We are made up of about 60% water, so the next time you gain a few pounds just go ahead and call it water weight. Totally kidding. We can go for weeks and months without certain macronutrients, vitamins, or minerals before we develop a deficiency. But we can only go a few days without water before we become dehydrated. Here’s why you need water, how it can benefit you, and some recommendations for how much you should consume.
First, let’s clear up that joke about water weight. When you gain water weight, the fastest way to alleviate it, is to actually drink more water. I know it seems counterproductive, but just trust me on this one. You might feel full or bloated, but drinking more water will actually help regulate your fluid retention. You’ll also find that your natural thirst will come back.
The more protein you eat, the more water you need to drink. “Protein requires seven times the water for metabolism than carbohydrates or fats,” according to Saunders College Publishing. Today’s dieters tend to follow the low carb, high protein route, which can be beneficial for weight loss. However, this can lead to decreased glycogen and hydration. If you’re running low on glycogen and water, your performance in the gym is going to suffer.
When your body is properly hydrated, your liver function improves, which increases the use of fat for energy. As humans, we will have a never ending supply of fat on our bodies, even if we are lean. However, we will not have an endless supply of carbs to use as energy. When you eat carbs your body turns them into glycogen. Your glycogen stores can run out, but your fat stores will always be available. Therefore, if your liver is functioning properly, you’ll be able to use fat optimally.
When your body is properly hydrated, your metabolic function improves. This is because nutrients are distributed throughout the body, which allows them to be absorbed and used for energy properly. Your endocrine gland function improves which allows for better regulation of your hormones, therefore better controlling your metabolism. When you’re properly hydrated, you’ll also notice that your body temperature regulation improves. This means less hot flashes, night sweats, and bouts of freezing chills.
When all of these things (metabolism, organ function, homeostasis, etc.) are functioning well, then you will perform well. If you have a fluid loss of even 2%, it could lead to decreased performance. That holds true if you are exercising in a gym, playing a recreational sport, or even working in the heat.
There are many different recommendations on how much water you should drink per day. Some trainers and athletes believe 1 gallon a day is the ticket. Some believe that you should drink 8, 8 ounce glasses. Some follow a mathematical equation to figure out their water intake. According to the Exercise and Institute of Medicine Recommendations for nutrition, men should consume 3L (13 cups) and women should consume 2.2L (9 cups) of water each day. If you exercise, then you should also be consuming additional water on top of that. I am definitely guilty of NOT drinking enough water. I know that I’m polluting the environment by buying cases of water bottles, but it’s the only thing that actually keeps me drinking the amount of water that I should be. At the end of the day, I always believe the best recommendation is the one that you will stick to. That could mean you’re carrying around a gallon jug, filling up a water bottle, buying cases of water, or just being mindful of drinking lots of water. Find what works best for you and stick to it!