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This One Nutrient Can Improve Athletic Performance, Help You Lose Weight, Look Younger

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Water, the Universal Key to Life and Well Being

The human brain is composed of 95% water; blood is 82% water; the lungs are nearly 90% water. As one can imagine water is also the single most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. It is not only the most important nutrient in the body, but also the most abundant.

Water is critical to the balance of all the body's systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and muscles.

Water is the medium for various enzymatic & chemical reactions in the body. It moves nutrients, hormones, antibodies, & oxygen through the blood stream & lymphatic system.

Health Benefits of Water

Water has many health benefits. Some of the key health benefits include:

  • Healthier Skin. Ensuring that you are properly hydrated will prove to be a far better solution to preventing or decreasing wrinkles than the many expensive and in most cases barely effective products being marketing to the public.
  • Healthier Mind & Body. Water is essential for nutrient absorption and many chemical reactions in the body for overall health, including proper brain function and improvements in memory.
  • Increases Energy. Although water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it plays a very important role in energy transformation. Since water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated you will become lethargic, can experience cramping and endurance and strength performance will suffer. In fact, athletes that do become dehydrated often find reduced performance in the days following.
  • Healthier Digestive System. Water also helps improve the digestive process and is imperative in maintaining a healthy urinary tract and digestive system. Water is also important to properly metabolize food and drinking sufficient amounts of water will help reduce constipation.Drinking sufficient amounts of water will help the body process and transport nutrients and excrete any waste products once they are metabolized.
  • Reduces Fatigue. Although water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it plays a very important role in energy transformation.Since water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. If you become dehydrated you will become lethargic, can experience cramping and endurance and strength performance will suffer. In fact, athletes that do become dehydrated often find reduced performance in the days following.  
  • Helps In Weight Loss. Water can suppress the appetite naturally and increases the body's ability to metabolize stored fat. Studies have shown that a decrease in water intake will cause fat deposits to increase, while an increase in water intake can actually reduce fat deposits. This is thought to occur because a reduction in water decreases the efficiency of the kidney's, which results in some of the kidney's functions being shunted to the liver. Since one of the liver's primary functions is to metabolize stored fat into usable energy for the body, it metabolizes less fat while performing functions normally performed by the kidney's. This results in less stored fat burned, and a reduction in weight loss.
  • Healthier Teeth & Bones. Water also makes teeth and bone stronger. The additional fluoride added to our water supplies provides extra strengths and bone density to our teeth and bones. 
  • Healthier Joints. Water is extremely important to the joints. Because the synovial fluid contains water, if you become dehydrated less synovial fluid is available to protect the joints. This is very dangerous to a bodybuilder since bodybuilders are constantly sweating (losing fluids) and putting great stresses on their joints through intense workouts. 
  • Reduces Joint Pain. The spinal joints are dependent on different hydraulic properties of water which is stored in the disc core. Back pain is frequently alleviated with hydration. Water lubricates the joints. Cartilage tissues found at the ends of long bones & between the vertebrae of the spine hold a lot of water, which serves as a lubricant during the movement of the joint. Increasing water intake and properly hydrating yourself can help replenish the water in these tissues. When the cartilage is will hydrated, the two opposing surfaces glide freely, and  friction damage is reduced. Failure to do so will increase the rate of "abrasive" damage, resulting in joint deterioration & increased pain. 
  • Helps In Weight Loss. Water can suppress the appetite naturally and increases the body's ability to metabolize stored fat. Studies have shown that a decrease in water intake will cause fat deposits to increase, while an increase in water intake can actually reduce fat deposits.This is thought to occur because a reduction in water decreases the efficiency of the kidney's, which results in some of the kidney's functions being shunted to the liver. Since one of the liver's primary functions is to metabolize stored fat into usable energy for the body, it metabolizes less fat while performing functions normally performed by the kidney's. This results in less stored fat burned, and a reduction in weight loss. 
  • Reduces Fluid Retention. Drinking increased amounts of water is the best natural treatment for fluid retention. As many bodybuilders already know when the body gets less water, it perceives this as a threat to survival and begins to hold on to every drop. Water is stored in extracellular spaces (outside the cell) which can result in swollen extremities (feet, legs and hands). Diuretics offer a temporary solution, but can cause more harm than good if abused. Why? Because they will cause the elimination of the water, along with essential nutrients. Also the body will again perceives this conditioning as a threat and replace the lost water at the first opportunity, causing bloating and fluid retention once again. Drinking plenty of water will eliminate this problem.  
  • Helps Build Muscle. Water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells and transporting waste out of the body. Water helps form the structures of protein and glycogen. In order to move and flex your muscles, you need water. If your body is dehydrated, your muscles will be deprived of electrolytes and cramp. Since muscles are controlled by nerves, without the proper water and electrolyte balance muscle strength and control will also be impaired.
  • Increases Muscle Tone. Muscles are made primarily of water. Dehydration can prevent muscles from properly contracting, reducing muscle tone. Increasing water intake will help prevent muscle cramping, improve the strength of muscle contractions and quicken muscle response. Preventing dehydration will also help prevent sagging skin, since water will fill out the muscles, resulting in clear, healthy and resilient skin. 
  • Reduces Risk of Disease. Studies have shown that increasing daily water intake has shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, reduce the risk of bladder cancer (by 50%) and it can potentially even reduce the risk of breast cancer. It is also believed that water may prevent many kidney stone and urinary tract infections.
  • Other Known Benefits. Water also aids circulation, and helps regulate the body's cooling system.

Water & Athletic Performance 

Many people are unaware of how water affects performance. Even being slightly dehydrated can cause poor performance, and is often overlooked. Improper hydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength and reduced endurance. All severely impeding athletic performance.

Thirst, Fake Signal? 

As our bodies try to adjust to being deprived of water, our thirst mechanism becomes disabled. The only time we receive the "dry mouth" signal is as the last outward sign of extreme dehydration. Therefore, if you are thirsty, yopu are already dehydrated. Also of importance to note, the thirst sensation gradually decreases with age.

As we start to give our bodies more water, the thirst mechanism begins to work again, but doesn't become fully apparent until our bodies are fully hydrated. When we are getting sufficient water, we're often thirsty.

Common Causes of Water Loss 

The body may lose fluids in a variety of ways:

  • when urinating
  • when you vomit or have diarrhea
  • when sweating
  • from the lungs during normal breathing.
  • Caffeine/alcohol consumption (diuretics)
  • Increased Stress. Can cause water loss.
  • Hot environment, increases sweating.
  • Increased physical activity (water loss from sweating)
  • Certain medicines

How Important is Water Balance?

With dehydration, the level of energy generation in the brain is decreased. A 2% drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping and slow muscular response. 

Mild dehydration is also one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue.  How common a problem is this in the US? Estimates are that seventy-five percent of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration. This is alarming since proper hydration is required for maintaining healthy blood flow, proper sodium/potassium /electrolyte balance , proper digestive functions, and proper kidney function. The kidneys remove wastes such as uric aced, urea & lactic acid, all of which must be dissolved in water. When there isn't sufficient water, those wastes are not effectively removed, which may result in damage to the kidneys.

How Much Water is Lost During Normal Body Functioning?   

The average amount of water lost per day includes:

  • 16 ounces through respiration (average)
  • 16 ounces through invisible perspiration (more if sweat is visible)
  • 48 ounces through elimination
    (Note: the more food you eat, the more you eliminate, the more water will be lost)

Symptoms of Dehydration
In the early stages of dehydration, there are no signs or symptoms. Early features are difficult to detect but include dryness of mouth and thirst. As dehydration increases, signs and symptoms develop. These include:

  • thirst,
  • restless or irritable behavior,
  • decreased skin turgor,
  • dry mucous membranes,
  • sunken eyes.

Symptoms of early or mild dehydration include:

  • flushed face
  • extreme thirst, more than normal or unable to drink
  • dry, warm skin
  • cannot pass urine or reduced amounts, dark, yellow
  • dizziness made worse when you are standing
  • weakness
  • cramping in the arms and legs
  • crying with few or no tears
  • sleepy or irritable
  • unwell
  • headaches
  • dry mouth, dry tongue; with thick saliva
  • stress & stress causes further dehydration

Symptoms of moderate to severe dehydration include:

  • low blood pressure
  • fainting
  • severe muscle contractions in the arms, legs, stomach, and back
  • convulsions
  • a bloated stomach
  • heart failure
  • sunken fontanelle - soft spot on a infants head
  • sunken dry eyes, with few or no tears
  • skin loses its firmness and looks wrinkled
  • lack of elasticity of the skin (when a bit of skin lifted up stays folded and takes a long time to go back to its normal position)
  • rapid and deep breathing - faster than normal
  • fast, weak pulse
  • migraine headaches may be an indicator of critical body temperature regulation at times of "heat stress."

In severe dehydration, these effects become more pronounced and the patient may develop evidence of hypovolaemic shock, including: diminished consciousness, lack of urine output, cool moist extremities, a rapid and feeble pulse (the radial pulse may be undetectable), low or undetectable blood pressure, and peripheral cyanosis. Death follows soon if rehydration is not started quickly.

How About Other Beverages?  

There is a difference between drinking pure water & beverages that contain water. Some drinks like spritzers are most likely okay, depending on what may be in the modified drink.

Some beverages may contain substances that are not healthy, & actually contradict some of the positive effects of the added water. A good example are caffeinated beverages. These beverages stimulate the adrenal glands and act as diuretics, robbing your body of necessary water.

Many beverages also contain additives that can affect your health as well. For instance  soft drinks can contain sodium and phosphorus. Phosphorus can lead to depletion of bone calcium. Sodium can cause fluctuations in body hydration.  A 12 ounce can of regular soda contains the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar and loads of empty calories. Even a diet soda is not good for you. There are many studies out there now reporting the dangers of artificial sweetners on the body. 

Fruit juices are also a poor replacement for needed water. Fruit juices contain a lot of sugar which can stimulate the pancreas. These drinks may tax the body more than they cleanse it.

Other Beverages also contain dehydrating agents. They may actually reduce the water reserves in the body. Probably the most important point to consider is drinking other beverages to the exclusion of water causes people to lose their taste for water. This is particularly true with children as they become dependent on sodas & juices.

How Much Water Is Enough? 

It is suggested that the average person (which is fairly inactive) requires a minimum of 8 to 12 cups of water per day. However, this amount is far too low for bodybuilders and other active people. Active people need much more to replace the fluid lost during exercise.

Depending on your size and perspiration rate, you lose about four cups of water per hour of exercise. If you are working out in a mild climate, you are probably losing about 1/2 gallon of water through perspiration.

If you are working out in a hot climate, you can easily lose a gallon or more by the end of your workout and cardio session. Bodybuilders need even more water to assist with the metabolism of the additional food and supplements consumed.

Reasons To Increase Water Intake

  • Dieting.
  • Large food intake (common to bodybuilders)
  • Increasing intake of vitamins, minerals.
  • Increased sodium consumption. (Water intake will help the body excrete sodium and excess water stored)  

Hints To Stay Hydrated

  • The easiest way to stay hydrated is to drink at least eight ounces each hour you're awake. When you are in the gym and thirsty it is easy to drink 4 to 8 times that amount if you bring a wide mouth container with you for constant refilling.
  • Remember to drink at least 16 ounces of water after sleeping. 8 hours of sleep, especially in a dry and hot room can rob your body of needed water. You can easily wake up in a dehydrated state after a long sleep under these conditions.
  • Drink more water when caffeine is consumed. Caffeine is a diuretic. Water intake should be increased when excess caffeine (also found in thermo products) is consumed. 
  • Other hints: when you get in the car, when you go to a meeting when you sit down to watch TV, or sit down to eat a meal, always have something to drink with you.

Water and the Athlete: 

  • Athletes should drink water before and during exercise. If you don't replenish your fluid loss during exercise, you will tire, and possible cramp. Performance will not be at your best.
  • Athletes should drink water immediately following exercise.I Failure to do so may affect performance for the following one to two days.
  • Once dehydrated endurance is diminished, strength can drop, and the effect can last into the following day(s). Instead of relying on a signal, drink water at regular intervals regardless if you're thirsty or not.

Important Points to Remember: 

  • Water is the solvent of the body & it regulates all functions, including the activity of everything it dissolves & circulates.
  • Water is the medium for various enzymatic & chemical reactions in the body. The proteins & enzymes of the body function more efficiently in solutions of lower viscosity.
  • Water moves nutrients, hormones, antibodies, & oxygen through the blood stream & lymphatic system. 
  • Brain tissue is 85% water. With dehydration, the level of energy generation in the brain is decreased, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking.
  • Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping and slow muscular response.
  • Depression & chronic fatigue syndrome are frequently results of dehydration.
  • Caffeinated beverages stimulate the adrenal glands and act as diuretics, robbing your body of necessary water.   
  • Drinking more water helps to reduce water retention by stimulating your kidneys. If you're not drinking sufficient water, your body starts retaining water to compensate for this shortage. To eliminate fluid retention, drink more water, not less.
  • As our bodies try to adjust to being deprived of water, our thirst mechanism becomes disabled. The only time we receive the "dry mouth" signal is as the last outward sign of extreme dehydration. In addition, the thirst sensation gradually decreases with age. The result is increasing dehydration.
  • Mild dehydration is also one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue.
  • Estimates are that seventy-five percent of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration. It is important to remember that proper hydration is required for maintaining healthy blood flow, proper kidney function, proper sodium/potassium /electrolyte balance and proper digestive functions.
  • Dehydration leads to excess body fat, poor muscle tone & size, decreased digestive efficiency & organ function, increased toxicity, joint & muscle soreness, & water retention. Water works to keep muscles and skin toned.
  • Water helps regulate our body temperature through perspiration, which dissipates excess heat & cools our bodies. Extreme dehydration can lead to death, as the body will overheat without proper water intake.
  • Many digestive problems, including constipation, acid stomach, gastritis, duodenitis, pain from ulcers (as long as the ulcer is not perforated), & heartburn all can decrease with increased water intake. Water eliminates toxins & waste from the body.
  • The spinal joints are dependent on different hydraulic properties of water which is stored in the disc core. Back pain is frequently alleviated with hydration.
  • Water lubricates the joints. Cartilage tissues found at the ends of long bones & between the vertebrae of the spine hold a lot of water, which serves as a lubricant during the movement of the joint. Increasing water intake and properly hydrating yourself can help replenish the water in these tissues. When the cartilage is will hydrated, the two opposing surfaces glide freely, and  friction damage is reduced. Failure to do so will increase the rate of "abrasive" damage, resulting in joint deterioration & increased pain.
  • Drink water cold when possible. Cold water absorbs into the system more quickly than warm water. Additionally, some limited evidence suggests that drinking cold water can actually help burn calories. 
  • Drink at least 1 1/2 gallons a day, up to 3 gallons a day as needed. As a minimum, if you are an athlete, or a bodybuilder your needs will be much higher than the average adult. Drink at least 1 1/2 gallons a day. Increase your intake according to the factors that require increased water intake as noted above.
  • Do not forget the impact that supplements and medicines may have on hydration. Some supplements (and medicines) require that you take more water for them to be effective (and because some may be diuretics or cause harm if enough water is not consumed. No2 products, and some antibiotics are good examples.
  • Probably the most important point to consider is drinking other beverages to the exclusion of water causes people to lose their taste for water. Kick the sodas and juices to the curb and start enjoying water. Your body will love you for it!
Last modified on Monday, 23 January 2012 12:09
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