Water and Athletic Performance

We all have heard, read or been told that water is good for you at some point in our lives and it is still one of the most under consumed nutrients, especially among the athletes who need it the most. The truth is that besides oxygen, water is the most important nutrient for the human body. How much water do you really need? How does water affect performance? What are the consequences of a negative water balance? Read more below for the answers to those questions, plus the health and athletic applications of this salubrious nutrient.

Water (Photographer: Walter J. Pilsak)

Water is defined as a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, that is comprised of two parts hydrogen per one part oxygen ( H O). Water freezes at 32°F or 0°C , boils at 212°F or 100°C, and contains 11.188 percent hydrogen and 88.812 percent oxygen, by weight. This simple compound incredibly basic on it’s face, but let’s take a closer look at it’s role within the body.

Approximately 60% of the human body is water and a closer individualized look at this composition reflects a perfectly coordinated synergetic biological machine that is almost entirely contingent upon water.

  • Brain is composed of 70% water
  • Lungs are nearly 90% water.
  • Lean muscle tissue contains about 75% water by weight
  • Body fat contains 10% water
  • Bone is 22% water
  • Blood is approximately 83%  water.

Generally, in order to maintain positive homeostasis in normal conditions approximately two to three quarts a day are needed for the average human being. In times of high intensity and strenuous activity an athlete can require up to 2 gallons or more per day for optimum performance depending on temperature, diet, size of individual and exertion.  Now, lets get into the specifics for athletes.

  1. Athletic Performance- Adequate fluid intake is one of the most misunderstood concepts within the athletic world. With respect to water and athletic performance, athletes engaged in strenuous and rigorous training can use over 2 gallons of water per day. The concept of dehydration is also a staunch misconception as dehydration is defined as a loss of 1% of bodyweight from fluid loss, which can be easily achieved through athletic training. A lack of sufficient fluids within the muscular system can have incredibly drastic effects upon performance. Consistent research and studies have found that dehydration of muscle by only 3% causes a 10% loss of contractile strength and an 8% loss of speed. A study conducted at Ball State University showed a 7% drop in speed over 10 kilometers by runners who were dehydrated by just 2%-3%, which is only 3-5 pounds for a sample 165 lb. runner. Further research has shown that a 2.5% reduction of body weight from water loss results in a loss of 25% of bodily homeostatic function and efficiency. To give you a perspective for a 175 pound man this translates to only about two quarts of water which can be lost through urine, sweat, homeostasis, heat, etc. Athletes must maintain a constant flow of water in order to perform at peak physical and mental capacity and maintain overall health.
  2. Bodily Functions- Water is involved in almost every bodily function and is vital to almost every bodily process. During mental concentration and focus the brain uses up water at an incredibly rapid rate, which must be replenished or a marked reduction in mental performance along with potentially debilitating headaches can result. The kidneys utilize water to metabolize protein, which is of specific importance to athletes who commonly implement additional protein within their diet to bolster their recovery and bodily composition. Electrolytes and cellular energy are also dependent upon adequate water intake and even the slightest offset of biological fluid composition can result in excessive cramping. These are just a few of the vast ways that the body is constantly consuming and using water on a constant basis.
  3. Metabolism and Weight- Proper fluid levels help to sustain and maintain the proper metabolic rate of the body and assist in healthy weight maintenance. Inversely, a negative fluid balance will aid in the reduction of the metabolic rate and thus forth can cause excessive weight gain. When there is a continuous and proper water intake the body will rely upon this constant flow of water and actually reduce stored water weight. Inconsistent consumption of water and/or a negative fluid balance will actually result in the storage of water weight as the body attempts to maintain a homeostatic environment. Additionally, water also helps to flush out toxins, excrete waste, and regulate the body’s internal chemical and biological composition.

Athletes should consume a bare minimum of a gallon of water a day and less active individuals should strive for approximately 3 quarts a day for optimum health.

- Papa Swole

(This is an original post copyright to SwoleScience.com, credited to the aforementioned author. Its reproduction is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved to the original authors of any quoted or embedded material)


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