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I think most people underestimate how important staying hydrated is to the body.  I would say many people allow drinking water and being hydrated to fall behind in their priorities when it comes to preparation for working out or even starting the day.  Proper hydration should be at the front of our routines and should be a priority to the point that drinking water is a necessity and a ritual.

More often than not, most of us are more concerned with getting in our pre-workout caffeine, our morning coffee, or getting our post-workout protein than we are with ensuring we are staying hydrated.  The fact of the matter is, water is the single most critical nutrient. Not protein, not carbs, not fat, it’s 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.

To understand this importance, just a 2% drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow down thinking.  Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping, and slow down muscular response – And that’s just 2%!!

Dehydration has many associated risk factors and outcomes leading to poor performance, and if the associations of dehydration aren’t enough to convince you to drink more water, then maybe the benefits of being hydrated will help with the following:

HEALTHIER SKIN, TEETH, BONES AND JOINTS

Maintaining proper hydration will prove to be a far better solution in preventing or decreasing wrinkles than the expensive and, in most cases, barely effective cosmetic products being marketed to the public.  Creams and lotions aid in hydrating the skin, but more so does being hydrated!  In addition to this, water makes your teeth and bones stronger due to the additional fluoride providing extra strength and bone density.  And finally, within your joints, you have something called synovial fluid which contains water. Synovial fluid aids in reducing friction of the joint and if you become dehydrated, less synovial fluid is available and this is particularly applicable to working out, as we put great stress on our joints when we lift weights.

HEALTHIER DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

Water helps improve the digestive process and is imperative in maintaining a healthy digestive system.  Water is important to properly metabolize food.  Drinking sufficient amounts of water will help the body process and transport nutrients and excrete any waste products once they are metabolized.

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, you may experience cramping, and your endurance and strength performance will suffer.

HELPS IN WEIGHT LOSS

Water can suppress appetite naturally and increases the body’s ability to metabolize stored fat.  Studies have shown that a decrease in water intake will 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, and a reduction in weight loss.

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.  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.

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 water per day. However, this amount is far too low for gym-goers and other active people.  Active people need much more to replace the fluid lost during exercise and need to drink at least 8 oz. of water each hour we’re awake! The best way to do this is to try to develop the same relationship with your water bottle that you have with your phone, wallet, and keys!

If you need any more reason, people spend a lot of money when working out on protein, supplements, multivitamins, and much, much more! BUT the most important, in all of your consumables, is FREE! 

Written By: Ashley Dunwell, MS, NASM-CPT

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