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Drinking Water: Why and How Much You Should Drink

Pretty much everybody knows they are supposed to stay hydrated...but what does that mean? The medical experts disagree on exactly what you should drink and how much, so how is the lay person supposed to know?

One of the reasons for the differing opinions is because the amount and type of hydration you need is an individual thing. It depends on your current health, your activity level, and even where you live.

With that in mind it can be confusing to navigate the Internet waters to learn what is the right solution for you.

Let’s start by understanding what hydration means, why it is important, and what happens if you don’t hydrate enough (dehydration.)

HYDRATION DEFINED

Hydration, or rehydration, is simply replacing water, or water and electrolytes, that the body loses. The opposite of hydration is dehydration which is generally considered losing an excessive amount of body fluids. Basically, it means you don’t have enough water for your body to do what it is meant to do. Dehydration may involve losing primarily water (hypotonic), electrolytes--especially sodium (hypertonic), or both (isotonic).

WHY HYDRATION IS IMPORTANT

The human body is made up of mostly water--about 60-70% of your body weight is actually water. Drinking enough water (keeping hydrated) does several important functions:

1. Keeps your kidneys function to remove waste products.
     a. When you are losing weight you are breaking down body fat and muscle tissue
     b. Eating a high protein diet results in more waste products
     c. If your kidneys don’t have enough water, the liver will “help out” but you want the liver to focus on its job which is to use body fat for energy.

So whether you are working out to lose fat or to build muscle, drinking enough water is critical to maintaining your kidney health.

2. Dissolves nutrients so your body can use them and transports them to your cells
3. Transports oxygen to your cells
4. Prevents constipation
5. Brain function—including being able to be alert
6. Muscle strength and endurance
7. Reduces muscle cramps
8. Lubricates your joints
9. Keeps areas like your mouth, ears, and nose moist

Oxygen is the only element that is more important to your body than water. Just as your body consumes oxygen and has to replenish it, you consume water and must replenish it. Obviously we lose water when we sweat and go to the bathroom, but we also lose water simply from breathing.

SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION

Some common indications that you are dehydrated

1. Constipation
2. Fatigue—mental, physical or both.
3. Headaches
4. Muscle cramps
5. Nausea after exercising
6. “Cotton mouth”, dry eyes and nasal passages
7. Lack of urine or dark colored urine

If you want to maximize your workouts, drop excess fat and/or build muscle then you have got to stay hydrated. Even being slightly dehydrated can result in feeling tired or headachy—neither of which are conducive to a good workout.

What is the best thing to drink to keep you hydrated? And just how much do you really need to drink? We’ll cover that in the next article.

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