Water is the essence of life. It’s everywhere, we consume it every day and it’s one of the few things in life we take for granted. But few if any, ever stop to think about the importance of water to our health, well-being and life.
We can go weeks on no food, but cannot survive longer than a week without water. All it takes is a 1% reduction in hydration levels to make you thirsty and at levels above 5% your muscles, strength and endurance become compromised. Above 10% and your health is at risk and finally at the 20% level will result in your death.
The importance of hydration for overall health and wellness cannot be overstated. As summer begins for most in a few days, I would like to take some time to discuss just how important water is to your nutrition plan and health, but how it can help you make tremendous gains in your weight loss and muscle building goals.
Your body cannot store water
As such, you must constantly recognize that you must provide and supply your body with water to maintain it’s internal systems including your organs which work to keep you going. Your body is made up of 60 – 70% water making it the single largest nutrient in your body’s composition.
Here are some noteworthy examples of just how important water is to your body’s composition.
- Your blood is made up of 83% water
- Your heart is made up of 79% water
- Your muscles are made up of 76% water
- Your brain is made up of 75% water
- Your skin is made up of 72% water
Your body loses water daily
Every day you lose on average 2-3 litres of water through urination, sweating and breathing. It is up to you to replace these lost fluids so your body can keep functioning. Where most people fail, is that they replace the lost fluids through a poor choice of fluids and foods such as soda and fruit juices rather than through fruits, vegetables, teas and water itself.
Being only slightly dehydrated can slow the activity of enzymes in the body, including ones responsible for the production of energy. This can even lead to a lower metabolism and reduce your ability to exercise efficiently. Every cell in your body needs water to function – your body uses water to maintain temperature, remove waste from the body, and even to help lubricate joints.
How water helps your body function
- Helps your blood circulate properly and efficiently
- Carries nutrients & oxygen to your cells
- Maintaining cell integrity
- Regulating body temperature as the body goes through different stages of stress
- Aiding in the digestive process
- Aiding the conversion of food into energy
So how much water should one drink? How much is too much? How much is too little? As with everything in nutritional science, the answer depends on a number of variables.
Firstly, how much water one needs is dependent on their level of activity throughout the day. Are they athletes, vigorous exercise enthusiasts, sedentary office workers etc.
Secondly, the environmental conditions must be taken into consideration. Is the temperature hot/cold, what is the level of humidity, the season etc.
Lastly, the needs of the given individual will be based on gender, age, conditioning and current level of hydration itself.
- Before Exercise: 16-20 ounces within the two-hour period prior to exercise.
- During Exercise: 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes during exercise.
- Post Exercise: Replace 24 ounces for every one pound of body weight lost during exercise.
One recent study, published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, reviewed the impact of drinking cold water on body temperature during cardio exercise, and then performance on subsequent resistance exercises like the bench press. The study found that drinking very cold water in intervals during cardio helped substantially to keep core body temperatures closer to normal than room temperature water. There was only a small improvement in subsequent resistance exercise performance, but this was likely due to the fact the body temperature extremes in this particular study weren’t as divergent from normal as in some other recent studies.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Impaired memory and concentration
Because proper hydration improves the quality of your workout, reduces fatigue, reduces recovery time, and increases your level of satisfaction, it is especially important for you to hydrate yourself before as well as after your workout session. Keep in mind that thirst is not the best scale by which to measure whether or not you are well hydrated.
If none of this has failed to convince you of why hydration matters, then turn your attention to this. A study conducted in the Loma Linda university in California, involving 20 men and woman in the age range of 38 to 100 years, concluded that those who drank enough water throughout the day were less likely to have a heart attack (41% in women and 54% in men).
The bottom line is, the importance of water is paramount in your health and fitness goals. If you want to build muscle, lose weight, burn fat or tone up, water is the primary tool to get it done. Keeping your body hydrated helps your heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. Additionally, it helps your muscles remove waste so that they can work efficiently.