The health benefits of drinking water are many and it’s the second most important life-sustaining element after air. We can survive for weeks without food, but without water, we’ll be six feet under within just a few days.
Keeping well hydrated is not just important for health and survival, but for physical performance and is a vital component for muscle growth. We all know the importance of training, getting enough protein, calories and rest in our mission to build muscle. Water consumption is equally important, but one of the most overlooked.
The greatest portion of our body weight is made up of protein and water, with around 65% being water. So someone who weighs 190 lbs will be carrying around 123 lbs of water weight. To sustain your body weight, you need to take in the right amount of fluids every day.
Before we take a look at how much, I want to talk about some of the important roles water plays in the human body and why it’s so important for muscle growth.
Why Drinking Enough Water is Important
Muscle Size and Strength
Take a look at the graph below. You can see that just a small loss of 4% (7.6 lbs weight drop for someone 190 lbs) of water can cause a loss of muscular strength and endurance. The more dehydrated you become, the more strength you will lose.
Maintaining/gaining muscle strength is important for growth. If you keep training when dehydrated, your strength and muscle size will decrease. In order to maintain 100% of your strength you MUST stay fully hydrated. Keep hydrated… keep gaining!
A report by the “Biochemistry Journal” found that decreased levels of water resulted in cell shrinking which causes muscle protein breakdown. The research found that the water content within a muscle cell (myocytes) plays a critical role in muscle breakdown. Maintaining adequate hydration levels will reduce protein breakdown and help with protein synthesis.
Loss of Energy
Dehydration causes your blood volume levels to drop which leads to dizziness and fatigue. Training when tired not only hinders your training performance and gains but also increases the risk of you injuring yourself during a heavy lift. Tiredness and training don’t mix!
The body will keep a constant temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. The body regulates this temperature by transferring the heat from our muscles to water. This heated water is then excreted through our skin as sweat. Sweat accounts for more than 80% of the body’s metabolic heat removed.
Just like a car needs a water coolant system to keep the engine running at peak performance and from overheating, our bodies also use water in a coolant system, because our muscles generate heat from exercise. And just like a car engine overheats and slows down without water, the same will happen to our muscles.
Gaining muscle requires good digestion and absorption of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats). Drinking enough water (particularly during and after meals) helps with digestion and the maintenance of a healthy digestive system.
Water is also an important component in the production of saliva and gastric juices, which are both crucial in the proper digestion of food.
Transportation and Waste
Water is responsible for transporting oxygen, fat, glucose (energy) and other nutrients into cells. At the same time, water removes performance-inhibiting waste products such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide from working muscles.
Without this waste removal by water, we’d be poisoned to death by all the body’s waste products.
It has been established that lower water consumption is associated with bladder cancer (Altieri, La Vecchia and Negri, 2003). This reason alone should be enough to scare you into making sure you’re getting enough fluids in every day.
Water provides cushioning and lubrication between joints. Pain problems around joints are a very common problem among bodybuilders and strength athletes. Maintaining hydration and joint health is a very important part of your training over the long haul.
So if you don’t drink sufficient water, you can impair every aspect of your physiology. Dr. Howard Flaks, a Bariatric (obesity) specialist in Beverly Hills, Calif, says,
“By not drinking enough water, many people incur excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, decreased digestive efficiency and organ function, increased toxicity in the body, joint and muscle soreness and water retention.”
How Much Water do you need to Build Muscle?
The amount of water a person should consume daily is a controversial subject. The standard 8 glasses of water-a-day prescriptions recommended all over the place won’t be enough for serious muscle seekers. This is fine for the average Joe who consumes around 2,000cals a day without much activity, but we’re putting far greater demands on our bodies than Mr Average.
If your workouts are intense (which they should be) and you want to put on a serious amount of muscle, 8 glasses of water just aren’t going to cut it here.
You should be taking in 1Ltr of water per 1,000 calories expended per day. So someone who burns 2,500cals would drink 2.5Ltr fluid daily. To find out how many calories you’re burning every day, read this article.
Tips on Getting Enough Water Every Day
You don’t need to take in your daily fluid requirements from just plain water every day… that could get very boring, quickly.
What I like to do is buy 2Ltr bottles of mineral water in bulk. Take one bottle and add some sugar-free strawberry-flavoured diluting juice to it. I’ll keep this in the fridge and pour out glasses from the bottle throughout the day. It tastes great and makes it really easy to keep track of and get down my daily water needs every day.
Cups of tea and coffee will go towards your daily water intake and around 20% of your water needs will come from the foods you eat.
Stay hydrated, stay healthy, and keep gaining!