It all seems so simple and silly, but Water has to be a key ingredient in any diet whether the aim is to lose fat, gain muscle, or just to remain healthy. It all seems too easy, but how many people actually implement it. We all know we need to keep hydrated, but what are the benefits of being hydrated?
The easiest way to understand the importance of hydration is to think of your body as a car. A car has the radiator full of coolant to help regulate the running temperature. If your car is low on coolant, the temperature increases in the engine will begin to decrease the efficiency that your car runs. If it is bone dry, your car will break down.
The same kind of thing happens with your body. Whilst we think of the problems associated with severe dehydration (the car breaking down), not much thought is given to the period between where the body’s water has been depleted but not as much to have any visual effect. But like the car, the body is not operating to its key efficiency. So what does hydration really affect? And what benefits does water have outside of pure hydration?
Water has long been associated with an increase in fat loss. Whilst a multitude of studies demonstrate this, they tend to base it on supplementing water for soft drinks. Obviously water is associated with weight loss simply because of the reduced caloric intake. This is still helpful for many who must drink during meals, as it is a good reminder that anything you drink, including juices, add to your caloric intake.
However, there have been a number of studies that have demonstrated how else water can assist with weight loss. Researchers from the University Medicine Berlin found that consuming water increases your body’s energy expenditure. Placing aside temperature (the body expends energy bringing the water to body temperature), anything you consume is only absorbed into the bloodstream until it has the same amount of salt that your blood does – another reason isotonic drinks tend to hydrate quicker than water. Water is obviously virtually absent of salts, so the body expends energy to produce the salt from somewhere. They found that 2 glasses of water burnt 23kcal extra.
There have been a number of studies that have detailed the ill-effects of dehydration following a workout. Endurance and strength athletes were found to have increased cortisol and depleted testosterone levels following physical exertion the more they were dehydrated, whilst another study found that dehydration would lead reduced performance in resistance training. What this means is that dehydration has a negative affect of muscle. But what is it about water that prevents this?
Further studies have shown not only does hydration prevent these negative effects, it also shows that water may actually help build and maintain muscle. A good water supply to the body will help saturate fat cells. Fat cells saturated with water will release fatty acids much more easily. Amazingly, the opposite is true for muscle cells. Muscle cells saturated with water will save proteins. Effectively, this means water is anabolic – it helps use fat for energy, whilst preserving proteins in the muscles.
Brain Function and Mental Health
Studies in children have shown giving water to children prior improved children’s movements (making them more precise), improved observation (both visual search and visual attention), and improved memory. Whilst the authors have been hazardous when explaining the reason for this, it has been theorised that children may have been slightly dehydrated and that giving them water improved the effect of dopamine and serotonin.
Sport Scientists at the Loughborough University also found that aside from the physical effects associated with water mentioned previously, water also had a beneficial effect on the psychology of people doing lengthy running or cardio sessions. Athletes who consumed water during the session responded that they enjoyed the session more than those who didn’t. In addition, they also reported a greater amount of energy following the session (although, no difference of energy level was responded).
Water has also been associated with a number of other health benefits, including:
• Aiding digestion
• Improving blood flow
• Shock absorption in the eyes and spinal cord.
Water is necessary to ensure the body is functioning as efficient as possible. It will ensure that hormone levels following exercise preserving muscle, it will aid in fat loss, ensure optimum brain function, and lower chances of heart disease and stroke.
If you want to keep you body functioning to its best ability, aiding in performance, fat loss, and fighting of illness and disease – ensure you are getting enough water. You will find yourself going to the bathroom more, but that is really not that much of a nuisance, is it?
Most international health organisations and governments currently recommend between 1.8L to 3L of water a day for the average adult – the upper limit usually including water contained within food digested. The ill, physically active, pregnant, and persons with a high fibre or protein diet will need to increase their water intake.
My personal water intake consists of 600mL with three meals during the day, and smaller amounts throughout the rest of the day, including during physical activity. This is not does not include water content of food.
I’ve often heard from television trainers and health ‘experts’ that you can never get enough water. The truth is, although it seems rare, excessive water intake within a short period time leading to ‘overdosing’ is more common than most would believe. Too much water will cause hyponatraemia – which is dilution of sodium (salt) within the bloodstream. Sodium is needed in muscle contraction and for sending nerve impulses. So please take care not to ingest many litres within a short period of time.