BLOG POST (ENG): The importance of water consumption.

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BLOG POST (ENG): The importance of water consumption.

We’ve all heard and possibly even talked about the importance of water consumption. In fact, it’s one of the few non-debatable topics amongst different diets, exercise modalities, and health professionals. It could be said that water is the single most important thing we consume day in and day out. No nutrient, food, vitamin, or supplement has as big an impact. After all, we could only survive a few days in absence of water. The question is, do we fully understand why it’s so important to track water intake? 

As a fitness professional, I can categorize my clients’ goals into three buckets:

1. Health
2. Performance
3. Weight Loss

These are by no means are the same but I will not get into how they differ. Again, the intent of this article is to explore the importance of water consumption for proper physiologic function and relevance to the points listed above.

It makes sense to begin the discussion by looking into the health benefits of water:

Waste Excretion: The kidneys are the main organs involved in the excretory process. It rids the body of metabolic wastes via urination. But there’s a little more too it, as the skin and digestive system also play a part via sweat and bowel movements. Water is a huge player in this process as it helps in flushing out these wastes. It is equally important to replenish these water stores to maintain the process running.
Physical Activity: If you engage in any type of exercise your losing water and essential minerals known as electrolytes. More on that ahead, what’s important is that you restore the water lost by sweating, for what will be the next point.

Temperature Regulation: Thermoregulation is a very delicate component in homeostasis. The human body operates at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A deviation of merely 1 degree Fahrenheit, over or under, throws or body off and triggers different processes to get it back to normal. Water is the key player in this process, particularly if you live in climates that are hot, humid, or of high altitudes.

Protection: The human body uses fluid substances as a protective mechanism for several areas. Joints, including the vertebrae, are lubricated by fluid substances. Our brains are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid that protects it from contact with the skull. It’s composed of 99% water. Amniotic fluid surrounds and protects the fetus during gestation. These are only but a few examples of water’s protective functions.
Nutrient Delivery: Water is the main component in blood. As we all know, blood is responsible for delivering nutrients and oxygen to the periphery. By drinking water you maintain high plasma levels that allow the heart to function optimally. It’s also responsible for initiating the excretion process by transporting metabolized byproducts from tissues. This also happens via lymphatic fluid.

Digestion: We tend to forget that digestion starts way before food reaches the stomach. It actually begins in our mouths, as saliva begins breaking down food. Proper hydration enable saliva production. It also helps in providing a solution with which to dilute and better absorb nutrients. In the latter stages of digestion, water keeps things running smoothly to avoid constipation.

These are really just a few examples of how important water is to our physiology. To further stress the importance, approximately 60% of our weight is composed of water…think about that.

If we’re talking about weight loss, water is also of extreme importance. For one, it increases satiety and provides a feeling of fullness. It also increases metabolic rate. It is estimated that 17oz of water, your everyday water bottle, can increase resting metabolic rate by 10-30% for one hour. For the energy balance fans, this is a very impactful way to increase non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and ramp up calorie consumption.

If you follow any of my work, you know that I adopt a holistic approach to health and fitness. Therefore, we must consider all of the health considerations stated above when it comes to lowing weight. Guys, if our brains are good at one thing, it’s being extremely efficient at keeping us alive. There’s so many things that are happening and so many processes running without us having to think about it. Our brain unconsciously prioritizes these functions. As you may imagine, maintaining body temperature, nutrient transport, oxygenation, detoxification etc. are way higher on that priority list than your beach body. Keep your body functioning properly and you’ll be able to implement strategies for weight loss and get the intended results. Especially when you need to get rid of fat. You see, fat doesn’t disappear. After you mobilize fat stores to burn for energy, it’s time to eliminate it. This is where the excretory process plays its role in weight loss. And as you’ve already learned, you need water for that. 

When it comes to performance, water intake needs to be dialed in. Like body temperature, electrolyte balance is also a very delicate matter. A deviation of only 2% will trigger numerous physiological responses that are detrimental to output. For one, if we lose our ability to cool down body temperature we run the risk of experiencing heat stress related symptoms that may include nausea, tachycardia, hypertension, and hyperventilation. Perhaps the most indicative measure of fitness is our VO2 Max, which is measured by cardiac output. If the body is dehydrated, plasma levels decrease, hence blood pressure decreases, hence cardiac output decreases. It is estimated that when you lose 5% of your bodyweight via perspiration, work capacity may be reduced by up to 30%. Also, increases in core temperature may lead to accelerated levels of glycogen depletion in muscles. If there’s less glycogen in muscle tissue, you not only lose your fuel substrate, but you also experience higher levels of fatigue through accumulation of lactic acid.

A common theme when it comes to hydration and performance is electrolyte balance. Electrolytes are minerals that contain electric charges to regulate a and catalyze various reactions. These range from regulating plasma levels, to balancing blood pH and enabling muscle contractions. Why is this a thing in the performance realm? Well, if you sweat a lot due to exercise activity you need to replenish with water. You drink water but you excrete water and electrolytes in sweat and pee. As you continue to drink water alone, you may be diluting electrolytes levels even further. In these cases, supplementing with electrolytes could be a solution accompanied by good nutrition plan. One way in which you can measure utility of hydration (function of fluid and electrolytes level) is to perform urine pH tests using a simple urine strip. These are cheap and readily available in pharmacies and even online. All you have to do is put the strip in the stream of pee early in the morning. Ideally, we want pH to be above 6.

Now that we know the importance of water intake across several domains, the main question still stands. How much water should I drink? Believe it or not, this is still not an exact science. There’s various camps that recommend intakes, but there’s really no one concrete hard evidence based prescription. I’m a believer in calculating intake based on bodyweight. Everyone should be consuming 50% of body weight in ounces of water daily. If you’re an active individual who exercises regularly, bump that up to 60% of your body weight in ounces. Many individuals are surprised by how high a number this yields. If so, I strongly recommend tracking intake until it becomes a habit. One efficient way to do this is to get a gallon container, make a mark on it at the appropriate target, and fill that up every morning. You don’t have to drink from that container, but instead serve onto a smaller glass or bottle. The idea is that you get visual feedback of how you’re doing throughout the day. By noon, you’d like to be close to halfway through that container. This will ensure that you’re not caught having to drink half a gallon of water at 8:00pm to meet your daily requirement. There are special considerations when it comes to these recommendations that apply when there’s disease, organ malfunction, or more commonly, during pregnancy. It is recommended that women upregulate water consumption by 15-20% during pregnancy. Remember, you’re drinking for two!

Although rare, is such a thing as “over hydration”. This condition is known as Hyponatremia. Clinically, this is when Sodium, one of the main electrolytes, levels dip to below 135 mmol per L. This is usually discovered via blood tests by a licensed physician who can provide a treatment protocol, but similar to what we discussed above, it’s usually treated with electrolyte supplementation, by mouth or IV.

In recap, we should never underestimate the power of water and proper hydration. Regardless of what you’re trying to do in the gym or the diet plan that you follow, it’s importance is of great magnitude. Very plainly put, we cannot thrive without proper water balance. At Aggressive this is something that we place a lot of focus on as part of initial nutrition prescriptions and lifestyle recommendations. In our assessments, the first test we perform is an InBody Scan. The first component that we look at is hydration. Ideally we want to see clients with water levels of 55% body weight for females, 60% of body weight for males. It is not uncommon for leaner individuals to come in around 5% higher than these numbers. If you’d like to assess your current hydration talk to one of our coaches and schedule your free evaluation. 

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