Get Wet, Stay Strong – Proper Hydration


I hope you had a good weekend, I know I did. The college football season has started, and this past Saturday saw wins by Michigan, Nebraska, and ‘Bama, so I’ve been pretty well residing in my Happy Place since then…

Case in point, this is what my roommate has been hearing pretty much all weekend:

Fun stuff aside, the start of the Fall sports seasons has brings me to an important lesson that I have to constantly hammer home to my athletes and clients:

Proper Hydration.

Right. Ooh, water. Sexy topic, I know. I’ll see what I can do, other than posting up a picture of a hot chick in the shower.

Whoops, look what I did there.

Every athlete I talk to tells me that they know to drink plenty of water, but yet they don’t seem to do it, thus making me believe that they don’t really know (or else they’d do it).

The body is about 60% water, with muscles being around 80%, the brain about 95%, and blood being around 82%. When you look at it in that way it should be easy to see that water is one of the most important “nutrients” that you can take in.

The body loses water in a variety of ways including:

-Excretion by the kidneys in the form of urine.
-Evaporation and perspiration (sweat) from the skin.
-Respiration from the lungs.
-Excretion via the gastrointestinal tract.

The more active an athlete is the more water loss will take place via perspiration and respiration. In a sedentary individual almost 2.5 liters of water loss per day is normal. With an athlete it can be much higher.

Climate can have a huge effect on water loss as well. High temperatures require the body to cool itself more, and as a result sweat increases. High physical activity in high temperatures can result in very fast dehydration. So with all of these Fall sports going on while the weather is still warm you’ve got athletes dropping water like hell. My non-athletes are still training hard in this type of weather, so they can dry out fast, too.

Even a small loss of body water, 1% of body mass, has been shown to result in impaired judgment and physical coordination problems. This performance reduction from even a small drop in body water will limit athletes’ effectiveness on the field. So once you start to get dehydrated you start making poor decisions and performing at your peak. Basically dehydrated you sucks in comparison to well-hydrated you whether you’re busting heads on the football field or your own into the keyboard filling out a TPS Report.

In addition to the performance issues associated with dehydration, almost all chemical reactions in the metabolism have water involved in some manner. Without enough water in the system these reactions can be inhibited. Fat use for fuel, for example, is much more difficult for the body in a dehydrated state. This is bad news for all of you dieters and endurance athletes out there (if there are any endurance athletes that actually read my blog). If you can’t use fat properly as fuel, then not only will performance be reduced but also the body will be less likely to get rid of its stored fat. Given that losing that stored fat is the whole reason you’re dieting or what you’re depending on to fuel your hamster wheeling, this is something to pay attention to.

The recommendation for normal, sedate individuals is 8 to 12 cups of water per day. That’s about half to three-quarters of a gallon. This is for the generic guy sitting at his office, assuming that he’s not an excessive mouthbreather, living in Phoenix, or both.

Anyone involved in physical activity will require more fluid. I recommend all of my clients start at three quarters of a gallon (12 cups) of water per day and as that becomes more comfortable to move towards one to 1.25 gallons per day (16-20 cups) on workout days. When you’re training hard and it’s hot out, drink a little more than you think you need.

Too much water, bro.

Ok, so what are all these stories about people dying from overhydration, or water intoxication? This can lead to hyponatremia (too little sodium in the body) and can kill you. While possible, this is an EXTREMELY rare thing as a) you usually piss yourself first (a good clue to stop drinking) and b) it takes real WORK to drink that much fluid unless you have some sort of kidney problem. Once in a while you hear about it happening when frat boys are “practicing” Beer Pong with water instead of beer.

Ok, they call it “Beer Pong”, not “Water Pong” for a reason, so don’t be a tool. If you’re so stupid that you manage to kill yourself practicing a drinking game, without alcohol, then my milk of human kindness and the associated sympathy is getting pretty dry.

Oh jeez, I did it again.

To make a long story short, staying hydrated is just like most everything else in fitness, business, or life: Take care of the big, simple things that everyone’s too cool to pay attention to before you get into the minutia.

Don’t forget to head on over to Fitness Business Interviews on Tuesday, September 13th to vote for me in the 2011 Rising Stars of the Fitness Business contest!

Leave a Comment

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.