAIN MUSCLE STRENGTH
Muscles are made primarily of water. Dehydration can prevent muscles from properly contracting, reducing muscle strength.

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.

REDUCES RISK OF DISEASE
Studies have shown that increasing daily water intake has shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, reduce the risk of bladder cancer by 50%, and it may potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer. It is also believed that water may prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

WATER AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Many people are unaware of how water affects performance. Even being slightly dehydrated can cause poor performance, and it’s often overlooked. Improper hydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength and reduced endurance, severely impeding athletic performance.

FAKE SIGNAL? 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 a signal, drink water at regular intervals regardless if you’re thirsty or not.

OTHER KNOWN BENEFITS
Water also aids circulation, and helps regulate the body’s cooling system

COMMON CAUSES OF WATER LOSS

  • Caffeine/alcohol consumption (diuretics)
  • Increased Stress
  • Hot environments; increased sweating
  • Increased physical activity (water loss from sweating)

OTHER REASONS TO INCREASE WATER INTAKE

  • Dieting
  • Large food intake (common to athletes)
  • Increasing intake of vitamins, minerals. Increased sodium consumption; water intake may help the body excrete sodium and excess water

HOW MUCH WATER IS LOST DURING NORMAL BODY FUNCTIONING?

The average amount of water lost per day includes:

  • 500ml through respiration (average)
  • 500ml through invisible perspiration (more if sweat is visible)
  • 1.4ltrs through elimination

HOW MUCH WATER IS ENOUGH?
It is suggested that the average person—who is fairly inactive—requires a minimum of 8-to-12 cups of (2 – 2.5ltrs) water per day. However, this amount is far too low for athletes 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 1 ltr of water per hour of exercise. If you are working out in a mild climate, you are probably losing about 15ml of water through perspiration.

“THE EASIEST WAY TO STAY HYDRATED IS TO DRINK AT LEAST 300ml EACH HOUR YOU’RE AWAKE.”

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.

OTHER KNOWN BENEFITS
Water also aids circulation, and helps regulate the body’s cooling system

HINTS TO STAY HYDRATED
The easiest way to stay hydrated is to drink at least 300ml each hour you’re awake. When you are in the gym and thirsty it is easy to drink 4-to-8 times that amount if you bring a wide-mouth container with you for constant refilling.

Other hints: when you get in the car, go to a meeting, sit down to watch TV, or sit down to eat a meal, always have something to drink with you.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER WHEN TRAINING

  • Aim to drink water before during and immediately following exercise. If you don’t replenish your fluid loss during exercise, you will tire and possible cramp. Performance will not be at your best.
  • You need to drink water following exercise. If you don’t replenish after exercise, your performance on the following days will suffer.
  • You need to drink water for 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 improve your performance and experience PB’s continuously in the gym, on the track or on the pitch.
  • Remember to drink at least 500ml of water after sleeping 8 hours. Sleep—especially in a dry and hot room—can rid your body of needed water. You can easily wake up dehydrated after a long sleep.
  • Drink more water when caffeine is consumed. Caffeine is a diuretic. Water intake should be increased when excess caffeine is consumed.
  • Drink at least 2-3 ltrs per day, up to 6ltrs 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. Increase your intake according to the factors that require increased water intake as noted above.
  • Do not forget the impact that supplements and medicine 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.

What if you don’t like water?

  • Research suggests that drinking cooler water enhances the taste of the water making it easier to drink.
  • Adding lemon or limes (or both) could also improve the taste of water.
  • If needed add cordial to water but make sure this is accounted for as there will be calories and ingredients that may not be optimal for performance or health.

Click here for more information on personal training in Runcorn.

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