Water is one of the most important things we need to consume, on par with food and oxygen. Without water, we die and in terms of dying it’s probably only second to lack of oxygen. Some believe the rule of 3 Minutes without air, 3 minutes without water and 3 weeks without food. I’m not sure how true that actually is and I’m sure it contains a lot of variables, but it’s fair to say, we need it to survive.
Even more so in the fitness world. When you workout, whether it be cardio, crossfit, weightlifting, powerlifting an everything inbetween, you are going to excrete and sweat and require the consumption of a lot more water than your average human. So let’s talk about water, why it’s important for fitness fanatics, is it dangerous? How much do we need? And even what can happen if we have too much of it.
So what is water?
We all know water is H2O. But did you know water contains absolutely no calories or nutrient benefit to our bodies? Potable water is the water of which we drink, achieved with distillation or filtration. Safe water is the type of water that is not drinkable but is safe for us to wash and bath with. There is also Grey water and Black water but they aren’t relevant here.
Water and our bodies
Our bodies consist of about 50% to 80% depending on body composition. What’s interesting, is that there is no medical evidence to support a conclusive amount of water recommended for consumption. Studies can vary between requiring 2 litres, up to 5 litres and even as low as 1 litre a day. So how do we know how much to drink?
Our bodies are very clever and our brains contain some good safeguards to ensure our bodies run as optimally as possible. We have a receptor in our brain located in the Hypothalamus which controls thirst. As our body needs water, the receptor sends a signal for us to consume water. We actually get 20% of our water consumption from foods and the rest is achieved by drinking fluids.
Can water consumption be dangerous?
Infact, yes, it can be. Hyperhydration, Overhydration, Water Intoxication or medically Hyponatremia, can be fatal. Basically over consumption of water can kill you as you drown from the inside out. You overload the kidneys and other internal organs and it’s highly recommended you consume safe amounts of water regularly and not over do it. Hyponatremia is the salt or sodium in your blood dropping too low and an imbalance can make fluid leave your blood and enter your cells making them swell, especially around your brain.
Our bodies can only excrete around half a litre an hour, so consuming so much more than that per hour is only going to overload your body. Hyponatremia is rare in healthy people so long as they consume safe amounts of water, IE: don’t scull 5 litres as fast as you can because a bodyscan suggested you do. If Hyponatermia doesn’t set in, you will be incredibly sick and probably urinating something crazy.
General advice seems to be drink until you aren’t thirsty anymore and check the colour of your urine, what colour is it? The closer to crystal clear you are the more hydrated you are, of course, certain supplements can change the colour of your urine so make sure you are aware of how your supplements may affect your urine. Licking your lips constantly to moisten them is also a sign of dehydration as well as the skin pinch test (pinch the skin on the back of your hand, if it stays somewhat pinched you are dehydrated, if it slowly goes back to normal you need to hydrate more and if it goes instantly back to normal you are hydrated). Sometimes it is worth grabbing yourself a sports drink. They tend to contain electrolytes and sodium which is sometimes more beneficial than bulk water but like everything, if you are unsure, consult a medical professional or book in to see your general practitioner as they will be able to give you medical advice that is more suited to you, your composition, climate, exercise levels and any other factors which may affect your consumption of water or excretion.