By Allison Fahrenbach | Published on October 19, 2017
Whether you’re training or not, water remains the most important nutrient in our body.
However, wetting your whistle with H2O isn’t just about keeping your body in good health, because it directly impacts your body composition goals, particularly your ability to sustain and even gain lean muscle.
Here’s why you need to pay attention to your hydration levels at all times.
Water moves muscles efficiently
It flows through your arteries, veins and capillaries carrying nutrients to your cells and transporting waste. It also helps form the structures of protein and glycogen directly involved in your ability to move and therefore contract muscle. If your muscles become dehydrated by only the tiniest fraction, you lose contractile strength and your muscles are not going to move optimally.
It carries cramp-killing electrolytes
Dehydration deprives your muscles of electrolytes because they’re controlled by nerves, and the stimulation of nerves and contraction of muscles are the result of the exchange of electrolyte minerals dissolved in water.
Your joints are better lubricated
Water is a main ingredient in synovial fluid, which is the lubrication between your joints. If your diet is lacking in water, even for a brief period, less fluid is available to protect your joints.
As your training demands increase, the strain on your joints, particularly during weight bearing movements will also increase.
Water helps you recover faster
Strength training causes micro trauma to your muscles, which stimulates your body’s natural inflammatory responses to aid in repair, healing and muscle growth.
Inflammation is basically your body detecting something is wrong and mobilizing various cells to take care of it. The reason an inflamed area is swollen and red is thanks to the increased fluid and blood activity. This process requires adequate water in order to be done properly.
How much do you need?
Always monitor the color of your urine. When it is clear, that’s a good indicator your body is well hydrated. If your urine is dark, thick, slow flowing or bright green, that indicates dehydration. Convenient as it would be, there isn’t a single study to back up the eight glasses a day myth about water. How big should these glasses be? How full? There are too many questions so figure out your ideal amounts in the formula below. Daily water intake in ml = 45ml x your bodyweight in kilograms.
For every hour of weight training you should drink a further 500ml of water. If you’re doing endurance training then you need to drink at least one liter for every hour of exercise and you’ll need to add some electrolytes to it to replace the salts you’ve sweated out.
It’s worth drinking up because dehydration only serves to make you weaker, slower and fatter.
Six of the best rules to ensure you’re always hydrated and ready to take on the toughest of workouts.
1. Be consistent
If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. You need to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day to ensure adequate hydration. Staying well hydrated is a must if you want to build muscle. If you find you forget to drink throughout the day, try setting the alarm on a fitbit or fitness tracker or even your cell phone to remind you to drink.
2. Do it first thing
Drinking when you wake up is an easy way to get a jumpstart on your hydration for the day and to elevate your metabolism. Your body is in a dehydrated state after a long sleep and will need water. Studies have shown that drinking a large (preferably cool) glass of water after you wake up can fire up your metabolism by a whopping 24% for up to 90 minutes.
3. The right kind of drinks count
Make sure the bulk of your fluid consumption comes from pure water or healthy water-based caffeine free beverages such as unsweetened teas or hot herbal teas. Diet sodas, coffee and other caffeinated beverages can actually have a dehydrating effect on the body so don’t count them towards your daily water intake.
4. Nix your thirst before training
Make sure you’re well hydrated heading into training, particularly if you’ll be training in a hot environment. A good guideline is to drink approximately two cups of water 2-3 hours before exercise and 1-2 cups of water immediately before training.
5. Drink during workouts
Strive for one cup of water for every 15 minutes of exercise and more in extreme temperatures.
6. Rehydrate after training
After training, make an effort to drink 2-3 cups of water within two hours. Continue to drink consistently after training to replenish fluids lost, which will help prevent impending muscle soreness and facilitate recovery. It’s vital you drink water to keep your body well hydrated. Even a small, temporary shortage of water can spoil your health.
Allison Fahrenbach is a natural pro figure athlete, trainer, nutritionist and owner of AFS Training.