Fluids - Water

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Fluids and Water

Of all the nutrients, water is the most important. Without any water or fluid, you'll last less than a week. It makes up more than 60% of your body weight and is vital to all cells.
Water is the medium in which all metabolic reactions take place, including energy production. One key fluid - blood - carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells and helps rid the body of toxins. Fluid acts as a cushion for your nervous system and acts as a lubricant for your joints and eyes. On top of that, proper hydration helps to keep your body temperature stable - you sweat when you get too hot.

You need to top up your fluid levels frequently because you lose water through sweat, breathing and urine. Most experts recommend consuming at least 1 liter of water for every 1000 kcal expended. Since about one-third will come from the food you eat, the British Dietetic Association recommends drinking at least 1.5-2 liters / day. That's equivalent to roughly eight 250 ml glasses, although you'll need to drink more during hot weather and when you exercise.

Why should I drink before, during and after a workout?

Drinking water before and during exercise will help you to perform at your best and keep going longer. One of the most important roles of water is to get rid of the excess heat produced by your exercising muscles. Water from your blood and extracellular (outside the body cells) spaces is transported to the skin's surface, and evaporated by heat (sweating). If you're Iowan water, your muscle control and strength will diminish. A loss of just 2% of your body weight can reduce your muscle strength and your aerobic capacity by at least 10%. Your thirst mechanism only kicks in when you have lost 2% of your body weight - by which time your performance will have suffered.

If water is not replaced during exercise, your blood volume drops, your cardiovascular system becomes stressed, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises and exercise feels much harder. You also begin to lose concentration and feel more tired. A 4% drop in body weight due to dehydration causes a 20-30% drop in strength. You may also get headaches, cramping, dizziness and nausea. Severe dehydration (8-10% loss of body weight) can lead to heat stroke and death.


Thirst is the most important mechanism for ensuring you take in enough fluid. When you experience thirst - a dry mouth and throat, a craving for drinking - your body is signaling dehydration. This is detected by 'osmoreceptors' in the hypothalamus region of your brain. They are able to detect changes in the osmotic pressure and volume of body fluids. When your body's fluid level becomes low, the sodium concentration and , therefore, osmplality of your blood rises, signalling the thirst sensation in the hypothalamus. So, you get the urge to drink.

It is important to realize that feeling thirsty is like a red flag - it means you are already dehydrated by at least 2% of your body weight. You should not wait until you get into this state before topping up. To keep properly hydrated, drink before,during and after a workout.

How much should I drink?

Make sure you are properly hydrated before your workout. As a guideline, drink 500 ml of fluid two hours before you train, then another 125-250 ml immediately before your workout. During your workout, drink 125-250 ml every 10-20 minutes. In hot or humid conditions you will lose more fluid so you will need to drink more. Make regular drink breaks a part of your workouts and start drinking early in your workout. If you wait until you are thirsty, you will become dehydrated and your performance will have already suffered by the time you drink. If you feel nauseous when you drink, this indicates that you are dehydrated, so ensure you drink ,plenty of water. After your workout is the time to replace any fluid you have lost. Drink 1.5 liters for every kg you have lost. Have 500 ml immediately after your workout, then continue drinking at regular intervals.

How to Keep Hydrated

  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk.
  • Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day.
  • If you don't like the taste of tap water, try bottled water or flavor it with a slice of lemon or lime.
  • Other options include flavored water and 'low calorie' soft drinks (but try to avoid 'those laden with artificial sweeteners and flavors), herb and fruit tea, weak tea, and coffee substitutes.
  • Have a 'water break' at least once an hour - set the timer on your watch to remind yourself.
  • Get into the habit of having a water break instead of a coffee break.
  • Drink water before, during and after your workout - take a 1-litre bottle of water to the gym.

What should I drink?

Water is the best drink for replacing lost body fluids if you are training for less than one hour. Sports drinks containing carbohydrate and sodium also replace fluid rapidly, but are more beneficial for athletes exercising hard for longer than one hour. Most contain 4-8 g carbohydrate/100 ml, and are designed to help maintain blood glucose levels and combat fatigue when muscle glycogen levels run low. It is possible that they may help you do a few more repetitions or sets at the end of your workout if you are training for longer than one hour but, so far, there have not been any studies on the benefits of sports drinks on strength-training exercise lasting less than one hour.

If you are aiming to reduce body-fat levels, definitely choose water as sports drinks can add unnecessary calories.

Sports drinks are more helpful to strength trainers after exercise as opposed to during training. Getting carbohydrate into your body within two hours of training is definitely beneficial as it speeds glycogen recovery. However, a carbohydrate-protein drink (i.e. meal replacement product) would be even better than a carbohydrate-only drink.

Dehydration Check

Check the colour of your urine - the more transparent it is (i.e. the less yellow), the better hydrated you are. If it is a golden colour or a deep colour with a strong odour, you are dehydrated. Passing a small volume of urine having experienced a strong sensation to visit the toilet is also an indicator.

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Muscle Building Nutrition - Fluids