Drink Up! Water Works for Your Fitness Goals

woman drinking waterYou’ve heard the advice “drink more water” for everything from clearer skin to fighting a cold to weight loss. How important is it really, though, to take in X amount of water?

The consensus among experts is that it’s very important, and most of us don’t drink enough. Here’s how hydration matters to your fitness, diet and athletic goals.

Water for Wellness, Weight and Winning

A vital, life-sustaining substance in your body, water supports proper function of all your cells, and represents 50 – 75% of your total bodyweight. Drinking plenty of water helps you digest for optimum nutrition, and flushes away toxins, too. If you’re dieting, know that your liver needs water to effectively metabolize body fat. And some studies show drinking water can help you lose weight because it makes you feel full to control your appetite.

Water has an impact on physical performance as well. For example, when carb-loading for endurance events, water helps your body store glucose as glycogen. Carbohydrates bind with water, and your muscles act as a sponge—enough water will keep the sponge full, and increase aerobic capacity for your competition.

From a fitness and bodybuilding perspective, more water inside your muscles leads to better function plus increased strength and size capacity—stored water helps maintain a positive nitrogen balance, which affects muscle growth.

But, how much water? Start with the standard 8 – 12 eight ounce glasses per day as a safe bet. Drink more to rehydrate with intense exercise or hot temperatures. Another estimate is to drink half your body weight in ounces, per day. That’s about a gallon for a 250 lb. person.

Walking Through Waters

Functional beverages as a category includes water and other drinks with special ingredients that make performance claims. These might be sports drinks with electrolytes, prepared teas or flavored beverages, and energy boosting drinks such as Amino Energy. Though drinks in this category do contain water, they vary in their other ingredients—sugars for example. You’ll find corn syrup, fructose, sucrose and more in some of these products, so read your labels!

Vitamin water may claim to boost your immune system or health, but is it really better for you than good old fashioned water? The fact is, water isn’t the best way to get most vitamins or other nutrients into your system—whole foods are. So drinking fortified drinks is usually not the answer to meeting our nourishment needs.

Coconut water is high in potassium, but as a sports drink, it’s short on sodium, which makes it a less-than-desirable choice after workouts. If you really like coconut water, eating a few salted nuts or pretzels with it can help create a better balance.

Infused water lets you take plain (or perhaps filtered) water and make it more affordable, fun and tasty than store-bought enhanced water. Better still, you can even add a bit of fresh produce for extra nourishment. In summer, try simple fruity favorites like strawberry or melon water. And here are a couple more ideas to experiment with, as you go for your 8 – 12 glasses per day!

  • Cucumber-Mint: Shave a large cucumber lengthwise (skip the skin-only strips, and stop when you get to the seed core). Add to a half-gallon of water or 1 quart water, 1 quart seltzer water, along with about 10 sprigs of fresh mint. We like spearmint. A splash of any fruit juice or a teaspoon of raw sugar helps bring out the mint. Chill or serve on ice.
  • Ginger-Lemon: Thinly slice two inches of fresh ginger (peeled) into a half gallon of water. If you can use a mandolin slicer, you’ll be able to infuse more flavor. Thinly slice a large lemon into the water, but use the ends to muddle the rinds. Add two teaspoons of sugar, chill and enjoy. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a bunch of cilantro!

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