Water consumption (or lack thereof) might be the single-most neglected activity among people into fitness. To many, the thought of drinking lots of water seems quite trivial – how could having lots of this clear, tasteless liquid be doing anything?
There are actually a multitude of reasons why it’s essential that you make sure that you’re getting enough water. For one, water is far and away the most abundant compound found in the human body. Most human tissues contain roughly 75% water. In fact, muscle is actually 80% water! Thus, because humans are roughly 75% water, in order for everything inside the body to function at its optimum level, a plentiful supply of water must always be present.
One of the best examples of how water increases your bodily efficiency is by improving fat metabolism. Being well hydrated makes your body far more efficient at using fat for energy. If your body lacks proper hydration, it is much more likely to begin pooling water from the various cell bodies you have, including fat cells. When this happens, these fat cells are giving the body aid in hydrating it, and as a result, your body becomes far less likely to mobilize these fat stores and use them as energy. Over an extended period of time, this could lead to an increase in the number of fat stores you have than you otherwise would have had you been drinking enough water.
Your kidneys and liver are also highly dependent on having enough water. Your kidneys help your body to excrete waste, but in order to excrete this waste well, they must have ample water. When there isn’t a lot of water available, your kidneys recruit your liver to help aid in filtering out toxins from your body. This might not seem problematic yet, but when you consider that one of your liver’s main tasks is to metabolize your body’s stored fat to use as energy, this is a huge issue because now your liver’s fat mobilizing ability is compromised because it’s also assisting your kidneys in filtering out toxins and waste from your body. Plus, chronic under-consumption of water places you at a far greater risk for painful health problems such as kidney stones. This is especially true if you live somewhere warm where you’re losing more water than most people because of the high outside temperatures.
One concern that many people have with regards to high water consumption is that it will make them hold excess water and appear a bloated mess. Contrary to this misconception, high water intake will actually minimize the amount of water you retain. When you’re not getting enough water, your body is much more likely to retain water because it interprets the water shortage to be a threat to your survival, and thus begins to hold onto as much water as it can in order to ensure that you have enough to live.
In terms of exercise and physical activity, having enough water allows for a number of benefits. Keep in mind, muscle tissue is roughly 80% water, so when you are well hydrated, your muscles will appear fuller and have greater definition as well as contain enough water within them to help you maximally contract them while exercising.
If you’re interested at all in maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails, there’s one more reason you need to be sure to drink enough water. Because water helps your body rid itself of toxins and aids in optimum bodily function, consistently drinking enough water will give keep your skin looking healthy and moisturized, your nails clear, and your hair full with lots of body to it.
Another common concern many people have is that drinking water during meals will hinder their body’s digestion process because it will raise the pH of the hydrochloric acid in their stomach, making their digestive system far less efficient at breaking down the food they just ate. Ignore this outdated dogma because it’s completely false. While drinking large volumes of water may slightly decrease the pH of the hydrochloric acid as well as the concentration of digestive enzymes in your stomach, it is not to a degree that will impair digestion. Plus, having ample water allows for your body to optimize its production of hydrochloric acid. What’s more, water will also give your digestive system the improved ability of producing mucous lining in your stomach, which is crucial in ensuring that the hydrochloric acid within your stomach does not come into contact with the actual stomach tissue (this is one common cause for stomach ulcers).
How much water should you be drinking? This is a question that simply has too many variables within it that one hard number can’t be applied to everyone. In general, however, a good rule of thumb is to drink 1 oz. of water for every pound that you weigh. So, for example, a 120 pound woman would drink 120 ounces of water daily, and a 200 pound man would drink 200 ounces of water daily. You may find that, depending on your level of physical activity, that you require slightly more or slightly less than what this formula dictates your needs are, but this is still a great starting point if you haven’t put much thought into how much water you’re taking in on a daily basis.