Water and the Athlete

Any athlete, in any sport, is doubtless familiar with the need to stay hydrated. This makes sense when you consider that the human body is, altogether, about 60 percent water. Looking at it even closer, water makes up 80 percent of blood, 90 percent of the lungs and 70 percent of your brain.

But water does more than just contribute to the make-up of things. What is the active role of water in the athlete’s body? And how much water do you really need to drink?

A Complex Role

Water is literally vital to every system of the body, even the actions that we are unaware of. For example, the liver and kidneys produce large amounts of waste as they filter the blood. Water is used to remove that waste from the organs before they are damaged and flush it from the body.

Water also plays a key role in lubricating your joints. This is especially important to areas like the knees and ankles that frequently carry large amounts of weight and suffer shock from jumping or running.

Since water is a major component in blood, it can also be said that water is responsible for getting nutrients and oxygen to your muscles during activity. After those important substances have been delivered, water then removes toxins and waste products from the muscle.

Finally, as an athlete, you are well aware of sweat and the important part it plays in maintaining your temperature. That sweat is composed mostly of water and, whether you know it or not, is being produced in small amounts all day, ever day to balance your temperature. This means that water is constantly leaving your body through the skin. In fact, the average person sweats out about four cups of water per hour of high-intensity exercise.

Consider, as well, that you exhale about a cup of water vapor everyday when you’re breathing normally. This number doesn’t account for an increased breathing rate during exercise. Combine that with the six cups of water that you lose to urine and bowel movements every day, and that all means that even when you aren’t especially active you’re losing at least seven cups of water every day.

Enough and Too Much

Those figures show that you need to replace at least seven cups of water in your body everyday. That number jumps up to about 10 to 12 cups if you’re exercising, depending on your actively level, the weather and just how much you personally tend to sweat.

While many experts admit that the classic “eight cups a day” rule is more of an estimate than a hard-and-fast rule based on science, for the average person it tends to be enough. However, you need to adjust your water intake for your personal needs.

Try weighing yourself before and after your workout to see how much water you lost. Drink two cups of water for every lost pound.

Resist the urge to just gulp down as much water as you can, though. Overhydration will decrease your sodium levels to a point that is dangerously low. This condition, if it happens quickly, can cause seizures, confusion or even coma.

Do you have tips for staying hydrated? Please share them in the comments!






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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.