One of the most vital sources of energy we have available to us is water. It’s in our DNA that we need water to exist, survive, and thrive. Most humans fall short on the proper intake amount and are still functioning somewhat normally, but for anyone who’s familiar with the gym will sing a different tune about water’s importance. Personally I drink about a gallon of water each day not including protein shakes or BCAAs pre/intra workout because of 2 main reasons: 1. I sweat a lot. 2. My muscles need water to keep doing what they do. same goes for the rest of my body.
What I’m about to dive into are the differences your body can experience with too little water, to too much, to just the right amount. All in under 700 words.
Water comprises from 75% body weight in infants to 55% in elderly and is essential for cellular homeostasis and life. For the average adult, 60% of your composition is H2O - and even then it’s easy to become dehydrated. Dehydration refers to the loss of water from the body. In studies investigating the effect of dehydration on cardiovascular drift (progressive increase in heart rate and decrease in stroke volume during prolonged, constant-rate, sub-maximal intensity exercise). During prolonged (120 min) exercise in a warm environment (30°C), dehydration exacerbates the magnitude of cardiovascular drift and results in reduced peak oxygen uptake. In laymen’s terms, The minute your body reaches those dehydration levels, your performance suffers. In a state of dehydration, expect to see signs of dry mouth, loose and “crinkly” skin, thick and possibly dry secretions, and of course little to no urine output. But that’s not all. Dehydration will effect your mood and mental processes too. Those daytime “ drunk drivers” or crabby kids on a hot day are more than likely in need of that aqua pura.
Hyponatremia or “water intoxication” is a real thing. and actually pretty serious. As in death can occur, serious. Hyponatremia is the condition in which the salt level of the blood drops. What happens when we add too much water to a mixture? you dilute it. Same thing happens when you over-imbibe water. When you drink too much water, you dilute your blood and end up not having enough of your body's natural salt. Eventually, if it drops too low, water rushes into cells, which can lead to swelling of brain cells. This condition, somewhat ironically, can affect ultra-distance athletes who are so concerned about maintaining their hydration levels that they constantly drink water, dropping their sodium levels in the process.
So what’s the right amount doc? Hard to say honestly. Your body is it’s own beautiful array of cells doing everything to make you the best damn you possible. Because of this uniqueness in each of us- there’s a better chance we’ll achieve our hydration prerequisites through adhering to some guidelines than trying to hit a certain amount of ounces. Below is a “keep it simple” guide for making sure your H2O is good to go:
Drink nominal water over a large span of time, not large amounts of water in a nominal time
Sweat more = drink more water
Start and end every day hydrated.
References: Nicolaidis S. Physiology of thirst. In: Arnaud MJ, editor. Hydration Throughout Life. Montrouge: John Libbey Eurotext; 1998. p. 247.